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Vox Sentences: 97 senators overrode an Obama veto. Then 28 sent an “oops” letter.

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Congress had never overridden an Obama veto — until today; a mysterious and possibly ongoing inmate strike against prison labor; stop me if you've heard this before, but an EU leader staked his political future on a referendum...


Obama, Congress ruin heretofore perfect record of comity

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
  • President Obama vetoed a bill that would allow victims of terrorist attacks in the US to sue foreign governments for damages. Congress proceeded to near-unanimously override the veto. [Vox / Jennifer Williams]
  • The administration is worried that (as explained by two ex-Bush officials in this op-ed) the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act could drive other countries to let people sue the US government for, say, deaths at the hands of US-backed rebels in Syria. [NYT / Curtis Bradley and Jack Goldsmith]
  • But a group of families of 9/11 victims took advantage of the 15-year anniversary of the attacks — and growing frustration in the US government with Saudi Arabia (the country at which the bill is clearly targeted) — to get broad support anyway. [NYT / Jennifer Steinhauer]
  • This is the first time an Obama veto has been overridden — ending a streak that would have made him the first president to go without an override since LBJ. (In fairness, he's only vetoed 12 bills.) [United States Senate]
  • The White House is extremely displeased. Press Secretary Josh Earnest said after the Senate's 97-1 override vote that it was " the single most embarrassing thing the United States Senate as done possibly since 1983." [Politico / Seung Min Kim]
  • (In 1983, the Senate overrode President Reagan's veto to pass a bill allowing six families to get federal lands they'd already paid for but weren't given because of government error. Which, to be honest, seems perfectly sensible to us.) [Washington Post / Dale Russakoff]
  • The Obama administration (which hasn't always had the best relationship with Congress) didn't appear to put much effort into lobbying against JASTA until the last minute, though — although a letter from President Obama to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid appeared to change Reid's mind (he was the sole dissenter). [Huffington Post / Max Greenwood and Akbar Shahid Ahmed]
  • Belatedly, another 28 senators who voted to override are also having second thoughts; they sent a letter to JASTA's sponsors expressing concerns about the "unintended consequences" of the bill they'd just voted to pass. [United States Senate / Sen. Bob Corker]

Work stoppages for pay starts

Facebook via AL.com
  • Prisoners in at least three and as many as 12 states have engaged in work stoppages over the past few weeks. [The Intercept / Alice Speri]
  • The coordinated strike is a protest against mandatory work programs that pay inmates less than minimum wage — or even no wage, due to a loophole in the 13th Amendment that allows slavery for people "duly convicted" of crimes. [Mother Jones / Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn]
  • It's incredibly hard to get information out of prisons, which makes the coordination of the strike (through smuggled cellphones, among other things) even more impressive... [Wired / Emma Grey Ellis]
  • ...and makes it very difficult to know its scope, or whether (as activists claim) it's continued beyond its start on September 9. [The Marshall Project / Beth Schwartzapfel]
  • In Alabama, where the strike originated, prison guards also walked off the job over the weekend. But it's not clear whether some or all have returned to work. [AL.com / Connor Sheets]
  • It's not really clear whether this is an action of solidarity with inmates or whether it's about prison conditions more broadly. [Democracy Now / Kenneth Glasgow]
  • Either way, it's a striking contrast from the prison uprising the September 9 start date commemorated: the Attica uprising of 1971, which resulted in a bloody confrontation between inmates and guards (assisted by state police). [New Yorker / Adam Gopnik]

Exitalia?

Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images
  • Italy is holding a referendum on December 4 to make broad changes to its country's political system. Among the most important elements: dramatically weakening the country's senate, eliminating its ability to block most bills. [The Economist]
  • Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi claims the changes are necessary to reduce gridlock. His opponents worry it would give the PM too much power. [BBC / Mark Mardell]
  • Earlier this year, Renzi announced that if the referendum failed, he'd resign. That was before the Brexit vote (a notable case in which voters called the government's bluff and made a PM who didn't really want to resign do so). [Politico.eu / Jacopo Barigazzi]
  • And guess what? Like the UK, Italy is suffering from general distrust of politicians (and of the EU) that is being exploited by opponents of the referendum. [The Guardian / Stephanie Kirchgaessner]
  • In southern Italy, for example, opposition to Renzi has gotten tied up with opposition to the European Union (again, à la Brexit). [The Telegraph / Juliet Samuel]
  • So Renzi has (like David Cameron before him) started bashing the EU — throwing a recent "temper tantrum" over EU-imposed austerity and the union's lack of help with migrants arriving on Italy's shores — in an attempt to secure his own political future. [Politico.eu / David M. Herszenhorn and Jacopo Barigazzi]
  • But Italy isn't the UK. It's much more financially unstable to begin with. And the sort of uncertainty that would attend Renzi's resignation could be too much for the EU, as an economic institution, to bear. [Business Insider / Will Martin]

Miscellaneous

  • AfterEllen, the venerable web magazine for queer women, is shutting down. It's the just latest instance of a big problem: Queer spaces, both online and physical, skew heavily, heavily male. [Slate / Christina Cauterucci]
  • Old and busted: passing tax cuts by winning votes from homophobes. New hotness: passing tax cuts by winning votes from people who hate immigrants. [BuzzFeed / Ben Smith]
  • Curious George never would have existed if its two creators, both German Jews, hadn't fled Paris by bicycle as the Nazis marched in, carrying the first book manuscript. [NYT / Dinitia Smith]
  • Do you want to spend $15 to take a nap? Well, you should probably want different things, but in the meantime there's a place in DC that lets you do just that. [DCist / Rachel Sadon]
  • A new book, praised by historians of the Third Reich, claims that Adolf Hitler spent much of World War II taking daily doses of OxyContin and cocaine, under the infuence of a particularly prescription-happy doctor. [The Guardian / Rachel Cooke]

Verbatim

  • "When Alicia Machado of Venezuela was named Miss Universe nine months ago, no one could accuse her of being the size of the universe. But as her universe expanded, so did she, putting on nearly 60 pounds." [CNN in 1997 / Jeanne Moos]
  • "When I hear Trump brag about paying small business owners less than he agreed, I get angry. He’s always suggesting that the people who worked for him didn’t do the right job, didn’t complete their work on time, that something was wrong. But I delivered quality pianos, tuned and ready to go. I did everything right. And then Trump cheated me." [Washington Post / J. Michael Diehl]
  • "The thing from the agency said, 'We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah- blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional,' this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said 'and it must be 3 1/4 seconds long.'" [Brian Eno to San Francisco Chronicle / Joel Selvin]
  • "Above the Arctic Circle, she hunted for anyone still making cheese from reindeer milk, or as she put it, 'I flew to Lapland and started knocking on reindeer herders’ doors.' … She eventually found 'probably the last person on Earth who’s milking reindeer and making cheese with it.'" [Valley News / Alex Hanson]
  • "When you looked at the fallout from Gray’s death — the devastation to his family, the eruption of the city, the polarizing trials and dismissed charges, the rift between cops and prosecutors and the surging violence — the scars were everywhere in this city, but it sometimes seemed as if the only public figure who had really suffered for his death, who put her career and private life on the line, whether right or wrong, the elected official who paid the highest price was the one who set out to make sure someone did." [NYT Mag / Wil Hylton]

Watch this: When running was for weirdos

Today, it seems like everybody's a runner. But it wasn't always that way. Vox's Phil Edwards looked into the history of running. [YouTube / Phil Edwards]

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