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Vox Sentences: Basque separatists lay down their arms

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The Trump administration managed to insult two close allies in a single press conference. Happy Friday!


Unrelallyble

Merkel and Trump Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
  • We know this much: National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster met with his British counterpart Thursday to discuss the Trump administration's renewed allegations that the UK government acceded to a request by then-President Barack Obama to wiretap Trump Tower.
  • Here is what we do not know: whether the meeting was "cordial" (per the US) or "serious" and definitely not cordial at all (per the UK); whether the US apologized (one US official said they did, press secretary Sean Spicer said they didn't). But McMaster did, reportedly, agree that the allegation wouldn't be repeated. [CNN / Ben Westcott, Dan Merica, and Jim Sciutto]
  • Which made it particularly alarming when Trump brought up the claim again during a press conference (while claiming that questions should be directed to Fox News personality and former Judge Andrew Napolitano, from whom the president of the United States says he got the theory, rather than to the president himself). [AP / Julie Pace and Vivian Salama]
  • Making matters diplomatically more awkward, Trump said this during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel — and joked that being wiretapped by Obama was something he and Merkel had in common. (In 2013, documents leaked by Edward Snowden indicated that the US surveilled the cellphones of dozens of world leaders, including Merkel.) [The Guardian / James Ball]
  • Merkel was understandably taken aback by the joke.
  • It's not like her visit with Trump was going swimmingly before that, though. Trump reportedly pressed her on the need for other NATO members to pay more in dues, and the US to pay less... [CNBC / Jacob Pramuk]
  • ...while stressing, pointedly, that "immigration is a privilege, not a right" — an apparent reference to Germany's relatively welcoming stance to refugees, which has inspired backlash domestically and helped fuel the rise of right-wing populism in the rest of the Western world (including, arguably, Trump's own rise). [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • To cosmopolitans in Europe and the US, the meeting was symbolic: Merkel is in some ways the defender of internationalism that the US, with Trump's election, has ceased to be. (It might be too far to call her "the leader of the free world," but that's not stopping commentators.) [The Independent / Sunny Hyndal]
  • Trump's allies (including chief strategist Steve Bannon) see themselves as members of a countervailing coalition: an international nationalism. But the casual effrontery toward the UK — another relatively nationalistic government under Prime Minister Theresa May — on Friday shows that the bonds among countries in that coalition aren't terribly strong. Or at least not strong enough to risk allowing the president to get caught in a lie. [The Guardian / Spencer Ackerman]

Will the House pass the AHCA before finding out what's in it?

Republicans in the Oval Office Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
  • In a meeting with the conservative Republican Study Committee Friday, President Trump reportedly agreed to allow the American Health Care Act (the House Republican health care bill) to be amended to let state governments deny Medicaid to non-disabled, unemployed residents. [NYT / Thomas Kaplan and Robert Pear]
  • This is something conservative governors (including, as governor of Indiana, Mike Pence) have been asking for but were denied by the Obama administration (even as it allowed other limitations on Medicaid disbursement). [Vox / Sarah Kliff]
  • The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 59 percent of current non-disabled Medicaid beneficiaries are employed — which means 41 percent could be at risk if governors were allowed to impose work requirements. (There are also questions about how states will determine whether someone is disabled or employed.) [NYT / Abby Goodnough]
  • This is certainly one direction the bill (which needs to be passed by the House Rules Committee before debate on the House floor) could go. But it is definitely not the direction that many Republicans wish it would go — they are hoping to see changes to the bill that would increase coverage, rather than reducing costs. [Vox / Tara Golshan]
  • President Trump, of course, believes the AHCA will do both. But President Trump does not appear to understand what it is the AHCA actually does. [Vox / Ezra Klein]
  • (Neither do several Americans who'd be affected by it — one woman credited her substantially lower health care premiums in 2017 to the tax credits in the as-yet-unpassed House bill, rather than to subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.) [Washington Post / Jenna Johnson]
  • It's entirely possible that the bill will be substantially changed, and then suddenly passed, before anyone else has a chance to figure out what's in it either. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), who's in House leadership, says they want a floor vote Thursday — even if the bill is overhauled and the CBO hasn't scored the changes. [Washington Examiner / Robert King]

ETA: April 8

Iñigo Urkullu, the President of the Basque Government (or the Lehendakari, in Basque), announces that ETA is laying down its arms. Gari Garaialde/AFP/Getty Images
  • The Basque separatist group Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA) has agreed to fully disarm itself by April 8, surrendering its remaining weapons caches (believed to be on the French side of the Basque country, which spans Spain and France). [Politico.eu / Diego Torres]
  • The Spanish government is taking something of a wait-and-see approach to the promise, arguing that ETA has promised to disarm before and failed to deliver. [NYT / Raphael Minder]
  • ETA, which began a terrorism campaign under the Franco regime, killed more than 800 people over four decades of operations. In 2011, it agreed to a unilateral ceasefire, hoping that the Spanish government would be willing to release ETA prisoners or grant more independence to the Basque country in return. [Politico.eu / Guy Hedgecoe]
  • But ETA (then as now) wasn't really in a position to demand anything. Many of its leaders have been incarcerated, and after the Madrid train bombings of 2004, residents of the Basque country recoiled from terrorism. [The American Prospect / Sarah Wildman]
  • The region does have some degree of autonomy under the current government, and talks about independence have stopped and started over the past decade. But in recent years, there's been little appetite for outright independence in the Basque country (unlike other semi-autonomous regions in Europe like Navarre or Scotland) — despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that "moderate nationalists" currently control the region's government. [Open Democracy /Koldo Casla]
  • Meanwhile, Basques — like, say, residents of northern Ireland — are struggling to confront the legacy of local insurgency, and to consider what it means to have lived, for decades, under the threat of violence from neighbors acting in the name of the neighborhood. [FT / Tobias Buck]

Miscellaneous

  • Google has developed a compression algorithm that shrinks JPEGs by 35 percent. If widely deployed, that could make the web significantly faster. [Ars Technica / Sebastian Anthony]
  • Remembering Mother Divine, who took over her husband's cult upon his death in 1965 and thwarted a hostile takeover attempt from Jim Jones. [NYT / William Grimes]
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild — great game, or greatest game of all time? [A.V. Club / Matt Gerardi and Clayton Purdom]
  • Social skills are becoming increasingly economically valuable. That could create a crisis for American masculinity. [NYT / Thomas Edsall]
  • A new paper claims to have cracked the puzzle of why water bears/tardigrades are nearly indestructible. [Wired / Matt Simon]

Verbatim

  • "my boy looks like willy wonka if it took place during the industrial revolution and all the kids just straight up died" [@spookperson via NY Mag / Madison Malone Kircher]
  • "BUT HOW WILL I SURVIVE ON THIS BUDGET? you may be wondering. I AM A HUMAN CHILD, NOT A COSTLY FIGHTER JET." [Washington Post / Alexandra Petri]
  • "I am incredibly happy to announce that the producers of Bake Off clearly made it a priority to maintain the show’s pre-existing level of lesbians." [Autostraddle / Heather Davidson]
  • "A large chuck of Trump’s base won’t object to a budget that punitively targets the poor. Most of his voters are not poor, but regular old Republicans, for whom the budget released Thursday is just the latest version of policies they’ve supported since the Reagan era." [New Republic / Jeet Heer]
  • "An earlier version of this column misstated Bow Wow’s relationship to Snoop Dogg." [NYT / Liz Spayd]

Watch this: How America’s justice system is rigged against the poor

There are invisible cages that extend far beyond prison walls. [YouTube / Molly Crabapple, Wes Caines, Jim Batt, Scott Hechinger, and Hannah McCrea]

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