- North Korea’s Pre-Olympics Military Parade
- Music Box Films Scoops U.S. Rights to Marguerite Duras-Adapted ‘Memoir of War’ (EXCLUSIVE)
- Inspired by #MeToo, Country Star Vince Gill Reveals His Own Sexual Assault Experience
- Janus Films to Release Olivier Assayas’s 4K-Restored ‘Cold Water’ in the U.S. (EXCLUSIVE)
- In France, Woody Allen Still Gets Respect, but #MeToo Hits Cultural Barriers
- Trump Signs Budget Bill to End Second Shutdown This Year
- Warm-Hearted Opening Ceremony For Korea’s Winter Olympic Games
- How to Win a Great-Power Competition
- Berlinale: Georgia’s Alief Acquires International Rights for Panorama Player ‘Horizons’ (EXCLUSIVE)
- Pickup Trucks: Ram Dresses 2019 Half Ton in Mopar Clothing: Video
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 06:36 AM PST
On February 8, North Korea staged a military exercise in its capital, Pyongyang. The parade encompassed the usual array of units of the Korean People’s Army and, notably, included a crescendo to North Korea’s strategic rocket forces. While the parade fell considerably short of the 2017 “Day of the Sun” parade, which celebrated the country’s founder Kim Il-sung’s 105th birth anniversary, it did provide a useful set of new data and it even introduced an as-yet unknown missile to North Korea’s inventory.
The New Kid on the Block
Let’s begin with the new. As the ballistic missile portion of the parade began, North Korea introduced its first — and only — surprise for the parade. We saw a set of six transporter-erector-launchers (TELs) carrying two units each of what appeared, at least externally, to resemble a North Korean recreation of the Russian Iskander missile. (We also see programmatic similarities to some Chinese missiles, including the DF-12 here.) This missile has never been seen in a previous North Korean parade and may also be a long-rumored extended-range variant of North Korea’s Tochka (or KN02) close-range ballistic missile. According to the U.S. intelligence community, the original Tochka in North Korea’s missile inventory is said to have a range of around 120 kilometers.
For now, there’s little else that can be said about this missile. We haven’t seen it flight-tested and, more likely than not, it probably won’t live up to the sort of accuracy the Iskander-class of Russian ballistic missiles are known for. For the North Korean program, a shorter-range solid-fuel ballistic missile does not seem too much of a stretch. North Korea, since at least 2014, has gained considerable experience in developing its own solid propellant engines and in casting its own solid propellants. One possibility is that the unexplained October 2017 solid propellant engine test near Hamhung was the engine for whatever this new missile might be. Recall too that North Korea has previously shown us untested ballistic missiles at parades; last year, for example, the KN18 Scud-C-variant appeared first at the April parade before seeing its first-ever flight-test in May.
Of course, while this missile resembles a Russian Iskander externally, there are important differences and until analysts can derive more precise measurements, this should be taken as a preliminary assessment that may not ultimately describe the missile’s provenance. None of this means that the North Koreans have been transferred Russian ballistic missile designs or technology; rather, the fact that the North Koreans chose to include a hinged TEL design with this new missile suggests that they may be purposefully trying to emulate the Iskander’s design elements. Until this missile is tested, there’s little more that can be said about its performance — most notably its accuracy and range.
We can, of course, offer informed speculation on the strategic use of a system like this one. Assuming a range capability below 1,000 km and moderate-to-high accuracy, this missile could give North Korea more of what its KN02 inventory offered: fairly robust conventional precision strike at military targets across the demilitarized zone in a conflict. It’s highly unlikely that this is a nuclear-capable system; North Korea likely intends to deliver conventional payloads with this missile, with a potential for chemical weapons delivery as well.
Following the new missile, we saw six launchers each of the Pukguksong-2/KN15 solid-fuel, medium-range ballistic missile — with its signature integrated tracked TEL — and the Hwasong-12/KN17 liquid-fuel, intermediate-range ballistic missile. There’s little to be said about these missiles; they’re the core of North Korea’s theater-wide nuclear strike capability, with the Hwasong-12 demonstrably ranging Guam ever since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un tested one of those missiles over Japan and into the northern Pacific Ocean last September, flying a total range in excess of that what would be required to strike the U.S. territory from North Korean soil. Everything from the number of units to the launcher designs shown at the parade was predictable; the Pukguksong-2 is thought by U.S. intelligence agencies to have entered mass production, as per Kim Jong-un’s May 2017 order.
The Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15
This was the first North Korean military parade to feature two intercontinental-range ballistic missile designs (ICBMs). Both the Hwasong-14 and the Hwasong-15 ICBMs made a debut following their respective inaugural tests in 2017. Neither missile was present at the April 2017 parade and both missiles show a common design heritage, with their first stage boosters being based on what appears to be a North Korean variant of the Soviet-origin RD-250 heavy rocket booster (North Korea dubbed this the “March 18 revolution” engine).
To be clear, it wasn’t surprising that we saw these missiles at this parade. Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Day exhortation that his country’s nuclear force was completed meant that he had to flaunt the crown jewels of his ballistic missile program: the only two missiles with sufficient range to deliver a thermonuclear weapon to the continental United States. (The Hwasong-15 can easily range the entirety of the United States.) What was especially interesting, as I suggested before the parade, was the number of launchers North Korea showed off at the parade.
As impressive as they might be, North Korea’s ICBMs won’t parade themselves. They need to be carried on heavy vehicles. At Thursday’s parade, we saw five heavy vehicles carrying the Hwasong-15 ICBM — four units for the parade, and one back-up. These vehicles were the very same China-sourced WS51200 logging trucks that were converted by North Korea into ICBM TELs after being imported under falsified export licenses. The United Nations Panel of Experts on North Korea, in 2013, said that North Korea imported six of these vehicles in 2013 and we have yet to see more than six of these kinds of vehicles together at a single parade.
For reasons I elaborated on last week, it would be incredibly significant if North Korea were to develop the indigenous capability to produce its own ICBM-ready TELs. So far, we haven’t seen that it has this capability. At best, North Korean engineers have demonstrated a capability to modify the WS51200 substantially. Last year, for instance, these were able to mount ICBM-sized canisters on at least four of their six WS51200 TELs, signaling a programmatic intent toward an eventual solid propellant ICBM resembling something like Russia’s Topol-M.
The four Hwasong-15 TELs we saw at Thursday’s parade were almost certainly further conversions from the canister-bearing ICBM TELs we saw last year. First and most noticeably, the Hwasong-15 TELs are nine-axle variants of the origin eight-axle WS51200. We’d first observed this during the November 2017 flight test. Moreover, where the original WS51200 trucks had a two-window cab, North Korea’s modifications for the canisterized variants last year necessitated a depressed cab. When North Korea reconverted these WS51200 TELs for the Hwasong-15, it restored parts of the cab, resulting in a three-windowed design. (We first saw a TEL using this design in November 2017, when North Korea first flight-tested the Hwasong-15 out of Pyongsong.)
The Hwasong-14 quickly faded from prominence once Kim Jong-un oversaw the first flight-test of the missile’s far more capable older sibling, the Hwasong-15. Nevertheless, the missile made a prominent appearance during Thursday’s parade. Instead of appearing on an integrated WS51200-derived TEL — the form we saw it in during its two flight-test appearances in early and late July, 2017 — the missile simply appeared on a display-bed trailer, pulled by a heavy truck, for its inaugural appearance in Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang.
Attentive North Korea-watchers may recall that the trailer used for the Hwasong-14 this year wasn’t a novelty. In fact, last year, we saw North Korea trot out four units of an ICBM-sized canister on these very same trailers in a mobile-erector-launcher configuration — something akin to a juche-variant of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force’s (PLARF) DF-31A solid-fuel ICBM. (Interestingly, comparing this year’s footage with last year’s suggests that at least the Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15 are much too large to fit into the canisters North Korea showed off in April.) That we didn’t see these Hwasong-14 ICBMs on launchers during Thursday’s parade suggests that North Korea remains somewhat constrained in its ability to field a large nuclear force by its number of ICBM launchers. We still have little evidence that Pyongyang has grown past its China-sourced WS51200 heavy trucks; while it can modify them to its satisfaction to accommodate the Hwasong-14, the Hwasong-15, and even last year’s Topol-M-resembling canister, it cannot yet put together its homebrewed variant in all likelihood.
All this is an inference from Thursday’s parade; there is a small chance that Kim Jong-un has operationalized other basing modes or built his own ICBM launchers and is simply choosing not to show this off at a parade. Given what we know about North Korea’s relative disinterest in transparency once its strategic systems are deployment or test-ready, it’s unlikely that Pyongyang is holding a launcher configuration or two up its sleeve. 2018 may yet be the year that we see a growth in North Korea’s launcher or basing configurations for ICBM. If Kim is indeed hard-bound by his existing inventory of WS51200 trucks, he may choose to invest in more creative basing modes, including silos, rail-mobility, and perhaps even something akin to the PLARF’s DF-4 ICBM launch protocol.
What We Didn’t See
While somewhat counterintuitive, what we didn’t see at Thursday’s parade is perhaps more noteworthy than what we did see.
North Korea has for years now built up a somewhat familiar nuclear force, comprising a range of Scud-variant ground-launched missiles — the Scud-B, Scud-C, and extended-range Scud; more recently, the KN18 Scud-C maneuverable reentry vehicle variant and the KN21 Scud-B maneuverable reentry vehicle variant — the Nodong medium-range ballistic missile; the Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile; the Pukguksong-1 solid-fuel, submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM); and the yet-to-be-flight-tested Hwasong-13 mod 1 and Hwasong-13 mod 2 intercontinental-range ballistic missiles. The two latter missiles and the Musudan used the Soviet-origin 4D10 liquid propellant engine, a system North Korean engineers never appeared to quite master. (We also didn’t see the rumored Pukguksong-3 successor SLBM.)
None of the above systems were seen at Thursday’s parade. In the case of the two Hwasong-13 mods and the Musudan, it’s likely that they’ve been entirely set aside in favor of the RD-250-variant engine-based Hwasong-12, Hwasong-14, and Hwasong-15 missile set. The Pukguksong-1 was paraded last year and the Scud-variant missiles may already be deployed. Additionally, we can’t rule out that North Korea may have been somewhat fuel- and cost-constrained in the systems it chose to demonstrate during this parade. The incremental cost of reiterating that it had updated its Scud-C and Scud-B inventory was perhaps not worthwhile to Kim Jong-un given last year’s demonstration of the KN18 MaRV-variant Scud during the April parade.
The Bottom Line
Is there a big takeaway from Thursday’s parade? Yes, but not in the same way as the 2017 parade. In 2017, North Korea showed us that it was getting better at everything it was trying to accomplish with its nuclear forces. It also telegraphed its ambition for large solid-fueled, canisterized systems at the end of the parade to boot. In 2018, we saw mostly familiar strategic missiles — a “complete” nuclear force, Kim Jong-un would have us believe.
But, as I noted last week in these pages, the fact that North Korea did not incontrovertibly demonstrate an indigenous capability to manufacture full-fledged ICBM launchers should tell us something important. Kim probably is still contending with a manufacturing bottleneck and is unable to replicate the WS51200. He could probably move forward with a towed-trailer mobile-erector-launcher for both the Hwasong-15 and Hwasong-14, but remember that North Korea has limited paved roads.
An ICBM on a trailer would be less mobile overall than one on an integrated launcher, which would be more stable in day-to-day use. Assuming Kim does not intend to deceive by omitting homemade TELs from a parade, this limitation is still very real for North Korea. While this may be the case, I don’t expect North Korea to persist indefinitely with six ICBM launchers. We should either expect indigenous launcher designs or alternative basing modes soon. And remember, as North Korea’s launchers grow, its ability to more reliably overwhelm the already-questionable capabilities of U.S. homeland missile defense grow.
Beyond the launchers, perhaps the fundamental takeaway is that North Korea is consolidating what it sees as a “complete” first generation nuclear force around the RD-250-based Hwasong-12, Hwasong-14, and Hwasong-15 missiles — supplemented by its tried-and-true range of Scuds, Nodongs, and Pukguksongs. We should keep in mind that Kim Jong-un has yet to declare these new, long-range missiles operational and ready for deployment and mass production. That suggests that despite the ongoing Olympics-driven lull in inter-Korean ties, North Korean missile testing is more than likely to resume later in the year. We could see North Korea resume testing of its new missiles as soon as April, when the United States and South Korea will convene their annual springtime mass-mobilization military exercises.
Ankit Panda is a senior editor at The Diplomat, where he writes on security, politics, and economics in the Asia-Pacific region. He tweets at @nktpnd.
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 06:00 AM PST
Music Box Films has acquired U.S. rights to Emmanuel Finkiel’s “A Memoir of War” (“La Douleur”), an adaptation of Marguerite Duras’ semi-autobiographical novel “The War: A Memoir.”
Represented in international markets by TF1 Studio, the film stars Mélanie Thierry who plays a young Duras and delivers a breakthrough performance. Thierry stars opposite Benoît Magimel, Benjamin Biolay, and Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet.
“A Memoir of War” takes place in June 1944, when France was still under German occupation, and follows Marguerite, then a young writer, who agrees to a series of covert meetings with Nazi collaborator Rabier. In exchange, Marguerite receives information on the whereabouts of her husband Robert Antelme, a writer and major figure of the Resistance who has been detained and sent to Dachau concentration camp.
The film was released in France on Jan. 24 and has been critically lauded.
Music Box Films plans a theatrical rollout in summer 2018, followed by a release on home entertainment platforms.
“We are looking forward to bringing Emmanuel Finkiel’s powerful interpretation of
“TF1 Studio is thrilled to work with Music Box in bringing Duras lovers this masterpiece
Finkiel’s credits include “A Decent Man,””Voyages,””Madame Jacques on the Croisette.”
Music Box Films’s slate of upcoming releases include Cédric Klapisch’s family drama “Back to Burgundy,”
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 05:55 AM PST
Vince Gill wowed an audience of country radio professionals in Nashville this week with an unrecorded song about sexual assault, “Forever Changed.” And although the lyrics are sung by a third party to an abuser about a girl’s molestation, Gill explained that he’d only gradually come to realize that the trigger for writing the tune may have been his own frightening first-person experience with a gym teacher as a teen.
The opening lyrics: “You put your hands where they don’t belong/And now her innocence is dead and gone/She feels dirty, she feels ashamed/Because of you, she’s forever changed/Too afraid to tell someone/You might as well have just used a gun/She cries for Jesus to ease the pain/Because of you, she’s forever changed…”
The occasion was the annual Universal Music Group Nashville artists’ showcase that takes place at the Ryman Auditorium for attendees of Country Radio Seminar, which draws roughly 2,000 programmers and DJs to Music City every February. At the invite-only Ryman gig, stars like Luke Bryan and Keith Urban perform acoustic versions of their current or future singles. The exceptions each year are Chris Stapleton and Gill, who both prefer to surprise the industry crowd with unreleased songs from their respective back catalogs. In Gill’s case, a lot of moved attendees felt the singer should consider moving “Forever Changed” up to the front burner.
“You come up here and get to sing one song, and you go, what the hell you gonna sing?” said Gill, 60, after thanking the radio crowd for their support in the 44 years since he first made a record. “I think that the greatest way to live is to welcome the moment that you’re in and the time frame that you’re in. I chose this song that I wrote some years ago, and never really knew where the song came from, other than… We’re living in a time right now when finally people are having the courage to kind of speak out about being abused. And I think that is beyond healthy, and beyond beautiful, to see people finally have a voice for being wronged. And maybe this song came from a personal experience for me.
“I was in seventh grade, and a young, dumb kid,” he continued. “And I had a gym teacher that acted inappropriately towards me and was trying to do things that I didn’t know what the hell was going on. And I was just fortunate that I got up and I ran. I just jumped up and I ran. I don’t know why. And I don’t think I ever told anybody my whole life. But maybe what’s been going on has given me a little bit of courage to speak out, too. I’m going to sing you this song that was inspired by all the people that are…” He let the thought trail off as he began picking out the introductory licks, but the cultural moment didn’t require much elaboration.
Some Gill fans remember that the singer has told of his junior high experience before, in a 2014 Rolling Stone interview. A few hardcore fans might have known that “Forever Changed” was not getting its official premiere at CRS: He’d sung it in December, also at the Ryman, as part of his annual Christmas residency with wife Amy Grant. But those performances may have gotten lost in the holiday shuffle. Gill reportedly told fellow performers backstage that he has no plans to record the song, but the Country Radio Seminar audience clearly saw it as a hit — to the solar plexus, at least, for starters.
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 05:40 AM PST
Janus Films will roll-out the film in theaters across the U.S. beginning in April, following its premiere on March 9 premiere co-hosted by the Austin Film Society.
“Cold Water,” which world premiered at Cannes Film Festival‘s Un Certain Regard section, focuses on star-crossed adolescents (Cyprien Fouquet, Virginie Ledoyer) in 1970s France. The film earned strong reviews and earned Assayas international recognition.
“‘Cold Water’ is one of the great missing films, a nearly unknown tour de force by Olivier Assayas. If it had ever been properly released, it would certainly be considered one of Olivier’s masterpieces,” said
“With an uncanny fluidity, this deeply honest coming of age tale fuses wrenching emotional realism and a lush, expressionistic visual style driven by one of the most amazing soundtracks in any film,” added Becker, explaining the uncleared music rights kept the film from getting distributed in the U.S.
Assayas said the “premiere of the restored ‘Cold Water’ is a huge satisfaction, and the result of years of concern, struggle, anger, resilience… “
“Ever since I shot this film in 24 days in December ’93-and it opened at the Cannes Film Festival in May 94-it has had a great life of its own, traveling the world and screening at most major festivals. Unluckily, its access to general release has been plagued by misfortune after misfortune,” said the French director.
Assayas said he and his partners had to clear the French rights, the international rights, as well as music rights to allow the film to have its “long overdue US release.”
The French director described “Cold Water” as a “movie about kids in the 70’s.”
“They look very much like myself and my friends at the time. (…) It was my first shot at some sort of cinematic autobiography and I saw it as an experiment,” said Assayas, adding that “Cold Water” changed his “filmmaking life” by teaching him that “it is by taking chances, by trying side roads that you open up new spaces for yourself.”
The helmer paid homage to Sylvie Barthet, the original line producer on “Cold Water” who’s been working with him ever since and is now a co-producer on his movies; and thanked Janus Films & Criterion Collection who “have been involved in this process for years, even at a time when we thought there was no credible way to untangle this knot.”
Assayas will be present at the Austin Film Society from March 9-11 for screenings of several of his movies, including “Something in the Air,” “Paris Awakens,” “Irma VEP,” Summer Hours, Clouds of Sils Maria,” “Personal Shopper” and “Cold Water.” The screening series, which is co-organized by French film promotion org UniFrance, will be followed by discussions with Assayas. The French helmer will also be in Austin to participate in SXSW Conference on March 11, along with Austin Film Society founder and artistic director Richard Linklater.
Assayas is currently in post on his latest film “Non-Fiction,” an anticipated tragicomedy starring Juliette Binoche, Guillaume Canet and Vincent Macaigne. Charles Gillibert‘s CG Cinema is producing with Playtime which is handling international rights.
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 05:36 AM PST
Back at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016, French actor and opening ceremony emcee Laurent Lafitte sparked an uproar with a “rape” joke linking Woody Allen, who was there to present “Cafe Society,” and Roman Polanski.
“It’s very nice that you’ve been shooting so many movies in Europe, even if you’re not being convicted of rape in the U.S.,” Lafitte said, to murmurs of surprise in the audience. Afterward, the comment drew swift rebukes from Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux, who said he rushed to make sure Allen wasn’t offended, and “Cafe Society” star Blake Lively, who said any joke “about rape, homophobia or Hitler is not a joke.”
Two years and one radical cultural shift later, Allen has found himself caught up in the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements in the U.S. over longtime allegations that he molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow. In France, however, a country where Allen has always enjoyed a strong base of die-hard fans, the controversy surrounding the Oscar-winning filmmaker has met with only a muted response.
Fewer voices have been raised in Allen’s defense this time than in the past, perhaps because of the heightened sensitivity over issues of sexual harassment and assault. But there has been no significant backlash against him in the French entertainment industry, though it’s true that his latest film, “Wonder Wheel,” has grossed only about half of what his films usually make in France.
Allen’s most forthright defender has been Stephane Celerier of Mars Distribution, which released “Wonder Wheel” (pictured) on Jan. 31. (Fremaux, who in 2016 compared Allen’s enduring bond with Cannes to Moliere’s relationship with the Comedie Francaise, has remained silent, declining to comment when contacted by Variety.)
Celerier, who has worked with Allen for the last 10 years, published a lengthy op-ed piece in the magazine Le Point noting that investigations into Dylan Farrow’s accusations failed to yield evidence with which to charge Allen in 1993. Celerier said the director should not be unfairly tried by the media or associated with Hollywood predators who have a history of abuse and have either been convicted or are being investigated.
There has been no threat of a boycott against Allen in France. Only Marion Cotillard, who headlined Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” has said she would “probably not” do another movie with him. A spokeswoman for the French guild of art-house theaters said exhibitors she spoke to were looking forward to the next Allen film and would never consider shunning his movies based on “old accusations” that have never been proven.
“We have a culture of tolerance towards artists and auteurs. We tend to not take into consideration their personal lives when judging their work, because their works – whether it’s a book, a painting or a film – exist on their own,” said Caroline Fourest, the French journalist, documentary filmmaker and feminist champion. Fourest has been in the media lately because she has led the charge against Tariq Ramadan, a Muslim academic who was recently accused of rape by many women and is France’s only high-profile figure to have been brought low as part of the local #MeToo movement.
“Allen has made more than 50 films since the 1970s, and he’s one of the last masters alive, along with Martin Scorsese, Aki Kaurismaki, Francis Ford Coppola,” said Alain Cras, the veteran film critic at popular French radio station Europe 1. “His body of work is exceptional. What should we do now – boycott all the movies Allen has made since 1993?”
Cras said comparing Allen to Polanski, who pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl, was unfair. He also criticized Hollywood for being hypocritical, since it saw fit to award Polanski a best-director Oscar for “The Pianist” in 2003.
Beyond Allen’s case, the response in France to the #MeToo movement has differed from that in the U.S., Britain, and Scandinavia. Although a French equivalent to #MeToo, #balancetonporc (“squeal on your pig”), was quickly launched, it has prompted more criticism from people such as actress Catherine Deneuve than actual denunciations.
Not a single high-profile producer or director in France has officially been accused of sexual harassment or assault. Thomas Sotinel, senior cultural critic at Le Monde, said France’s strict libel laws partly explain why so few women have made public accusations and why no media outlets have reported on allegedly abusive filmmakers or producers. “In France, if a journalist is accused of defamation, he or she will have to give concrete proofs of what is stated in the article, and when there is no complaint filed or medical record and it’s a case of ‘he said, she said,’ it becomes very complicated to prove anything,” Sotinel said.
Deneuve and others argue that victims of sexual harassment or assault should go to the police before broadcasting their accusations on social media. They also charge the #MeToo movement with creating an atmosphere of “puritanism,” and view it as a slippery slope toward anonymous, malicious denunciations reminiscent of délation, the abhorrent practice in Occupied France of people secretly informing on their neighbors to the Nazis. The specter of délation continues to haunt French society.
In response to the criticism of #MeToo, Oscar-winning director Michel Hazanavicius joined French philosopher Raphael Glucksmann in delivering a sharply written essay titled “We too want equality. Wetoo.” In the Jan. 29 article, Hazanavicius and Glucksmann said the “eruption of the Harvey Weinstein scandal has shaken the ancient male domination of the public space. That’s a good thing!”
Hazanavicius told Variety that #MeToo and #balancetonporc have helped women identify patterns of sexual harassment and abuse. “There’s been a power shift,” he said. “The shift isn’t women against men. It’s about men and women against injustices committed against women.”
But even Hazanivicus doesn’t perceive Allen’s case as fitting the same mold of sexual harassment and assault that has emerged in recent months. “Allen was investigated and a judicial decision was taken 25 years ago,” Hazanavicius said.
Diana Elbaum, a co-producer on “Elle” and founder of Boostcamp, a workshop to empower women filmmakers, agrees that Allen’s case departs from the usual template of #MeToo cases, but it “resonates today because people finally realized Dylan Farrow’s testimony should not be dismissed,” Elbaum said, adding: “That’s the essence of Time’s Up.”
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 05:26 AM PST
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed a massive budget deal early Friday that will fund the government until March 23 and may put off further drama over federal spending until 2019.
Trump’s signed the legislation after an eight-hour government shutdown, the second in two months, after funding lapsed at midnight. He praised the legislation for its increase in military spending, which he said was the “first time this has happened in a long time.”
He also slammed Democrats in his morning tweets, blaming them for the massive increase in spending. “Sadly, we needed some Dem votes for passage,” he wrote.
The bill funds the government through March 23, but Senate Democrats and Republicans reached a massive budget agreement this week to raise spending levels into the next fiscal year.
The spending package provides for a $300 billion boost in military and non-military spending over the next two years as well as tens of billions for disaster relief.
The turbulence overnight came from Republicans unhappy with the dramatic increase in the federal deficit, and Democrats upset that the legislation did not include immigration measures to protect Dreamers, the undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.
The surprise shutdown was largely due to the opposition of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who kept debate open on the floor of the Senate for much of Thursday evening to protest the massive increase in the debt. He from the floor noted that Republicans expressed worry and fear over rising deficit under President Barack Obama but none of that under Trump.
Paul finally had to cede the floor under the rules of Senate procedure, and a vote came after midnight, 71-28.
“Tonight, you could feel the frustration and embarrassment growing in Congress as we exposed the hypocrisy of Republicans who are joining in an unholy alliance and spending free-for-all with Democrats at the expense of the American people and our party’s supposed principles,” Paul said afterward.
The House eventually voted for the spending package about five hours later, at about 5:30 a.m., in a 240-186 vote. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) secured 73 Democratic votes to assure passage. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) opposed the deal over the failure to secure a commitment from Ryan to bring Dreamer legislation to the floor. On Wednesday, Pelosi set a record on the House floor, speaking uninterrupted for eight hours about the need for protections for the immigrants.
Some Republicans, including those from the Freedom Caucus, voted against the bill, criticizing the outlays on domestic programs.
“Democrats worked hard to achieve a bipartisan agreement and gave our assurances to the Speaker that we were not interested in shutting down government,” Pelosi said afterward. “In return, the Speaker refused to make a real commitment to schedule a vote to protect the Dreamers who have the overwhelming support of the American people and a bipartisan majority in the House.”
In ending the three-day government shutdown last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he would agree to begin debate on the Senate floor of immigration legislation that includes protections for Dreamers. He filed a motion early on Friday to start the process of debate next week.
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 05:19 AM PST
Earmuffs, extra thick anoraks, and a stadium where LED lighting appeared to have replaced the spectators, were the order of the day in South Korea at the Opening Ceremony of the XXII Olympic Winter Games.
Athletes marched around a center circle and a ring of dancers who performed energetically, while in the hills nearby there were volleys of fireworks and torch-bearing skiers.
The games are being held in PyeongChang, South Korea against a backdrop of political and strategic maneuvering. North and South Korea are currently enjoying something of a thaw in their normally frosty relations. Earlier in the day, South Korean President, Moon Jae-in shook hands and briefly chatted with North Korea’s figurehead leader Kim Yong-nam.
VIPs watched the parade of athletes from a glass box, which included Moon, Kim and, at one point, Kim Jo-yong, sister of North Korea’s de facto leader Kim Jong-un. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was seated next to Japan’s Shinzo Abe in the same enclosure.
Politics were momentarily set aside when the unified Korean team made their entrance in white padded coats and black slacks. They appeared huddled together, but it was not clear if that was caused by an overflow of amity, the extreme cold, or their large numbers.
“United we are stronger than all the forces that want to divide us,” said Thomas Bach IOC President, to a round of applause.
Other large cheers were heard for the six countries represented for the first time, and athletes from small, or tropical, territories Jamaica, Eritrea, Hong Kong and even (equatorial) Singapore.
And, Pita Taufatofua, was back. The oiled-up athlete from Tonga went shirtless two years ago at the opening of the summer games in Brazil, and became an Internet sensation in the process. He went topless again in the Korean Alps, despite the sub-zero conditions.
Other parts of the ceremony ranged from high-tech light formations and clever use of projection mapping, through to flag bearers wearing Korean traditional costume. Least convincing was a creaking four-person rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 05:05 AM PST
“The United States is confronted with a condition in the world which is at direct variance with the assumptions upon which [our foreign] policies were predicated,” wrote a State Department official. “Instead of unity among the great powers . . . there is complete disunity.” The secretary of state concluded that the Russians were “doing everything possible to achieve a complete breakdown.” The president called for unilateral action to counter U.S. adversaries. “If we falter in our leadership,” he told Congress, “[we will] surely endanger the welfare of this nation.”
These precise words were spoken in 1947, by Russia specialist Chip Bohlen, Secretary of State George C. Marshall, and President Harry S. Truman. But they are being echoed today by a new U.S. administration, heralding another era of great-power competition in which adversaries jostle for global influence. “After being dismissed as a phenomenon of an earlier century,” the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy proclaimed, “great power competition returned.” The strategies of Truman and Trump, however, could not be more different.
Seventy-one years ago, in the wake of World War II, the onset of a dangerous new great-power competition led American policymakers to accept the need for intervention abroad to protect U.S. security and prosperity. The centerpiece of their strategy was to create strong, independent, democratic allies in western Europe and Asia capable of resisting authoritarian threats and temptations. The United States could thereby protect its own economic and security interests without having to rely on its military.
That vision was sustained through the Cold War and after, over successive administrations, Democratic and Republican-until the present one. The Trump administration is now at war with itself over the meaning of the president’s “America first” slogan and its consistency with this vision, and the outcome will determine whether the postwar liberal order survives or whether a new Hobbesian struggle takes its place-a struggle in which the United States would merely be first among equally self-interested brutes. The tragic irony is that just as the administration declares the start of a new age of great-power competition, it threatens to discard and disavow the tools that helped the United States win the last such struggle.
In the space of a few short years after World War II, the United States created the major institutions that still define the world order today-an order that has long served the United States’ interest in peace and prosperity. The United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the predecessors to the World Trade Organization and the European Union were all launched between 1945 and 1949.
But President Donald Trump thinks these institutions are threats to U.S. sovereignty. The WTO is “a disaster … We’re going to renegotiate or we’re going to pull out.” Its regional parallel, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), is “the worst trade deal ever.” As for NATO and the EU, both offshoots of the Marshall Plan, Trump has made clear that he sees them as, at best, anachronisms, and at worst historic mistakes. The EU, he claims, “was formed, partially, to beat the United States on trade. … I don’t really care whether it’s separate or together.” His reasoning is that he can, he thinks, reduce trade deficits-which have historically been associated with higher U.S. growth-by renegotiating trade deals bilaterally with smaller partners.
Those in the administration who have pressed to preserve the existing international order, such as Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, have been labelled “internationalists” by friend and foe alike. Yet the order’s founders-men such as Marshall, his successor as secretary of state, Dean Acheson, and Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Will Clayton-were hard-nosed realists. Marshall himself was the great military mastermind of World War II. These men were hardly sacrificing America’s treasure and sovereignty to abet foreign interests; they were engaged in an ambitious mission to found an American-led order based on the moral primacy of democratic government and free economic exchange.
THE PRICE OF PEACE
The Marshall Plan was the Truman administration’s strategy to complete the withdrawal of three million troops from Europe after World War II without allowing any European power to dominate the Eurasian landmass. At the heart of the plan was the creation of a western European confederation, underwritten by massive U.S. financial aid.
The intervention was the first and most critical element of State Department Policy Planning Director George Kennan’s new grand strategy of “containing” the Soviet Union by buttressing democratic capitalism west of the Iron Curtain. Without such aid, Italy and France in particular would have faced growing Communist-backed labor violence and political upheaval. “The greatest danger to the security of the United States,” warned the new Central Intelligence Agency in 1947, “is the possibility of economic collapse in western Europe and the consequent accession to power of communist elements.”
In order to protect the United States’ vital interest in continued access to the world’s most important industrial markets, and to prevent Soviet control of vital sea lanes that could threaten U.S. security, Washington made the creation of strong independent allies its primary foreign policy objective. The alternative strategy of sending millions of troops back to Europe would have been vastly more costly, both economically and politically. Truman thought it common sense to “spend twenty or thirty billion dollars” over four years “to keep the peace” rather than spend multiples of that annually fighting another war. In the end, the aid bill was only $13.2 billion ($135 billion today). It was money well spent.
The most consequential element of the Marshall Plan was not the money, however, but European integration. Contrary to Trump’s rendering of history, the blueprint for European economic union emerged from the State Department (specifically Will Clayton), and not from Europeans looking to take advantage of the United States on trade. The reason for promoting integration was twofold: to ensure that aid was not wasted by duplicating economic activities (such as steel production) across countries and to make West Germany self-sustaining as quickly as possible by boosting trade with its neighbors.
The plan was wildly successful. It resulted not merely in a golden age of economic growth for the United States and its beneficiaries but also the creation of enduring transatlantic cooperation. “The recovery of Western Europe is a twenty-five to fifty-year proposition,” Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., wrote presciently in 1948, and “the aid which we extend now and in the next three or four years will in the long future result in our having strong friends abroad.” By 1989, 40 years after NATO’s founding and Acheson’s insistence that Washington must have allies, and not neutral transactional counterparts, the United States’ alliances were still intact and Moscow’s were in tatters.
THE ADVANTAGE OF ALLIES
Secretary Mattis would have been right at home in an administration with Secretary Marshall or Acheson. Mattis has consistently contradicted Trump’s calls to slash the diplomatic budget. “If you don’t fund the State Department fully,” he once warned, “then I need to buy more ammunition.” In this judgment, he could not have been more perfectly aligned with the founders of the international order seven decades ago. President Truman’s Army Secretary, Kenneth Royall, told Congress he would need an additional 160,000 troops and a $2.25 billion boost to the military budget ($26 billion in today’s money)-a 20 percent increase-if it failed to approve Marshall aid for Europe.
The White House’s new “America first” National Security Strategy is an uncomfortable blend of the view held by Marshall, Acheson, and Truman and the vision that President Trump campaigned on. It contains, on the one hand, multiple references to the importance of alliances and celebrates the successes of twentieth-century diplomacy-including the creation of the Marshall Plan and NATO. It states, on the other hand, that “putting America first is the duty of [its] government and the foundation for U.S. leadership” and laments how others have “exploited the international institutions we helped to build.” While the document is short on specifics, it reflects schizophrenia in the executive branch that cries out for treatment.
The prevailing global order was built on the understanding that having allies-as opposed to colonies or tributaries-necessarily meant ongoing compromise with other sovereign wills. The United States must now decide whether such compromise is worthwhile to preserve that order or whether it should instead just slug it out with China and Russia for the fugacious affections of other nations and blocs. Choosing wisely today means understanding how and why it chose as it did in the first place.
This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 05:04 AM PST
One of Georgia’s most up-and-coming and international media companies, Alief, has announced the acquisition of rights outside Georgia to Georgian producer-director Tinatin Kajrishvili’s second feature “Horizons,” which will screen in the Berlinale’s Panorama section.
The announcement comes as Georgian new wave cinema is attracting attention, largely due to the success of another Alief film, Ana Urushadze’s “Scary Mother,” which impressed at festivals such as Les Arcs and Locarno – where it won best first feature – and is the opening night film at this year’s Berlin Critic’s Week.
The world sales deal was struck between Alief and the film’s Georgian production companies, Gemini, Kajrishvili’s company, and Artzim, and also includes festival representation. The two companies previously worked together on the aforementioned “Scary Mother” while “Horizons,” is their first project with Swedish producers Momento Film.
Kajrishvili’s debut feature debut “Brides” also had its world premiere in the Panorama section in 2014, before competing at Milan and Tribeca. In addition to writing and directing her own films, she has also produced on a number of projects, including Karlovy Vary competition player “Paradzhanov,” and the previously mentioned “Scary Mother.”
“Horizons” focuses on the strain in the relationship of Giorgi and Ana, a couple once deeply in love. The two undergo the process of separation, which passes largely unnoticed by others around them. After the initial shock of such a traumatic end, the two face the seemingly unending period of adjusting to a new way of life.
Based in Tbilisi, Georgia and Venezuela, and led by Brett Walker and Miguel Govea, Alief maintains a diverse catalog of a films such as: “Our Evil,” a demonic thriller which impressed at Sitges and Ventana Sur, “Negative Numbers,” a rugby-focused drama now in post-production, and three titles headed to Berlin’s European Film Market for the co-production market: “Nukri is Nukri” an English-language Gothic romance from Russian-Georgian writer and director Salomeya Bauer; “Clara Militch,” an adaptation of Turgenev’s classic; and “I Love Zombies,” which featured at November’s Ventana Sur.
Alief also acts as sales consultants for Italian sales agency Coccinelle Film Placement, whose latest title, “The Ball,” premiered at Tallinn before being awarded at the Turin Film Festival.
Georgia and Sweden national releases of “Horizons” are planned for the end of 2018, after the film has finished its festival run.
John Hopewell contributed to this article
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 05:00 AM PST
What’s the best way to follow up a huge half-ton pickup truck introduction at a major auto show? Use another major auto show to demonstrate how easy it is to customize that new pickup with hundreds of adventure- and performance-focused accessories. That’s exactly what Mopar has done at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show with the 2019 Ram 1500.
We caught up with Ram and a Big Horn Sport model outfitted with Mopar parts on display at the show. We looked underneath, under hood, inside the cab and in the bed, and it looks like there ae plenty of parts to customize a Ram 1500 to suit just about every customer need.
Here’s a quick video look at a new Mopar-styled Ram 1500.
Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry
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