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Vox Sentences: Trump puts the “bully” in bully pulpit

Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what's happening in the world, curated by Dara Lind and Dylan Matthews. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

The US and UK introduce “laptop bans”; more AHCA drama in the House; two anti-abortion bills pass the Texas Senate, putting the spotlight on Neil Gorsuch.

3 theories about the new, (suspiciously?) selective "laptop ban"

Laptop ban ad Getty / John Moore
  • The Department of Homeland Security is temporarily banning electronic devices larger than a cellphone from being carried onto US-bound flights coming from 10 airports located in eight Muslim-majority countries. (These devices can be stowed inside checked luggage, however.) [Reuters / David Shepardson and Mark Hosenball]
  • Airlines have between now and Friday to implement the ban on their flights. But the new policy was announced only after one of the affected airlines tweeted about it to the public — raising a lot of confusion about the ban, and questions about why those particular airlines are targeted. [NYT / Ron Nixon]
  • Theory 1: Islamophobia. When the Trump administration does something targeting majority-Muslim countries, it raises suspicions that it's not entirely evidence-based. [Vox / Dara Lind]
  • Theory 2: economic protectionism. US airlines have long complained about foreign competitors like Emirates and Turkish Airlines — and the laptop ban targets those airlines' hubs. [Washington Post / Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman]
  • Theory 3: It's actually a legit national security measure. The temporary ban could be an extra layer of protection while the TSA updates security procedures at the affected airports. (Something similar happened in 2014, the last time the US targeted security at specific airports.) Or maybe the US believes airport employees themselves are compromised. [Wired / Alex Davies]
  • (It's widely agreed that the ban will result in most business-class passengers simply rerouting their flights to avoid affected airports — but that could benefit, really, any of those theories.) [Bloomberg / Deena Kamel, Michael Sasso]
  • Complicating the case for theory 1 (Trumpian Islamophobia), the UK quickly followed up with its own “cabin baggage ban” on devices larger than a cellphone, from tablets to DVD players and laptops, on direct flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia. [BBC]
  • But because the UK ban doesn't target the hubs of Emirates Airlines, theory 2 (protectionism) is still very much alive. We might have to see whether the ban Canada is reportedly considering (according to Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau) offers evidence of a consistent threat, or of US opportunism. [Global News / Tania Kohut]

A House divided

Rand Paul Getty / Mark Wilson
  • Late Monday night, House Republicans introduced an amendment to their health care bill aimed at swaying skeptics — it included optional work requirements and block grants for Medicaid, tax credits for older Americans, and a repeal of the majority of Obamacare taxes. [Politico / Jennifer Haberkorn, Rachel Bade, and Josh Dawsey]
  • By opening the door to states to require residents have jobs to get Medicaid, the new bill might put the cart before the horse; studies have shown that having Medicaid makes it easier for people to find and keep jobs. [The Hill / Nathaniel Weixel]
  • But the changes haven’t persuaded everyone — even those they were supposed to appease. Rep. Mark Meadows, chair of the House Freedom Caucus, says he has nearly two dozen representatives lined up to vote no on the bill — which would tank it. The Freedom Caucus believes the bill doesn’t go far enough to repeal Obamacare. [Wall Street Journal / Kristina Peterson, Natalie Andrews, and Stephanie Armour]
  • Neither do major conservative organizations. The Club for Growth doubled down on its opposition to the bill Monday night, and on Tuesday, Heritage Action (part of the Heritage Foundation) came out against the amended bill. [Politico / Dan Diamond]
  • Enter President Trump — who's putting the “bully” in bully pulpit. He met with House Republicans Tuesday morning, where he reportedly told one Republican opponent of the bill that he’d “come after” him and suggested that if Republicans didn’t pass the bill, they’d lose their seats in 2018. [Washington Post / David Weigel, Kelsey Snell, and Robert Costa]
  • He's even skipping ahead to the Senate — Trump held a rally Monday night in Kentucky (home state of anti-AHCA Sen. Rand Paul) and presented the Republican bill as an easy win. [Guardian / Ben Jacobs]
  • Paul is hardly the only obstacle to passing the AHCA in the Senate. Several Republicans have called the bill "dead on arrival" — and "several" is a few more than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can afford to lose. [CNN / M.J. Lee]
  • Despite all of the chaos, McConnell plans to plow ahead. On Tuesday he told reporters, "We will reach a conclusion on healthcare next week because we're going to [Supreme Court nominee] Judge Gorsuch the week after that.” [The Hill / Jordain Carney]

It must be spring, because the Texas legislature is passing bills restricting abortion

Protesters of anti-abortion measures outside Supreme Court AFP / Mandel Ngan via Getty
  • On Tuesday, the Texas state Senate passed a bill preventing parents from suing a doctor for failing to inform them if prenatal testing showed their baby could have a disability. [Huffington Post / Catherine Pearson]
  • Proponents argue it would protect future children born with disabilities whose parents might seek to terminate such a pregnancy; opponents argue that it would legalize a doctor lying about prenatal testing results to prevent a parent from discovering a birth defect and aborting the fetus. [Huffington Post / Catherine Pearson]
  • It’s the second law that the Texas Senate has passed this week aimed at limiting abortion access in the state. The first, passed on Monday, would ban the dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedure, widely considered the safest method of second-trimester abortion. [Texas Tribune / Marissa Evans]
  • The content of the bills themselves were not the only reason they drew national attention: During the vote on the ban on D&E procedures, roughly a dozen protesters showed up dressed as characters from the dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale (in which women are forced to give birth and are treated like property). [Vox / Emily Crockett]
  • Now both bills head to the Texas state House. If the D&E ban passes, it will be part of what increasingly seems like a wave of anti-D&E legislation — including a ban in Arkansas that the ACLU has declared it intends to take to court. [Daily Beast / Kelly Wiell]
  • Pro-choice advocates have argued that legislation banning D&E procedures is not constitutional per Roe v. Wade, and similar bans have previously been struck down. [Guttmacher Institute / Megan K. Donovan]
  • Meanwhile, in what may be a good sign for pro-choice advocates — or could be misdirection — Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch indicated on Tuesday, during his Senate confirmation hearing, that he is not inclined to overturn previous court rulings, including Roe. [LA Times / Evan Halper]


  • America's rich, diverse cities are proof that multiculturalism works. That's why President Trump is trying to demonize them. [Washington Post / Will Wilkinson]
  • A number of art critics are coming to an alarming realization: George W. Bush is actually pretty damn good at painting. [NYT / Mimi Swartz]
  • Sesame Street has been burning Donald Trump for years, including in a 1994 segment featuring "Ronald Grump" and his "Grump Tower," where Grump "hits on a reporter played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus" and the residents of his tower "refuse to mingle with grouches." [Washington Post / Avi Selk]
  • Peter Singer helped found the effective altruism movement, and is a passionate advocate for doing more to help the world's poor. He's also advocated infanticide for disabled infants. If you're a disabled effective altruist, where does that leave you? [NOS / Ozy Brennan]
  • Remembering the single greatest tweet the New York Times has sent or will ever send: "'Word up!' It is I, the Gray Lady, with a 'shoutout' to all my hip young friends. Just wanted you to know I've added new specialized feeds." [NiemanLab / Joseph Lichterman]


"It can be easier to find, say, a lesbian-only weekly workshop on radical self-care than a casual gathering place where queer people can make friends, flirt, or just comfortably and fully exist." [Eater / Meghan McCarron]

  • "We’re good friends. That’s why we got divorced." [Jenny Slate to NY Mag / Jada Yuan]
  • "IJR's chief content officer, Benny Johnson, had been warned earlier in Slack that the story about Obama was an unfounded conspiracy theory, but assigned it to Becker anyway." [Business Insider / Oliver Darcy]
  • "We’re transactional on Trump." [National Review editor Rich Lowry to New Republic / Graham Vyse]
  • "In a promotional video for the product, [Thinx co-founder Miki Agrawal] said, 'My favorite thing to talk about are the things you’re not supposed to talk about.' According to a complaint filed late last week by a former employee (and echoed in interviews with multiple current and former employees), those things have included: the size and shape of her employees’ breasts, an employee’s nipple piercings, her own sexual exploits, her desire to experiment with polyamory, her interest in entering a sexual relationship with one of her employees, and the exact means by which she was brought to female ejaculation." [NY Mag / Noreen Malone]

Watch this: Bad typography has ruined more than just the Oscars

How bad design changed awards shows, elections, and your medicine cabinet. [YouTube / Christophe Haubursin and benjamin bannister]