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Vox Sentences: 4/20 came early in Canada this year

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The US bombs ISIS in Afghanistan; new legislation to legalize marijuana in Canada; looking ahead to Turkey’s referendum.

US bombs ISIS

Air Force Explodes MOAB Bomb In Florida
A Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb, explodes during testing on November 21, 2003, at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
Photo by USAF via Getty Images
  • Today the US dropped a large non-nuclear bomb on a network of tunnels and caves used by ISIS fighters in eastern Afghanistan. [Reuters / Idrees Ali]
  • This is the first time a Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb was used in battle, according to US officials. Its acronym, MOAB, has given rise to its nickname: “mother of all bombs.” [CNN / Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne]
  • But it’s not as big of a deal as some are making it out to be. Rumors have apparently been circulating that its explosive yield is comparable to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima — but an arms expert clarified to Vox that “[t]he reported yield of the MOAB is approximately 11 tons. The Hiroshima bomb was approximately 15 KILOtons." [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • Last year, Afghanistan was estimated to have 1,000 to 3,000 ISIS fighters operating in the country, a strategic offshoot from the group’s presence in Iraq and Syria. ISIS was responsible for a January 2016 bombing at the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad that killed seven people. [Vox / Jennifer Williams]
  • Today, however, it is estimated that the country houses roughly 600 to 800 ISIS fighters — and their fidelity to the larger ISIS operation is in question. US Gen. John Nicholson signed off on using the bomb and, referring to the fighters’ use of bunkers, tunnels, and IEDs, called it “the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against ISIS-K,” a term used to describe the offshoot. [CNN / Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne]
  • Though President Trump did not personally sign off on using the bomb, some are interpreting today’s events as a realization of his campaign promise to “bomb the shit out of” ISIS and its material resources. [Business Insider / Pamela Engel]
  • It is not yet clear how many militants were killed in the bombing, if any, or whether any civilians were killed. It is also unclear how successful the bombing was — but in a press briefing on Thursday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said, “We must deny them operational space, which we did.” [New York Times / Helene Cooper​]

Canadian government moves to legalize marijuana

2016 G20 State Leaders Hangzhou Summit
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Etienne Oliveau/Pool/Getty Images
  • In September 2015, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a campaign promise to legalize marijuana in Canada. If elected, he said, “We’re going to get started on that right away,” and suggested the law might change within the first two years of a new Liberal government. [Huffington Post Canada / Zi-Ann Lum, Ryan Maloney]
  • It won’t happen within two years of his election, but today the Canadian government introduced legislation to legalize recreational use by July 1, 2018, but leave commercial regulations and other implementation details up to Canadian provinces to work through. The bill is widely expected to pass. [Washington Post / Christopher Ingraham]
  • This process has taken a bit longer than expected. It wasn’t until November 2016 that a Canadian government task force on cannabis legalization and regulation released a “final report” focused on the goal to “legalize, regulate, and restrict access” to marijuana. [Government of Canada]
  • There are still a number of issues the federal government needs to work out; in particular, devices to check for impairment at work and behind the wheel must be developed. [New York Times / Ian Austen]
  • Not to mention that Canada would be only the second country in the world to legalize marijuana (Uruguay was the first), and it would potentially be in violation of three major international drug policy treaties in doing so. [Vox / German Lopez]
  • While the bill does look likely to pass, the road ahead will not be easy: The legislation will need to move through the Canadian house, and the senate, and then the government will need to reach a deal with the provinces — and negotiations with the US regarding international drug treaty enforcement may be necessary as well. [Globe and Mail / Daniel LeBlanc​]

Turkey’s referendum

Erdogan addresses crowds ahead of the referendum Anadolu Agency / Contributor
  • On Sunday, Turkish citizens will vote on a constitutional changes meant to enhance the power of President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan and to allow him to remain in office through 2029. [CNN / Kara Fox]
  • A yes vote — in favor of the changes — is a frightening prospect for a democracy that is already in steep decline. Turkey has been in a state of emergency since a failed coup attempt last summer, and has since seen public opposition figures jailed, public assembly prohibited, and more than 40,000 people arrested for alleged links to terror groups. [The Atlantic / Diego Cupolo]
  • And yet this week, two opinion polls showed that 51 to 52 percent of Turkish people intend to vote yes. Apparently Turks living abroad have turned out to participate in the vote, and that could play to Erdoǧan’s favor. [Independent / Daren Butler]
  • Erdoǧan has been in power since 2003; he first served as prime minister and was elected president in 2014. The presidency was once mostly symbolic, but Erdoǧan has steadily increased his influence — those in favor of the referendum say consolidating his power would move the presidency closer to the US model. [USA Today / Fariba Nawa]
  • Erdoǧan’s supporters generally point to the economic success the country has seen under his rule, his family’s small-town roots (though he himself was born in Istanbul), and his pushback against some of the country’s more stringent secularist laws — his government repealed a ban on women wearing headscarves in 2013. [BBC / Mark Lowen]
  • Those who oppose the increase in Erdoǧan’s power caution that not only will Turkey move closer to a dictatorship, but that international consequences could be enormous as well. It could hamper European cooperation with Turkey’s present efforts to control the flow of Syrian refugees into Europe. [Yahoo News / AFP News / Cédric Simon]
  • A no vote, however, doesn’t guarantee that Erdoǧan’s authoritarian stance or his grip on the country will soften, and the country in its emergency state already functions like a paranoid dictatorship. A Turkish doctor with no previous opposition-party affiliation recently shared the story of how he was arrested for allegedly trying to kill Erdoǧan and for belonging to a terror organization merely because he used a certain bank — and how he had to illegally flee the country after his attempt to leave on a visa was blocked following the arrest. [New York Times / Suzy Hansen​]



  • “‘This is our daughter, Enfield Tennis Academy,’ is not inherently better than ‘This is our daughter, Lauryn.’” [Slate / Mallory Ortberg]
  • “Before last weekend, Cheryl Wassus had no idea what a ‘furry’ was. So naturally, when the Motor City Furry Convention chose Pets for Vets (a nonprofit that pairs dogs with military veterans) as its charity of choice, she assumed that she and Link, her one-year-old Bernese mountain dog, would be spending the day at an animal event.” [NY Mag / Madison Malone Kircher]
  • “Me talk to agent about possible second career as recording artist, because me often mistaken for gravel-voiced singer Tom Waits. Me think me has everything Tom Waits has, plus me is blue.” [New Yorker / Cookie Monster]
  • “I really don’t think customers understand the impact their ratings have on us.” [Postmates Courier named Joshua to BuzzFeed / Caroline O’Donovan]
  • “Republicans have introduced a new bill requiring women to first paint a still life oil portrait of the fetus before consulting with a physician. … The new bill requires all fetal portraits to be ‘detailed’ and ‘life-like’, although it notes that some impressionism will be tolerated if it appears to express feelings of regret. [Reductress / Ella Gale]

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