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Vox Sentences: Mad Dog to defend White House

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.

Congress is passing a major bill (don't everybody get too excited); Donald Trump's most widely respected Cabinet pick to date is the dude who needs a special waiver from Congress.

Congress passes medical research bill full of uppers, downers

Elizabeth Warren at a podium The Washington Post/Toni L. Sandys via Getty Images
  • Congress is in the midst of passing the biggest piece of health legislation since the Affordable Care Act: the 21st Century Cures Act, which puts $6.3 billion toward changes in medical research and would, among other things, substantially change the process for approving new drugs. [Vox / Julia Belluz]
  • The bill is the sort of bipartisan initiative people love to complain doesn't exist anymore. Republicans rallied around proposals to change FDA regulations to bring drugs to market faster; Democrats supported the bill's funding efforts for VP Joe Biden's "cancer moonshot" and for the NIH and FDA. [The Atlantic / Russell Berman]
  • The thing about big bipartisan bills is they have huge upsides and huge downsides. The 21st Century Cures Act could help beat the opioid crisis (it sends $1 billion to states to fight opioid addiction). But it also rewards the pharmaceutical industry that helped make prescription painkillers an addiction crisis to begin with. [Huffington Post / Sam Stein, Ryan Grim and Matt Fuller]
  • The bill isn't just a wish list for big pharma. Thanks to the efforts of Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a proposal to keep doctors from having to disclose when they were being paid by industry in prescribing drugs got scrapped. [Stat News / Ed Silverman]
  • But among the biggest changes the bill will make is to fast-track the development of more drugs by allowing researchers to skip clinical trials and present "real-world evidence" instead. The problem is that the regulatory process isn't actually the biggest reason drugs take so long to get to market… [Vox / Julia Belluz]
  • …and cutting corners in the regulatory process could have problems for patient safety. [Vox / Julia Belluz]

Mad Dog to defend White House

Donald Trump Holds Weekend Meetings In Bedminster, NJ Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • President-elect Donald Trump has reportedly selected retired Gen. James Mattis to serve as his secretary of defense. [Washington Post / Dan Lamothe]
  • (The Trump transition team has denied that a final pick for DoD has been made. But pretty much every Cabinet appointment so far has leaked before the official announcement, and every leak about a Cabinet appointment so far has been correct.) [CNN / Eric Bradner, Phil Mattingly and David Wright]
  • Mattis is a lot more respected among establishment policymakers — of many ideological stripes — than most of Trump's picks. [Foreign Policy / Dan De Luce and Paul McLeary]
  • This isn't to say he's a moderate — he's a huge Iran hawk, for example. But he knows his stuff, and has been known to stand up to Trump about, for example, the ineffectiveness of waterboarding. [Vox / Yochi Dreazen]
  • Legally, though, Mattis is barred from taking the position — military officials are barred from civilian oversight roles until seven years after they retire. It's supposed to protect the principle of civilian oversight of the military — something President-elect Trump's apparent reliance on generals to guide his policy thinking is throwing onto shaky ground. [NYT / Mark Landler and Helene Cooper]
  • Congress is likely to grant Mattis a waiver. Again, he's well respected — and it doesn't hurt that a lobbying team has been working senators day after day for two weeks to prep them to accept Mattis should he be nominated. [The Daily Beast / Kimberly Dozier and Tim Mak]
  • But there are other concerns with putting a fresh ex-general in control of the Pentagon. For one thing, as Erin Simpson writes, "Warfighters rarely make good bureaucrats" — and Mattis is definitely a warfighter. [War on the Rocks / Erin Simpson]

Dealmaker in chief

trump Getty / Tasos Katopodis
  • Arguably, Donald Trump is a warfighter rather than a bureaucrat — something that's coming into focus as we learn more about the deal struck with Carrier to keep some jobs in the US. [Vox / Timothy B. Lee]
  • The deal is even more modest than initially reported. Carrier's keeping about 800 jobs in Indiana — another 1,000 are still being shifted to Mexico. That's not great return on the $7 million the state of Indiana is paying the company to stay. [Vox / Matt Yglesias]
  • Furthermore, as Bernie Sanders points out, it basically sets a template for any other company tempted by outsourcing: Dig in enough, and the Trump administration will give you a sweet deal. [Washington Post / Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)]
  • But here's the problem. A lot of people in the region really like it. They see it as Trump keeping his word — and they actively don't want to hear about the details. [Phil Mattingly via Twitter]
  • What does one do with such an attitude? Does one chalk it up to traditional gung-ho populism — Trump doing something "for us" — and wait until the Republican Congress does something that doesn't even pretend to benefit workers? [Vox / Matt Yglesias]
  • Does one simply concede what a Trump supporter said on a cable news segment today, that "there's no such thing anymore, unfortunately, as facts"? [The Atlantic / James Fallows]
  • Or does one consider that — at least the way Trump tells it — he never intended to keep the Carrier plant itself in the US to begin with, and only did it because he saw a worker on TV who cited Trump's promise sincerely? And conclude that, terrifyingly, Trump's need to satisfy his fans may run deeper than his desire to wave away his lies? [Slate / Josh Voorhees]


  • This time for sure: Colombia's parliament has officially ratified a peace deal with the FARC (the revised version of the one voters rejected earlier this fall). [The Guardian]
  • Fifteen-year-old Bresha Meadows killed her father — who she claims was brutally abusive. She was charged with aggravated murder and could have faced life in prison. On Thursday, prosecutors announced she'll only face six years. [Huffington Post / Melissa Jeltsen]
  • If you shared that Washington Post story last week about Russia's propaganda influence on fake news, you owe it to yourself to read this critique from Adrian Chen — who knows Russian propaganda on the internet. [New Yorker / Adrian Chen]
  • Your hair extensions might have come off the scalp of a 14-year-old girl in rural China. [New Zealand Herald / Olivia Carville]
  • Because Dara is filling the Misc. section tonight, you get a detailed and readable breakdown, courtesy of SB Nation, of the new labor agreement between Major League Baseball and its players. [SB Nation / Grant Brisbee]


  • "Starting today, the federal government has the power to hack millions of Americans’ computers with one single search warrant. And the government isn’t even required to ensure those subject to a computer search are notified." [Medium / Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT)]
  • "The United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit is very certain that lesbians exist, but it is not entirely sure why, or what to do about them." [Slate / Mark Joseph Stern]
  • "For decades, governments around the world — from France to Turkey to China — have forced Muslims into a never-ending game of religious Twister, contorting their faith in every which way, promising them that if they change just this one thing they’ll be left alone and 'accepted.'" [Washington Post / Rashid Dar]
  • "Somehow our financial conversations, we feel romantic and connected at the end of them, I think because it’s a way of talking about values." [Ari Wisebard to Bloomberg / Josh Eidelson, Eva Holland, and David Gauvey Herbert]
  • "In the midst of troubled times, @CountVonCount reminds us we can do anything we set our minds to." [Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) via Twitter]

Watch this: Why blackface is still part of Dutch Christmas

The debate over Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), explained. [YouTube / Christophe Haubursin]