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Vox Sentences: The federal government will (eventually) close (a handful of) private prisons

The Department of Justice will wind down its contracts with 13 private prisons; the era of self-driving cars will begin later this month in Pittsburgh; RIP,

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The Department of Justice will wind down its contracts with 13 private prisons; the era of self-driving cars will begin later this month in Pittsburgh; RIP,

Fewer profits, fewer problems?

  • The Department of Justice announced today that it will stop renewing its contracts with private companies to operate federal prisons. [Washington Post / Matt Zapotosky and Chico Harlan]
  • The DOJ aims to phase out its use of private prisons entirely, though due to contract issues that'll take years. (There are currently 13 privately operated facilities in the Bureau of Prisons.)
  • The announcement comes a week after an inspector general report found that the DOJ's private prisons were less safe and less well-run than equivalent publicly run prisons. [Vox / German Lopez]
  • It probably didn't hurt that federal private prisons have been on the media radar recently, with the fourth season of Orange Is the New Black and this exposé Mother Jones published earlier this year, after a writer went undercover as a guard. [Mother Jones / Shane Bauer]
  • Again, we're talking about only 13 prisons. Most prisons aren't private; most private prisons are at the state level; and most federal private prisons are immigration detention facilities, which will continue to operate (because they're not controlled by the DOJ). [Huffington Post / Roque Planas]
  • And the private prison industry has already been preparing for some time to diversify its portfolio beyond keeping prison beds full. [Prison Policy Initiative / Peter Wagner]
  • Stock prices for the two biggest private prison companies cratered Thursday after the DOJ announcement. But it's not clear if investors are worried that this will set a precedent or if they simply didn't understand the small scope of the change. [Washington Post / Christopher Ingraham]
  • After all, Nintendo's stock soared last month until people realized it didn't actually make Pokémon Go. [The Verge / Sam Byford]

Uber, but for getting driven around by robots

Jeff Swensen for The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • Uber announced that it will be opening its first fleet of self-driving cars to the American public for rides. [Vox / Timothy B. Lee]
  • The cars will arrive on the streets of Pittsburgh later this month. [Bloomberg Businessweek / Max Chafkin]
  • (In 2013, Mashable predicted something like this would happen — in 2023. It was off by seven years.) [Mashable / Ryan Lawler]
  • At first, Uber will use Ford Fusions. But in the long term, the company plans to work with Volvo on a custom self-driving model. [AP / Justin Pritchard and Tom Krisher]
  • Uber also signed a deal to acquire a self-driving truck company named Otto today — making it clear that Uber is betting on self-driving vehicles. [Otto via Medium]
  • Self-driving cars could be a problem for the American car industry, in conjunction with other trends like car sharing and electric vehicles. But the three trends together also create opportunities (for example, rent-by-the-ride electric cars wouldn't have to hold a charge for very long). [Vox / Timothy B. Lee]
  • The implications for the workers currently driving Uber cars aren't necessarily so rosy. Uber initially sold itself as the future of work, but it's no clearer what the future of the future of work is than when this article was written in 2014. [Slate / Alison Griswold]
  • In the medium to long term, though, self-driving cars could totally change time management. This piece from the Atlantic starts thinking big (and yes, it does get to flying cars). [The Atlantic / Ian Bogost]

RIP to the OG

Kevin Winter/Getty Images
  • Univision has purchased Gawker Media for $135 million in bankruptcy court. Gawker declared bankruptcy earlier this year after being ordered to pay $140 million in a court case to the wrestler known as Hulk Hogan. [Huffington Post / Michael Calderone]
  • Gawker Media is still likely to win its appeal against Hogan, but the sale essentially stays the verdict (and turns the sites over to a new owner) while the company continues the court battle. [Wired / Davey Alba]
  • Most of Gawker Media's sites will continue to publish. But — the oldest site and the one implicated in the Hogan suit — will shut down next week. (Gawker's staff will be offered slots elsewhere at Univision.) [Gawker / J.K. Trotter]
  • Founder Nick Denton will also leave the company, as he told staff in a memo Thursday. [Jeremy Barr via Twitter]
  • It's hard not to draw the conclusion that was simply too controversial for Univision to handle — which means that billionaire Peter Thiel, who bankrolled the Hogan lawsuit and others, has achieved his goal of destroying the company.
  • Maybe that's a good thing for media etiquette, as Vox's Tim Lee sort of argues here. (But maybe it's a bad thing for freedom of the press.) [Vox / Timothy B. Lee]
  • Then again, there's nothing stopping Denton from simply hiring's writers away from Univision and starting a new site. Call it Not-Gawker. [Lee Pacchia via Twitter]


  • Make America Swole Again. [Washington Post / Christopher Ingraham]
  • A small but tight-knit cadre of Obama loyalists has been working together since the 2008 primary season began nearly a decade ago. Now they're getting ready to leave the administration they helped elect. [LA Times / Michael Memoli]
  • Climate change is very, very bad, but Jill Stein's prediction that the seas will rise 9 feet by 2050 is … hard to defend. [Washington Post / Chris Mooney]
  • Nashville public defender Keeda Haynes has firsthand experience that few other criminal lawyers can boast: a past five-year stint in federal prison. [Nashville Scene / Steven Hale]
  • In praise of the single greatest second of recorded music in all of rock 'n' roll, which happens 2 minutes, 15 seconds into the Velvet Underground's "I Heard Her Call My Name." [Washington Post / David Malitz]


  • "I would argue sports are the linchpin holding the entire post-war economic order together." [Stratechery / Ben Thompson]
  • "Connecticut is a basketcase demographically, as are many of the states in New England." [Peter Francese to The Atlantic / Alana Semuels]
  • "'Hey so I actually gotta go. I have to get my kids from school.' 'Cool. So are you gonna pick up blow on the way? No, right? I'll assume no unless I hear otherwise. Right?'" [Wait But Why / Tim Urban]
  • "When hell did freeze over and gay marriage was legalized in Pennsylvania in 2014, Norm called the lawyer who’d handled our adoption years ago and said we wanted to get married. She said the adoption was permanent, and there was no way to undo it." [Bill Novak to Narratively / C. Brian Smith]
  • "It’s hard to quantify the trauma of losing a child. McMillan calculates a fair settlement by charging the government $2,000 to $10,000 per child for every day they were in government custody. Amber, Cory, and Kelly had together spent a total of 104 days in foster care, but given other aspects of their situation— that Cory had been molested and Amber had run away — McMillan thought $800,000 was the right number. His office takes between 25 and 50 percent of the settlement." [The Atavist / Jessica Weisberg]

Watch this: The bad map we see every presidential election

It's pretty much useless. Time for an update. [YouTube / Liz Scheltens]