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Vox Sentences: Pluto is a lot cooler than you thought

Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what's happening in the world, curated by Dara Lind and Dylan Matthews. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

Who Donald Trump is and isn't talking to; Russia withdraws support for the International Criminal Court; Pluto's (hypothesized) slushy underground ocean.


Waiting by the phone

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
  • Things the Donald Trump administration-in-waiting has not done yet: reached out to its Obama administration counterparts at the Department of Defense and Department of State (that might happen Friday) — or the Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Treasury... [Washington Post / Dan Lamothe]
  • ...or submitted the documents, including the transition team's code of ethics, that would clear it to meet with those counterparts. [Politico / Nancy Cook]
  • Here are some other things the Trump administration-in-waiting didn't do: inform the president-elect that it's customary to speak to the UK prime minister first, not the president of Egypt; prepare the president-elect with briefing points for said calls. [NYT / Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Mark Mazzetti, and Maggie Haberman]
  • Here is what the Donald Trump administration-in-waiting has done: send a lot of mean tweets to the New York Times for breaking the above story... [Vox / Tara Golshan]
  • ...and broken its own ethics code (the same one it hasn't submitted to the Obama administration yet) by hiring lobbyists onto its staff. [Politico / Isaac Arnsdorf]
  • On the other hand, it appears that the Trump administration did save Speaker of the House Paul Ryan from a last-minute leadership challenge from the right yesterday — something Ryan has immediately repaid (to the dismay of colleagues) by blocking a proposal to allow earmarks in House bills again. [Politico / Rachael Bade]
  • And it's building relationships across the aisle — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will reportedly appear at an event for New York business leaders with Trump son-in-law and key aide Jared Kushner. [Politico / Annie Karni]
  • This is the same Sen. Schumer who just named Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to the caucus's leadership team. Whether this equilibrium will hold until the new Congress is sworn in in January remains to be seen. [Vox / Jeff Stein]

A "slap in the face"

International Criminal Court Michel Porro/Getty Images
  • Russia announced Wednesday that it's withdrawing its support from the International Criminal Court, a day after the ICC released a report on Russia's activities in Crimea. [NPR / Rebecca Hersher]
  • The report characterized the annexation of Crimea as an "occupation" by Russia and the result of an international military confrontation with Ukraine, which is awkward seeing as Russia continues to claim it has no troops there. [The Guardian / Shaun Walker and Owen Bowcott]
  • (The withdrawal also came as Russia renewed its air attack on Aleppo in Syria, hitting at least one hospital, according to human rights groups.) [Mother Jones / Max J. Rosenthal]
  • Russia never formally ratified the Rome statute that authorized the ICC (though Vladimir Putin did sign it). [Foreign Policy / Robbie Gramer]
  • So this is largely a symbolic gesture — a "slap in the face," in the words of political scientist Kate Cronin-Furman. [NYT / Ivan Nechepurenko and Nick Cumming-Brice]
  • Much more worrisome for the ICC's legitimacy is the withdrawal last month of three African countries, protesting that the ICC had become a way for Western countries to target Africa — and possibly leading an exodus of other governments on the continent from the court. [Vice / David Gilbert]

True polar wander

Illustration of possible impact that formed Pluto's subterranean ocean Illustration by James Tuttle Keane.
  • A new paper in the journal Nature hypothesizes that Pluto might have a "slushy" subterranean ocean under part of its surface. [Scientific American / Lee Billings]
  • The paper comes from observations that Pluto always kept the same face toward its moon, Charon, leading scientists to deduce that a dense mass balanced the planet on its non-moon side. [Vox / Brian Resnick]
  • That mass might be a thick ice cap, as a companion Nature paper hypothesizes — or it could be a thick slushy sea, fortified with ammonia and warmed by the radioactive elements in Pluto's core. [The Verge / Loren Grush]
  • The mass rebalancing might seem smooth and static. But it's actually part of a seismic and meteorological phenomenon called "true polar wander" — something the Atlantic's Rebecca Boyle compares to "holding a peach in your hand, and moving the skin around, but not the flesh or the pit." [The Atlantic / Rebecca Boyle]
  • These papers come from data provided by the New Horizons probe, which earlier this year sent back data that suggests Pluto's surface is arguably even cooler than the underground sea. [The Verge / Loren Grush]

Miscellaneous

  • Apple is now selling a $200 ($300 for the large version) book that's just photos of Apple products, which is just an incredibly Apple thing to do. [The Verge / James Vincent]
  • What anti-Trump activists can learn from the animal rights movement. [Verdict / Michael Dorf]
  • Donald Trump is considering Rob Astorino, the county executive for Westchester County, New York, as his HUD secretary. If you care about housing desegregation, it's a disastrous choice. [Slate / Henry Grabar]
  • The case for Barack Obama recess-appointing Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. [New Republic / David Dayen]
  • Next year, France could join the US in electing a far-right populist president. The mainstream conservative party's primary this month will help determine whether that happens. [Cole Stangler]

Verbatim

  • "'When two-thirds or three-quarters of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia, I think …' Bannon said, not finishing the sentence. 'A country is more than an economy. We’re a civic society.'" [Washington Post / David Fahrenthold and Frances Stead Sellers]
  • "Ultimately, Andrew Breitbart’s dimwit Gen-X Archie Bunker-ism was destined to slide either into a begrudging liberal populism or the alt-right’s full-tilt Kulturkampf." [Jacobin / Matthew Phelan]
  • "No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story." [Daniel Kahneman to Vanity Fair / Michael Lewis]
  • "When I looked at the front of The Times website on Monday and saw a photo of Stephen K. Bannon, on leave from Breitbart as chairman and rising in power, and then underneath it a photo of Gwen, who is passing from this world, I wanted to throw up." [NYT / David Brooks]
  • "Novelist A.S. Byatt, in a BBC talk aired in 1993, remarked on the phrase wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door. If it had been kept by a mirror, we would immediately have thought of makeup (women often refer to putting on their face before going out), but there is no mirror mentioned, so the image becomes broader, more metaphorical." [Slate / Hunter Davies]

Watch this: 7 ways a trip to Mars could kill you

What exactly makes a journey to Mars so perilous? [YouTube / Brian Resnick, Brad Plumer, Javier Zarracina, and Christophe Haubursin]