Happy New Year's Eve EVE! Tomorrow night in Times Square could be one of the coldest ball drops ever, with warnings about frostbite and hypothermia. Accuweather's forecast for midnight is 11 degrees. The coldest ball drop was 1917's 1 degree.
Two weeks of insight ... Through New Year's Day, Axios CEO Jim VandeHei and I bring AM readers our year-end thoughts on the topics that matter most ...
Donald Trump in one year has done more to discredit and diminish truth, facts and media than any other figure in our lifetime.
His techniques — especially claiming bad or unwanted news is "fake news" — are getting copied worldwide, just as evil actors like Russia are getting better at spreading misinformation. With the help of Axios media trends reporter Sara Fischer, here's a snapshot:
Be smart ... We can't say it too often: The real problem with fake news is that people don't believe real news. That's terrible for society and democracy, making good decisions less likely.
"Russian tankers have supplied fuel to North Korea on at least three occasions in recent months by transferring cargoes at sea, ... providing an economic lifeline to the secretive Communist state," Reuters reports, quoting two senior Western European security sources:
President Trump's approach to China is about to change for several reasons, Sinocism's Bill Bishop writes for Axios:
Why it matters: Trump has been consistent for decades in his view that China is taking advantage of the U.S., but has held back because of North Korea. As on many other issues, we should expect him to revert to his original views, which means far more friction in the U.S.-China relationship is ahead.
Watch for: If the U.S. decides China is not doing enough on North Korea, as a recent tweet from Trump suggests, a likely next step is additional U.S. sanctions against important Chinese individuals and firms, including systemically important financial institutions.
You can sign up for Bill's free weekly newsletter, Axios China, here. For the full dose, subscribe to his Sinocism China Newsletter here.
Shot ... N.Y. Times' Michael Schmidt gives a behind-the-scenes around of his impromptu Trump interview:
Chaser... "10 Falsehoods From Trump's Interview With The Times," by N.Y. Times' Linda Qiu:
"The 3-year-old boy in the kitchen screamed. His mother ran in from the bathroom," the N.Y. Times reports in its two-column lead story:
The hero ... "After Saving Many From Fire, Soldier Died Trying to Rescue One More."
N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Ambrozia Stewart, whose youngest daughter and three granddaughters are among the 12 dead: "I need somebody to tell me what to feel. Where do I go from here? Four at one time — what do I do?"
"The major stock indexes made double-digit gains for the year, led by Apple, Facebook and other technology stocks," per AP Business Writer Alex Veiga:
The takeaway: "By some measures, the market is looking expensive. The S&P 500 is now trading around 18 times forward earnings. That's above the historical average of 16."
"The Iranian government warned people against further protests on Saturday after two days of demonstrations sparked by anger over an array of economic problems," AFP reports: "State news channel IRINN said it had been banned from covering the protests that spread from second city Mashhad on Thursday to hit several towns and cities.""Media coverage inside Iran focused almost exclusively on pro-regime rallies held [today] to mark the defeat of the last major protest movement in 2009, which hardliners call 'the sedition.' The timing was coincidental, since the rallies are held every year on this day."The photos available to Axios, through AP and Getty (including the one above), only show the pro-regime demonstrations. "The [earlier] protests initially targeted economic problems, but quickly turned against the Islamic regime as a whole."Video footage on social media showed hundreds marching through the holy city of Qom on Friday evening, with people chanting 'Death to the dictator' and 'Free political prisoners."The context: "The country is facing serious challenges with unemployment, high prices, corruption, lack of water, social gap" and unbalanced government spending, per AFP:"There has been particular anger at welfare cuts and fuel price increases in the latest budget announced earlier this month.""Some of this week's protests were directed against financial scandals linked to unauthorized lending institutions which collapsed with the loss of hundreds of thousands of accounts."Why it matters, via BBC: "It was the biggest display of public dissent since huge pro-reform rallies in 2009."
AFP: "Since the 2009 protests were ruthlessly put down by the Revolutionary Guards, many middle-class Iranians have abandoned hope of pressing for change from the streets.""But low-level strikes and demonstrations have continued, often on a sector-by-sector basis as bus drivers or teachers or workers from specific factories protest against unpaid wages or poor conditions."
President Obama in 2009, asked about violence in Iran's streets:
Sarah Sanders, in emailed statement to the pool yesterday:
Reliving 2017 in 30 images ... In a four-week span, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria ravaged Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands. 2017 had 19 days when a major hurricane was brewing, according to the National Hurricane Center. A normal year is about six days.
"'Star Wars' Franchise Crosses $4 Billion, Eclipsing Disney's Lucasfilm Price," per Hollywood Reporter: