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Vox Sentences: World’s deadliest substance sprayed in open airport; only one person dies

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Don't tell James Comey what to do; don't spray strangers in the face with unknown substances in airports; don't miss the latest draft of the GOP's Obamacare replacement.


Who's leaking now?

James Comey Tasos Katopodis/AFP/Getty Images
  • On Thursday, CNN reported that the White House had asked FBI Director James Comey to discredit a New York Times story about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. [CNN / Jim Sciutto, Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz, Manu Raju, and Pamela Brown]
  • The White House confirms that it requested the FBI correct the record, but claimed it only made the request after the FBI told the White House they thought the NYT story was wrong. [Politico / Matthew Nussbaum and Louis Nelson]
  • A White House request for the FBI to issue a comment to the press about an ongoing investigation could, hypothetically, constitute an obstruction of justice. It could also, less hypothetically, violate procedures former Attorney General Eric Holder set down in 2009 limiting DOJ contact with the White House about current inquiries. [Lawfare / Jane Chong]
  • President Trump responded to the CNN story, on Twitter, by criticizing the FBI sources who leaked the initial story to the Times and (presumably) this week's story to CNN — adding more fuel to the (problematic) narrative that Trump is being beset by the implacable opposition of the US intelligence apparatus, or "deep state." [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • (If you're suffering a little bit of whiplash over the idea that the FBI and, say, the CIA have identical political interests — or that the FBI would be leaking things hostile to President Trump at all — let's just say you're not alone.)
  • The White House took out its anger on the media — canceling a scheduled press briefing and replacing it with a closed-door briefing to which Breitbart was invited but the Times and CNN (as well as BuzzFeed News and the Los Angeles Times) were not. [NYT / Michael M. Grynbaum]
  • The ploy here is fairly transparent: Get the press, which loves talking about itself almost as much as it loves playing the victim, to spend the weekend talking about the briefing instead of the Russia investigation story. We'll see if it works. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]

Oh, just a DEADLY NERVE AGENT being used in an open airport waiting area

News story of Kim Jong Nam Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images
  • According to Malaysian police, Kim Jong Nam — the half-brother of Korea's Kim Jong Un who was assassinated in the Kuala Lumpur airport earlier this month — was killed by VX gas, a nerve agent that is on the list of internationally banned chemical weapons. [The Guardian / Oliver Holmes and Tom Phillips]
  • It's just the latest — if most alarming — twist in the long, weird saga of Kim's death (which has now gone from weird in the sense of "wacky" to weird in the sense of "geopolitically troublesome"). [Vox / Lindsay Maizland]
  • Given that VX is, in the words of Vox's Brian Resnick (who knows science and would definitely not overhype this to you), "the deadliest substance on Earth," what's really remarkable is that it was used in the open in an international airport and no one else was killed. [Vox / Brian Resnick]
  • Especially since the assassins (one of whom has been reported to suffer symptoms of VX exposure) reportedly didn't know what they were doing when they attacked Kim — one told police in Indonesia she thought she was on a television prank show. [CNN / Kathy Quiano]
  • (If you are ever asked to squirt a mysterious substance in a stranger's face for a television prank show, here is how to figure out if you are being recruited as an unwitting assassin.) [Wired / Emma Grey Ellis]
  • North Korea continues to deny its involvement in the attack. But it's known to have chemical weapons capabilities. And if, in knocking off a regime critic, the North Korean government also demonstrated to the world that it could successfully synthesize VX gas, that's ... well, a terrifying bonus. [The Diplomat / Ankit Panda]

Obamacare replacement: HR TBD

Paul Ryan Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • Politico has obtained a draft Republican bill to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. The draft appears to be a couple of weeks old, so it's not clear how thoroughly it reflects current Republican thinking, but it's a lot more current than the plans that had previously been public (all of which dated back to last year). [Politico / Paul Demko]
  • The plan is a marked shift from previous Republican replacement proposals. It's still likely to cost consumers more than the current law does, but it's more generous than previous Republican proposals. Sarah Kliff, of course, explains. [Vox / Sarah Kliff]
  • It's not clear where the leaked Republican plan comes from, or who wrote it. We know that Republicans decided not to get a Congressional Budget Office score of an Obamacare replacement bill, and reports indicate they might have done that because the score was likely to be very bad, but we don't know if this was the bill in question. [The Hill / Peter Sullivan]
  • Of course, the longer the GOP waits, the more public pressure mounts not to repeal the law — which, now that it might be on the chopping block, is hitting new heights of popularity with the American public. [Huffington Post]
  • The fact of the matter is that, politically speaking, "repeal and replace" might have made sense in 2012, before the law had fully gotten off the ground. In 2017, it might be too late. [Vox / Ezra Klein]

Miscellaneous

  • How one major, at one university, came to dominate all of British politics. [The Guardian / Andy Beckett]
  • The Trump administration has some weird connections to some weird stuff, but "an NSC advisor has close ties to far-right Hungarian anti-Semites" is not one that I saw coming. [Forward / Lili Bayer]
  • Webs & Tiaras — Toy Monster Compilations is one of the most popular channels on YouTube, and it is an absolute nightmare. [The Awl / Rachel Deal]
  • In 2015, China finally ended its one-child policy. And families are still not deciding to have more kids. [FT / Gabriel Wildau]
  • The real reason Emma Stone's character in La La Land is struggling is that she doesn't know how to use BCC properly. [A.V. Club / Marah Eakin]

Verbatim

  • "If the numbers [of insured people] drop I would say that’s a good thing because we restored personal liberty in this country." [Rep. Mike Burgess via BuzzFeed / Paul McLeod]
  • "'Napkins' is definitely code for 'cocaine.' Josh’s mom is an international drug lord." [SB Nation / Charlotte Wilder]
  • "A few years ago, Honey says, she began delivering weed, for free, to Rihanna. Her hope is that Rihanna will endorse the Green Angels’ products if legalization ever goes national." [GQ / Suketu Mehta]
  • "Nowhere in the Pokémon canon exist the moments of maturity, complexity and artistic achievement that Digimon, at its best, has offered its fans. … Digimon fans are the Wagnerians of video game and anime culture." [Milo Yiannopoulos via A.V. Club / Randall Colburn]
  • "I wouldn’t have to keep making shitty movies if you didn’t spend all my money!" [Robert De Niro via Page Six / Oli Coleman]

Watch this: The font that escaped the Nazis and landed on the moon

Futura is familiar. But its journey from avant-garde German type to hipster favorite is unusual — and it includes Nazis and the moon. [YouTube / Phil Edwards]