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Vox Sentences: Kerry: without two states, Israel "can be Jewish, or it can be democratic"

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John Kerry has some real talk for Israel; Obama designates two new national monuments that Republicans (and the Bundys) have already promised to fight; the fight to preserve the Senate torture report.

Kerry goes out swinging

John Kerry Zach Gibson/Getty Images
  • In the latest fallout from last week's UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements in Palestine — which the US conspicuously failed to veto — Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech Wednesday defending the move. [Vox / Jennifer Williams]
  • Kerry's speech featured some of the toughest criticism of Israeli policy from a top US official in some time: If Israel continues to reject a two-state solution, he said, it will have to choose whether the unified Israel is Jewish or democratic — because it cannot be both. [Vox / Jennifer Williams]
  • The line isn't an implication that there's something inherently undemocratic about a "Jewish state" — it's a recognition of demographic reality. Either Palestinians receive their own state, get voting rights in Israel (which would make the Knesset majority-Palestinian when the Palestinian population surpasses the Jewish one), or they are denied voting rights in any sovereign state. [Forward]
  • Those demographic changes — and the growing international consensus (reflected in the UN resolution) that Israel's treatment of Palestinians is unjust — have some commentators optimistic that Netanyahu and the truculent expansionism he represents are the last gasps of a dying political force: that he is one of "yesterday's men." [Foreign Policy / David Rothkopf]
  • That might be true for reasons that have nothing to do with Palestine. Reports Wednesday indicated that Israel's attorney general was opening inquiries into Netanyahu, possibly for involvement in bribery and fraud. [Times of Israel / Raoul Wootliff]
  • But Netanyahu knows that things will only get easier for him in Washington. He and Donald Trump tweeted their support for each other Wednesday, as the US president-elect makes it increasingly clear that his administration will be vocally and yugely pro-Israel. [CNN / Stephen Collinson]

Monumental battles

A new national monument Brewbooks
  • President Obama designated two new sites — Bears Ears, Utah, and Gold Butte, Nevada — as national monuments Wednesday. [BuzzFeed News / Jim Dalrymple II]
  • In the last few years of his presidency, Obama has aggressively used executive power (granted by the 1906 Antiquities Act) to expand federal land protection — not just for the purposes of conservation, but to protect historic sites associated with marginalized groups in US history. [USA Today / Gregory Korte]
  • But (like many of his executive actions) Obama's monument designations have drawn ire from congressional Republicans. And the two new monuments could finally provoke a legislative fight. Utah's senators, in particular, are deeply opposed to the designation of Bears Ears as a monument — Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) even floated the idea of preemptively passing a bill that would prevent Obama from monumenting it. [The Daily Signal / Joshua Siegel]
  • Their opposition isn't solely a matter of small-government ideology. Utahns (both white and Native American) are deeply divided over the Bears Ears site — as this (highly recommended) feature by High Country News's Jonathan Thompson shows. [High Country News / Jonathan Thompson]
  • The state of Utah has already promised to sue the federal government if it designated Bears Ears a monument. [Salt Lake Tribune / Brian Maffly]
  • If it wanted to, Congress could simply amend the Antiquities Act to limit the president's ability to directly designate monuments. And under President Donald Trump, they might decide to do just that. [BuzzFeed News / Jim Dalrymple II]
  • But the Gold Butte monument might face another sort of challenge. It includes the lands where Cliven Bundy and fellow ranchers held a 2014 standoff against the Bureau of Land Management over illegal grazing... [Las Vegas Review-Journal / Henry Brean and Kimber Lux]
  • ...and Bundy's son Ryan has all but promised that another standoff would be an appropriate way to fight the federal government if it tried to monumentalize Gold Butte. [Washington Post / Kevin Sullivan and Juliet Eilperin]

Rogue One, but with the Senate torture report

CIA seal Charles Ommanney/Getty Images
  • A federal judge has ordered the federal government to turn over a sealed full copy of the Senate's report into torture and abuse of CIA detainees — increasing the possibility that the full report will someday be released to the public. [Politico / Josh Gerstein]
  • The order was issued in the case of a Guantanamo Bay detainee currently petitioning for his release under the writ of habeas corpus. But it also reflects the ongoing fight over the future of the "Senate torture report," an abridged version of which was released in December 2014 as Democrats prepared to give up their Senate majority to Republicans. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • Since gaining the majority in 2015, Senate Republicans have made an effort to stop any further dissemination of the report — and even to reclaim existing copies. [The Guardian / Spencer Ackerman]
  • Earlier this month, President Obama announced that a copy of the full report would be saved among the records in his presidential library — preserving some hope of eventual public release. [Miami Herald / Carol Rosenberg]
  • But the court order guarantees that if the CIA's use of torture becomes relevant to future lawsuits — say, against the administration of Donald Trump, who's promised to bring back waterboarding and "worse" — the court, and the public, would have access to at least one copy. [Lawfare / Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic]
  • This is becoming a trend of the transition from Obama to Trump: the preservation of information that people fear would be destroyed because it's inconvenient to the incoming government's preferred policies. Climate scientists are rushing to back up copies of important climate data, fearing the Trump administration will make it harder to access data for climate change studies... [Washington Post / Eric Holthaus]
  • ...while the organization, which catalogs webpages, is moving its operations to Canada so it can continue to record sites operated by ISIS and other terrorist groups (sites the president-elect has said he'd try to censor). [Huffington Post Canada]
  • The Obama administration itself has stayed out of these battles so far, in its hope for a smooth transition. But with President-elect Trump getting huffy about Obama on Twitter, it's possible that the White House will get more involved in the fight to save records from its successor. [Donald Trump via Twitter]


  • The popularity of Duck Dynasty in an area is a better predictor of Trump support than George W. Bush's 2000 vote share. [NYT / Josh Katz]
  • An underrated driver of political trends in the '10s and '20s: the aging of the electorate. [Scott Sumner]
  • NASA scientists claim to have developed a rocket thruster that appears to break Newton's third law of motion. Should we believe them? [Gizmodo / Ryan Mandelbaum]
  • Private equity firms are getting really into running municipal water systems. They're actually pretty good at getting infrastructure up to snuff. Then they hike the water bill. [NYT / Danielle Ivory, Ben Protess, and Griff Palmer]
  • Elkhart, Indiana's economy has improved dramatically in recent years, with unemployment falling from 22 percent in 2009 to under 4 percent now. It voted overwhelmingly for Trump anyway. [The Atlantic / Alana Semuels]


  • "Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary lives in a home with a convention center and tennis club. His choice for army secretary once listed his Manhattan mansion for nine figures, and the adviser chosen to oversee affordable housing policy soaks in a bathtub flanked by corinthian columns." [Mansion Global / Beckie Strum]
  • "As people streamed away from the tower’s entrance, several police officers grabbed waist-high metal barriers and used them to herd the crowd southward along Fifth Avenue, slowly moving the people in front of them away from the building. 'I know Ivanka' someone shouted from the crowd in feeble resistance." [NYT / Sarah Maslin Nir]
  • "I wouldn't feel comfortable standing near a man like that in our costumes." [Anonymous Rockette, on Donald Trump, via Marie Claire / Kaitlin Menza]
  • "One of the curious things about Yale is that it is impossible to compete over grades; the first semester is pass/fail, and for reasons not worth going into the grading scheme is essentially meaningless after that point. I thought this was wonderful, but I’m sure at least some of my classmates experienced it as a disappointment. So what do you do if you’ve spent your life trying to prove that you’re smarter than other people?" [James Kwak]
  • "The current town government looks like a stalk instead of a family tree: The town recorder, Chad McCune, is married to council member Melissa McCune who is also the mayor’s daughter. The third council member Cynthia Dragan is the mayor’s sister-in-law and Melissa McCune’s aunt. The final member, Tighe Bullock, is related to them all and both of his parents served as past mayors." [Register-Herald / Daniel Tyson]

Watch this: How I memorized an entire chapter from Moby Dick

With memory palaces, anyone can look like a memory genius. [YouTube / Dean Peterson, Joe Posner, Carlos Waters]

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