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Vox Sentences: Brexit, stage one

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“There can be no turning back”; anti-abortion activists behind Planned Parenthood videos face 15 felony charges; Dems may sacrifice the filibuster over Gorsuch.

Brexit begins

The Prime Minster Of the United Kingdom Theresa May Signs Article 50
Theresa May signs the official letter invoking Article 50.
Photo by Christopher Furlong - WPA Pool/Getty Images
  • The UK officially initiated the Brexit process by invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon (one of the governing documents of the European Union) today. [Reuters / Guy Faulconbridge, Elizabeth Piper]
  • In Brussels shortly after noon, British Envoy to the EU Tim Barrow hand-delivered a six-page letter from Prime Minister Theresa May to EU Council President Donald Tusk. Moments after its delivery, May told UK lawmakers, “There can be no turning back.” [New York Times / Stephen Castle]
  • The letter struck a firm but cordial tone: “We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe — and we want to remain committed partners and allies to our friends across the continent.” It also suggested seven principles to prioritize in the negotiation process, such as, “We should engage with one another constructively and respectfully, in a spirit of sincere cooperation,” and, “We should work together to minimize disruption and give as much certainty as possible.” [Washington Post / Brexit letter full text]
  • Negotiations between the UK and the EU must be completed within two years from when the EU is notified. The immediate next step will come from Tusk, who has promised to “present the draft #Brexit guidelines” to the remaining members of the EU. [New York Times / Jasmine C. Lee]
  • Yesterday, the Scottish Parliament voted to seek another referendum on independence from the UK, aiming for a vote by early 2019 — which would have Scotland potentially leaving Britain as Britain is still negotiating its own departure from the EU. May has encouraged Scotland to wait on its referendum, but Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has pointed out that in Scotland, most voters wanted to stay in the EU last summer, and the country is being removed from the bloc against its will. [Washington Post / Karla Adam]
  • Sinn Féin is pushing for a vote in Northern Ireland over uniting with the rest of the island in order to remain in the EU; Northern Ireland also voted against Brexit last summer. But widespread Protestant opposition to even a referendum about Irish unification probably makes that idea a nonstarter. [Wall Street Journal / Jason Douglas]
  • Meanwhile, some companies are already reacting to presumed rules changes post-Brexit. JPMorgan, for instance, is reportedly scouting new offices in Europe because its current setup — which is centered in London with the ability to maintain European clients and branches outside the UK — will be less viable post-Brexit. [Wall Street Journal / Max Colchester]
  • And the bigger economic questions loom: Will the UK be able to negotiate the free trade agreement May has said she wants, or will it end up negotiating from a weaker position, with more to lose than the rest of the EU in these negotiations? [Wall Street Journal / Wiktor Szary, Colleen McEnaney, Jovi Juan]
  • In an immediate blow to May’s ambitions, Germany’s Angela Merkel said that the future of the UK-EU relationship cannot be determined simultaneously with the terms of Brexit. Leave must happen, and “only when this question is dealt with can we — hopefully soon after — begin talking about our future relationship.” [Guardian / Daniel Boffey, Jon Henley]
  • May’s letter also met sharp criticism because it hinted at the possibility that the UK would decrease security cooperation with Europe if it was unsatisfied with the trade deal reached in negotiations. [Washington Post / Karla Adam]
  • On the bright side: Some theorize that watching Brexit and the early days of the Trump administration play out has pushed European countries like France away from far-right parties that had previously been growing in influence. Exhibit one: pro-European French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, who polls predict will handily defeat far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen in the election’s second round. [New York Times / Steven Erlanger]

15 felony charges for two anti-abortion activists

Pro-Life Activist David Daleiden Appears In Court Over Planned Parenthood Video Sting
David Daleiden is one of two anti-abortion activists facing 15 felony charges.
Photo by Eric Kayne/Getty Images
  • Late Tuesday night, news broke that the two anti-abortion activists who secretly recorded and edited videos of Planned Parenthood officials in an attempt to discredit the group have been charged with 15 felony counts of violating the privacy of health care providers. [Washington Post / Samantha Schmidt]
  • A quick refresher on the case: Two activists with the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress pretended to represent a company that buys fetal tissue for researchers. The group then heavily edited their secretly recorded footage — discussing the purchase of fetal tissue and body parts with Planned Parenthood officials, taken over the course of three years — and released five videos in July of 2015 that suggested that Planned Parenthood makes money by selling aborted fetuses. [Vox / Sarah Kliff]
  • To be clear: Planned Parenthood does not make money by selling aborted fetuses. [NPR / Danielle Kurtzleben]
  • The fallout from the videos nearly led to a government shutdown as hardline conservatives demanded the defunding of Planned Parenthood. [Politico / Seung Min Kim]
  • As state-level investigations proved no wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood, the two anti-abortion activists behind the videos, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, were indicted by a grand jury in Houston in January 2016 for “tampering with a governmental record” and a misdemeanor count having to do with selling body parts. [New York Times / Manny Fernandez]
  • But charges were eventually dropped due to a technicality — Texas law has a time limit for grand jury decisions, and the decision to investigate Daleiden and Merritt came after that limit. [BuzzFeed / Dan Vergano]
  • The 15 new charges were filed by California prosecutors and cover 14 occasions when Daleiden and Merritt filmed officials without their permission in the state of California, plus a 15th charge for criminal conspiracy to invade privacy. [Washington Post / Samantha Schmidt]
  • On Wednesday, a federal appeals court issued a ruling blocking the Center for Medical Progress from releasing new videos made at meetings of the National Abortion Federation, which represents abortion providers that aren’t part of Planned Parenthood. A judge from the Ninth Circuit Court who reviewed the tapes found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Meanwhile, NAF has said that releasing the videos could put its members in danger of reprisal. [New York Times / Associated Press]
  • The escalating charges and ruling against the Center for Medical Progress don’t only ruin the credibility of the organization — Republican lawmakers have been citing the group’s work for years now, and the imbroglio makes them look pretty bad too. [Huffington Post / Laura Bassett]

Senate drama looms next week over Gorsuch

Schumer Calls On 'Dark Money' Group To Reveal Donors Supporting Gorsuch Nomination
Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on Monday, April 3, and his full Senate vote will be on Friday, April 7, before Congress goes on a two-week recess. [CNN / Ted Barrett, Ashley Killough]
  • After Gorsuch’s purposely noncommittal committee hearing last week, Democrats were left without concrete statements upon which to object to Gorsuch’s nomination apart from politics. But his conservative rulings and Republicans’ obstruction of Merrick Garland’s nomination for the same seat are reason enough for most of them to come out against. [New York Times / Matt Flegenheimer, Adam Liptak, Charlie Savage, Carl Hulse]
  • As of today, only two Democrats seem likely to vote in favor of Gorsuch’s nomination, and 37 are likely to vote no. With all 52 Republicans likely to vote yes, that puts Gorsuch at 54 votes — six short of the 60-vote majority needed to overcome the filibuster without a rules change. [Decision Desk HQ / Brandon Finnigan]
  • The two Democrats likely to vote yes are both facing competitive midterm races in states Trump won — Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). [Bloomberg / Albert R. Hunt]
  • It looks increasingly likely that the filibuster against Gorsuch will succeed, resulting in Republicans eliminating the filibuster for the Supreme Court, leaving the Senate with the ability to confirm Gorsuch with a simple majority of 51 votes — which Republicans alone can almost certainly reach. [Washington Post / Paul Kane]
  • One wild card: If some Republicans refuse to “go nuclear” and end the filibuster rule. Susan Collins appears to be the only one hesitating about the rule change; three Republicans would need to defect for it to fail. [CNN / Ted Barrett and Ashley Killough]


  • The philosophical implications of getting totally owned on Twitter. [NYT / Amanda Hess]
  • New Jersey, Ohio, and Alabama are adopting Finland's "baby box" system, in which new mothers receive infant clothing, blankets, and a box that doubles as a crib. [NPR / Maureen Pao]
  • On the radical communist, free love–promoting Oneida sect, cults, and the threat they pose to the underpinnings of liberal society. [Catapult / Ellen Wayland-Smith]
  • How Escape From New York explains the way Donald Trump thinks about cities. [MTV / Ezekiel Kweku]
  • How Person of Interest anticipated the Snowden scandal more than a year ahead of time, and became the most essential cultural depiction of debates over surveillance and artificial intelligence. [New Yorker / Joshua Rothman]


  • “Last summer, after some intense lobbying of my wife, I did something radical: I installed several cameras in my living room and dining room to record everything we did at home for posterity. In other words, I created a reality show in my house.” [NYT / Farhad Manjoo]
  • “Not only associations with a militaristic outlook (such as veteran clubs) positively predict Nazi Party entry, but also those with a clearly civic agenda (eg animal breeders, chess clubs, and choirs).” [Journal of Political Economy / Shanker Satyanath, Nico Voigtländer, Hans-Joachim Voth]
  • “In short, no one is ever going to get a tattoo of Tom Perriello’s hairline on her tuches.” [FiveThirtyEight / Clare Malone]
  • “Migration does more to reduce global poverty and inequality than any other factor.” [FT / Branko Milanovic]
  • “This is like a car salesman calling over the manager for a high-five because a customer said he’d talk to his wife and come back.” [Deadspin / Albert Burneko]

Watch this:

Look in the margins of medieval books and you'll find an unusual theme: knights versus snails. [Vox / Phil Edwards]

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