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Donald Trump Angers China With Historic Phone Call to Taiwan’s President

3 December, by Charlie Campbell / Beijing[ —]

Donald Trump was elected U.S. President partly because he’s a political outsider. His stump pledge to shake up the American political machine and “drain the swamp” struck a cord with disillusioned voters. Foreign relations, however, are squelchy for a reason.

Twice in the last week Trump has had phone conversations that have prompted consternation with nuclear powers. On Wednesday, he called Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif a “terrific guy” in comments sure to irk India. On Friday, it was China’s turn.

Trump went where no U.S. commander-in-chief had gone since diplomatic relations were restored with China in 1979 — by speaking directly to the President of Taiwan, the island-state of 23 million that is essentially an independent country but which Beijing still claims as a renegade province to be reclaimed by force if necessary.

First reported by Taiwanese media, the conversation between Trump and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen was later confirmed by the President-elect in a tweet. “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!”

Beijing’s immediate response was brief and muted. “China firmly opposes any official interaction or military contact between [the] U.S. and Taiwan,” said China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement reported by Chinese state media. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Saturday that the call was “just a small trick by Taiwan,” according to Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV.

That’s because both the governments of Beijing and Taipei still officially claim dominion over their combined territory, a remnant of China’s civil war and the Nationalists’ flight across the strait in 1949 as Mao Zedong’s Communist Party seized power on the mainland.

Ties had warmed in recent years due to the “One China” policy — essentially that both sides agree they belong to the same nation but disagree on who is the legitimate power. However, Tsai comes from a political party that does not recognize “One China,” and has historically favored formal independence, even if Tsai has pragmatically stopped short of vocalizing this since her presidential campaign.

In Taipei, political analysts were taken by surprise by the phone call. “Nobody saw this coming,” said Professor Francis Hu, head of politics at Taichung university. “This will make cross-strait relations even more unpredictable in the next few months,” he said. “We already have a lot of problems for the time being and this action will complicate the scenario.”

Trump’s motivations for the call are unclear. Outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama advocated a “rebalancing” to Asia in what analysts saw as an attempt to contain China’s rise. Trump, however, campaigned on a drawdown of international military commitments as well as protectionist trade policies such as import levies. Taiwan media have reported that the Trump Organization is involved in developing hotels in the northwestern city of Taoyuan.

According to a statement from Taiwan’s presidential office, “President Tsai and President Trump exchanged views and ideas on the future governance, in particular, promoting domestic economic development and strengthening national defense so as to enable people to enjoy a better life and safety.”

Trump’s call indicates that the President-elect is willing to shake up the status quo while also that he values America’s existing friendships. A Trump spokesman was quoted saying the President-elect was “well aware of what U.S. policy has been” on the Taiwan issue. And Trump seemed to indicate as such with a later tweet, which said: “Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.”

That is true. Yet international relations are full of quirks, and angering the leaders of 2.6 billion people — over a third of the world’s population — in three days renders more dangerous an already tense world.

With reporting by Nicola Smith/Taipei


Behind the 1947 Law That Could Block Donald Trump’s Secretary of Defense Pick

3 December, by Olivia B. Waxman[ —]

Speaking at a rally in Cincinnati on Thursday night, President-elect Donald Trump said he will nominate retired Marine general James “Mad Dog” Mattis to become the next Secretary of Defense.

There’s just one catch, as TIME’s Mark Thompson has noted: One must be retired from the military for at least seven years to be “eligible” to be the Secretary of Defense, according to a section of the U.S. Code, and Mattis has been retired for three.

This requirement — which used to stipulate ten years until 2008— originates from the National Security Act of 1947, which President Harry S. Truman signed into law shortly after the end of World War II. That act create the role of the Secretary of Defense to coordinate the Army, Navy, and newly-created Air Force branches of the military. The law also created the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The law was a product of its post-World War II time, according to Douglas T. Stuart, professor of Political Science and International Studies at Dickinson College.

“Pearl Harbor convinced us of the need for permanent preparedness in ways we didn’t know we needed before,” he says, “even during peace time.” The coming of the Cold War meant the U.S. needed to have a unified military structure to fight the Soviets if they attacked. At the same time, however, post-war leaders were aware of the risk of a militarized system. “We realized preparedness was going to make us have a stronger military, but there was tension between folks who recognized the need for it and folks that recognized the danger of it becoming a Gestapo, the so-called Gestapo problem. The Nazis had network of intelligence institutions that spied on everyone to repress democracy. The U.S. wanted to avoid what had happened in Germany and Japan where the military had dominated the democracy.”

Besides, the Founding Fathers would not approve of the choice of a Secretary of Defense who was too closely connected to the active military, some historians say.

“Before World War II, the U.S. never had a truly unified military structure,” says Jeremi Suri, professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin. “The Founders wanted the Army and Navy to be divided, [separate] divisions, to ensure they couldn’t come together as a strong force to challenge political leadership [and] civilian rule over the military—which is the President, who is the Commander-in-Chief, according to Article II of the Constitution.”

So, he argues, while the 1947 law “was designed to make us more ready to fight,” the ten-year window was added so that the Secretary of Defense “would be someone who didn’t have direct connections to the military, which could lead to someone to be not loyal to civilian leadership.”

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Historian Michael Hogan, a professor at the University of Illinois, adds that maintaining a standing military is expensive, and at the time many in the American government were reluctant to give up a balanced budget in favor of a stronger force. There were Republicans in the late 1940s who wanted to spend less on the military and disapproved of Truman’s decision to go to war in Korea, Hogan says, and this concern about “the militarization of American society and American budget” is also clear in President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address to Congress, in which he famously warned about the development of the military-industrial complex. (“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”)

In fact, the role of Secretary of Defense was weak when it was first created, meant to be more of a coordinating role.

“This office will probably be the biggest cemetery for dead cats in history,” James Forrestal, the first person to hold the position, said in 1947. Hogan notes that this quotation is often used to position Forrestal as the first “victim” of the new arrangement, as he was never really able to get past the in-fighting between the newly connected branches of the military. Forrestal died on May 22, 1949, after falling out of a window. (As the New York Times reported on May 23 of that year, “This country will rightly agree with President Truman in regarding the death of James Forrestal as a casualty of the war. His tragedy is directly traceable to his overwork on behalf of his country.”)

But where does this all leave Mattis?

Congress could make an exception, which requires passing “a new statute,” according to Bobby Chesney, professor and director of the Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin. Congress has done so before: when Truman wanted former Secretary of State George Marshall to run the Pentagon in 1950. “Truman was a very unprepared president with very little experience, so he needed someone with Marshall’s experience,” argues Suri, who notes that Congress could have changed the original law but chose to pass a one-time exception instead, underscoring the importance of distance from military service for the role.

The question is whether Congress will find Mattis similarly indispensable.


Donald Trump and the Taiwanese President Just Had an Unprecedented Phone Call

2 December, by Jonathan Lemire and Matthew Pennington / AP[ —]

(NEW YORK)—Donald Trump has spoken with the president of Taiwan, a self-governing island the U.S. broke diplomatic ties with in 1979.

It is highly unusual, perhaps unprecedented, for a U.S. president or president-elect to speak directly with a Taiwanese leader. The U.S. cut formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan when it shifted diplomatic recognition of China to the communist government on the mainland, although Washington still has close unofficial ties with Taipei.

Trump’s transition team says the two leaders noted the “close economic, political, and security ties” that exist between Taiwan and the United States.


This Trailer Mashup Will Make You Feel All the Feelings About This Year’s Movies

2 December, by Megan McCluskey[ —]

From major blockbusters like Deadpool and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to striking indies such as Moonlight and La La Land, it’s been quite a year for movies. But while most people probably watched a few films released in 2016, it’s hard to imagine anyone had time to see every single one that hit theaters.

Luckily, freelance trailer editor Clark Zhu has created a mashup that does a great job of summarizing the year in film — and it’s less than eight minutes long. The montage — which features clips from over 260 movies — appears to be divided into five different sections, including comedy, horror and romance.

Watch the full video below.

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Here Are Some Constitutional Plot Twists Hollywood Should Consider

2 December, by Ryan Teague Beckwith[ —]

If James Madison were alive today, he might be working as a screenwriter in Hollywood.

TV dramas can’t get enough of obscure constitutional scenarios. On Scandal, an unsuccessful assassination attempt left the vice president temporarily in charge of the Oval Office. On Veep, a tie in the Electoral College sent the election to the House of Representatives. And on Designated Survivor, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development was sworn in after a terrorist attack.

And that’s not to mention just about everything on House of Cards.

But while these plotlines may seem a bit over the top, legal scholars say they are a useful way to tease out some of the weak points in the U.S. Constitution for a broader audience. Given the events of recent years—an impeachment, the Supreme Court intervening in a crucial election recount and recent talk of contested conventions and faithless electors—they may not be as implausible as they sound.

“It may be one of those areas where reality is getting a little bit ahead of fiction,” notes Ilya Somin, constitutional law professor at George Mason University.

With that in mind, TIME talked with legal experts about their favorite constitutional scenarios. Here’s a look at seven that Hollywood could use for dramatic effect, and how we imagine they might be put to good use:


Kristin Stewart Feels the Need for Speed in the Rolling Stones’ New Music Video, ‘Ride ‘Em On Down’

2 December, by Cady Lang[ —]

For her latest role, Kristen Stewart is taking a walk—or rather, a ride — on the wild side, as the freewheeling star of The Rolling Stones‘ latest music video.

The track, a cover of Eddie Taylor’s 1955 song “Ride ‘Em On Down,” is the first single off their new blues cover album, Blue and Lonesome, their first studio album in a decade. In the video, Stewart spends most of her time zipping around an eerily empty Los Angeles in a bright blue vintage Mustang GT.

In between Stewart speeding around L.A., we’re also treated to the sight of her buying beer, eating a lollipop, and having a sultry solo dance party at a gas station like a badass. The only time that the Cafe Society actress slows down is when she bizarrely encounters a zebra while doing donuts in a deserted river basin, a la Thunder Road.

Watch the full music video above.


Woman and Her Dog Saved From Rubble After South Dakota Building Collapse

2 December, by Tessa Berenson[ —]

A woman and her dog were pulled from the rubble Friday afternoon after a building collapsed in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“She’s alive and well, does have some injuries to her legs. We don’t know the extent of that at this time,” said Regan Smith, emergency manager for the city of Sioux Falls, NBC affiliate KARE 11 reports. The 22-year-old, who had been talking to her mother on the phone while she was trapped, was transported to a local hospital for treatment. The building collapse was reported at about 10:30 am.

Sioux Falls Fire Rescue also posted a tweet of them rescuing what KARE 11 reports is the woman’s dog:

But there may be another person trapped inside the fallen building. KARE 11 reports that Jim Sideras, Sioux Falls Fire Rescue chief, said that at least two people were trapped, and Argus Leader reports that one of them was a construction worker who was earlier making pounding noises that have since stopped.

 

 


DirecTV Now Isn’t The Cord-Cutting Solution You’re Looking For

2 December, by John Patrick Pullen[ —]

As I started the DirecTV Now app on my Apple TV, Storage Wars spilled across my screen — and I couldn’t change the channel fast enough.

My reflex wasn’t related to my feelings about the A&E show. Rather, it’s a critique of DirecTV’s new cord-cutting service. Whether you watch its live television service through your Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, or computer’s web browser, the video feed comes on instantly — just like it would if you were watching a normal TV. And that’s both a great decision and terrible design, because through over-the-top services like DirecTV Now, television essentially works like a utility. So, just like your water faucet or lights, beware of leaving the TV running, as I’ll explain.

But first, it’s worth explaining what DirecTV Now actually is. Pulling video from DirecTV (without needing a satellite dish), the service takes aim at cable companies by delivering television programming over the Internet. DirecTV Now offers four packages ranging in price from $35 to $70 per month, which include between more than 60 to at least 120 channels of live and on-demand video, along with some local stations. Though I only tested the service on Apple gear, it’s also accessible via Amazon, Android, Chrome and Google’s Cast devices.

With no installers giving me a four-hour setup window, wonky company-owned gear, or annoying contracts, DirecTV Now’s setup is advertised to be a snap. Despite a couple of hiccups, that claim held true.

Still, immediately after plugging my credit card information into DirecTV’s website, my computer’s web browser required an update of Microsoft’s Silverlight software and a restart in order to view the video stream. Once that software was in place, the first show I pulled up, ESPN’s SportsCenter, froze, displaying an error message: “Hmm… this video is taking a little bit longer than usual to load. Thanks for your patience!” Given that it was launch day, it’s likely new users were rushing to the service, thus the clogged pipes. But since then, other errors have interrupted my viewing, something I never experienced while watching cable TV.

And when it came time to watch my favorite shows, I encountered another unpleasant surprise. It began by me searching the service for “Colbert” and finding nothing. I looked for “Late Show” instead and found 15 shows and three movies, but not The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. (And demonstrating DirecTV’s unsatisfying search capabilities, the movies Clean Slate and 28 Days Later were two of the results). Turns out Colbert isn’t available on DirecTV Now, because CBS is surprisingly not included in the package, opting to go direct to consumers with its own subscription-based app instead.

With more than 120 channels, it’d be exhaustive to list every offering here. So instead I performed some highly unscientific research of asking my friends what their appointment TV-viewing shows are. HBO’s shows were a popular response, and the pay channel (as well as Cinemax) are available as add-ons or a rock-bottom price of $5 per month. Sports fans will delight that the MLB, NHL, NBA, and SEC’s respective networks are included, though DirecTV’s NFL offering is not. Reality TV connoisseurs will lament the lack of Survivor and Amazing Race, since CBS isn’t offered. Drama watchers get a mixed bag, missing out on shows like NCIS (CBS, again) but getting all of AMC’s award-winners. And kids make out great in the deal, with three different Disney channels and two Nickelodeons.

Another major selling point is DirecTV Now’s ability to stream local channels, which makes it good for people who enjoy their regional newscasts. But less publicized is that the local TV stations it offers are from major markets only, and vary wildly in consistency. For instance, if you live in Chicago, you’ll get local ABC and NBC, but not FOX. And it gets worse from there — there’s not a a single local station to be found where I live in the Pacific Northwest.

DirecTV Now’s video has mostly streamed crisply and quickly, nearly equaling the responsiveness of my Comcast setup on my television and my iPad. But it’s worth noting that the resolution of the DirecTV video, while clear, didn’t appear to be high definition. Testing it on a 43-inch HDTV, the image looked slightly blurry, and I don’t have high expectations for better image clarity on a larger screen.

And speaking of that big screen experience, DirecTV Now’s Apple TV interface is a mess. When you launch the app, you’re thrust into whichever show is on the channel you left off watching. Swiping down on the touch pad reveals a bare-boned menu, the same display that appears when you press the remote’s ‘menu’ button. But if you swipe up instead, up pops a richer menu full of channel and show options. Swiping left and right changes the channel, which I wish I had known at the outset.

Curiously, though you can use the Siri Remote’s microphone button to dictate search terms, you can’t use Siri to select a program on DirecTV Now, like you can with Hulu and other apps. I’d expect this to change in the near future, but Apple TV still feels like a hobby to the company, despite its claims to the contrary.

You can also pause live television on DirecTV Now, but you can’t fast forward or rewind it, at least not that I could tell. Some live programs let you rewind them completely to watch from the start, while others give you no such option. And there’s no obvious reason why this is the case — it’s probably due to obscure contract negotiations, but to a user it feels utterly random.

This odd twist doesn’t seem to involve DirecTV Now’s on-demand library. The service boasts more than 15,000 videoes, which may seem like a solid number until you start digging in to the offerings. For example, my wife hunkered down to watch the previous night’s episode of This Is Us, only to discover that the most recent episode available DirecTV Now was from Oct. 31., making it three episodes behind terrestrial TV. So while this over-the-top service may be good for people who like live television, DirecTV Now subscribers better not be late to the couch.

Then again, a key selling point for this cord-cutting package is that AT&T wireless customers don’t need to watch TV on the couch at all. Though customers of any wireless provider can subscribe to DirecTV Now, AT&T customers get their data “zero-rated,” meaning it doesn’t count against their monthly data limits. The arrangement comes after AT&T acquired DirecTV in 2015 in a $49 billion deal.

That’s a sweet deal for AT&T users. But it’s a controversial one, too. While telecoms like AT&T love zero-rating deals because they can provide a competitive advantage, detractors argue such deals can make it harder for upstart services to compete, as users will opt to stream content via a service that won’t kill their data budget. It’s a bit of an abstract debate, but it’s worth considering as you weigh your streaming options.

Even if zero-rating doesn’t bug you, DirecTV’s impact on your high-speed Internet bill just might. Just like years ago when mobile data providers started to clamp down on unlimited data caps, many broadband carriers recently have started doing the same. In the past, Internet Service Providers like Comcast have throttled the Internet speeds of customers who downloaded huge quantities of data. Now the country’s largest ISP is charging its customers higher rates when their monthly downloads exceed one terabyte. Today’s DirecTV Now customers may not have to worry about hitting that limit, but as more people stream 4K video (which is not currently available on this service, but is the future of video, and is not being earnestly deployed by data limit-free cable television services), this will be an issue to sweat.

So, when I say that I couldn’t turn off Storage Wars soon enough, this far off digital doomsday is what I was eyeing. While it’s nice to ape old school television with instant-on video feeds, it’s also entirely unnecessary, and will only eat up precious megabytes. This may seem like a minor point, but like DirecTV Now in general, it will be a major shift in how we think about television. People who leave the tube on for background noise or like to fall asleep watching television will need to change their ways if they subscribe to DirecTV Now. Forget Storage Wars. Bandwidth wars are up next.


Jury Remains Deadlocked in Michael Slager’s Trial Over Walter Scott’s Death

2 December, by Associated Press[ —]

(CHARLESTON, S.C.)—Jurors in the Michael Slager murder trial are going home for the weekend. They have deliberated more than 16 hours over three days in the case of the white former South Carolina patrolman charged in the shooting death of Walter Scott.

Scott who was black, was shot five times in the back running from a traffic stop in April of 2015. The shooting was captured on cellphone video that stunned the nation.

At one point Friday it appeared jurors were deadlocked when the judge read a letter from one of them saying that he could not vote to convict Slager and was not about to change his mind.

But the jury foreman said he thought the panel could still reach a unanimous verdict and the deliberations continued.


How ‘Proximity’ Helped Elect Donald Trump President

2 December, by Brian O'Keefe / Fortune[ —]

What motivated voters in swing states to cast their presidential ballots for Donald Trump? According to former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, Trump’s victory can be explained in part by one key word: “proximity.” Many of his voters were the people who’ve been affected the most by the declining importance of proximity in today’s global economy.

What exactly does that mean? In the past, the rise of a great entrepreneur or company could be relied upon to bring good-paying jobs to people living nearby—boosting and sustaining the local economy. That has become increasingly less true over the past quarter century as technology and a fluid global labor force has allowed companies to outsource labor in many different ways.

“It used to be that if you wanted to combine smarts with work they had to be right next to each other,” said Summers, speaking on a panel on the topic of “Achieving Inclusive Capitalism” at the Fortune + Time Global Forum in Rome on Friday. “You longer need to have proximity between idea and execution.”

Summers offered a contrast between two iconic American business leaders. George Eastman had a “great idea, photography,” said Summers. He built Eastman Kodak, got really rich, and the town where his company was located, Rochester, N.Y, benefitted and was a thriving community for a couple of generations. Much of the incredible prosperity created by Steve Jobs at Apple, by contrast, has been spread around the world, said Summers, with the manufacturing of Apple laptops and iPhones in other countries.

That ability to combine industrial developed world talent and entrepreneurism with developing world labor, said Summers, is “good for superstars” like Steve Jobs (who get very, very rich) and good for developing world labor (who still are a little richer, but still not nearly as rich as those in developed economies).

Who suffers? The middle class labor pool that once got the jobs supplied by the business superstars.

“That’s who elected Donald Trump,” said Summers.

The declining importance of proximity is another way of understanding the increase in income inequality, particularly in the U.S., said Summers.

Summers cited statistics to illustrate the point. If we applied income distribution in the U.S. from 1979 to today’s world, he said, the wealthiest 1% in the U.S. (including the superstars) would have about $1 trillion less wealth than they do. Meanwhile, the bottom 80% would have roughly $1 trillion more cumulative wealth—about $8,000 per person—than they do now. That’s partly because a lot of the good-paying jobs that once sustained much of the 80% have moved elsewhere.

Summers sees more disruption ahead in manufacturing thanks to the rapid advance of technology, which will greatly reduce the number of jobs in many places.

He analogized the change to come to the transformation of farming. “It used to take half the population to feed the whole population,” said Summers. “Now it takes 1% of the population to feed the whole population. Manufacturing is going through something really similar.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com











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