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Vox Sentences: A cactus, some huge cardboard boxes, and lots of money — how cities are wooing Amazon

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The Taliban steps up brutal attacks on Afghan troops; Spain prepares to strip Catalonia of its autonomy; numerous US cities and states vie to be the home of Amazon's second headquarters.


The Taliban escalates attacks in Afghanistan

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  • Afghanistan has seen a spate of deadly violence in recent weeks, as the Taliban has stepped up attacks on the country’s military. [BBC]
  • Today, 43 Afghan soldiers were killed in a car bomb attack in Kandahar province, with more soldiers either missing or wounded. The attack nearly obliterated an entire army base; only two men escaped unharmed. [WSJ / Habib Khan Totakhil and Ehsanullah Amiri]
  • Just a few days ago, the Taliban launched similar attacks in Paktia and Ghazni provinces, killing 46 Afghan police, including a prominent commander. [NYT / Mujib Mashal and Fatima Faizi]
  • Many of the attacks follow a similar, disturbing pattern, where Taliban soldiers capture army vehicles including American Humvees, fill them with bombs, and drive them into Afghan army units. Afghan officials estimate the terror group has captured well over 100 Humvees and trucks around the country that it is now using as weapons. [NYT / Taimoor Shah and Mujib Mashal]
  • US and NATO forces formally ended their mission in Afghanistan in 2014, leaving the Afghan army to pick up much of the fighting. It is struggling to do so in the face of increased Taliban attacks. [Associated Press / Amir Shah]
  • The escalating attacks prove contrary to how a top US general recently characterized the situation in Afghanistan, saying the conflict was at a “stalemate.” However, under President Trump, more US troops will soon be deployed to the country. [NPR / Tom Bowman]
  • The US-led coalition in the country is also dropping more bombs on Taliban and ISIS targets than it has in seven years. [NBC News / Yuliya Talmazan]

Spain is getting ready to take control of Catalonia

Etienne De Malglaive/Getty Images
  • Spain’s central government is starting the process of taking control of Catalonia, after the autonomous region voted to become independent a few weeks ago. [CNN / Hilary Clarke]
  • After not getting a clear answer from the Catalan leader about whether the region actually intends to secede from Spain, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced today that the country’s parliament would meet this weekend to start the process of stripping Catalonia of its autonomy. [LA Times / Laura King and Lauren Frayer]
  • When Catalonia held a controversial independence referendum on October 1, its regional president, Carles Puigdemont, stopped short of fully separating. Rather than declaring independence, Puigdemont said that Catalonia had the right to secede and that he wanted to negotiate further with Spain. [Vox / Sarah Wildman]
  • Rajoy had other ideas. He essentially gave Puigdemont eight days to make up his mind. If at the end of the deadline there was no clear answer from Catalonia, Rajoy said Spain would take control of the region. This is a big deal — it sets up a constitutional crisis unlike anything the country has seen in decades. [Vox / Sarah Wildman]
  • The European Union said it does not plan to get involved in the situation, but European leaders — including Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Emmanuel Macron — said they supported Madrid. [BBC]
  • There have been tense and sometimes violent protests since the vote on October 1, and people in the region are bracing themselves for possible protests this weekend. [The Guardian / Stephen Burgen]
  • It’s not the last independence referendum in Europe; Italians in the regions of Lombardy and Veneto will vote next week on whether they want their regional governments to pursue more autonomy. The Italian vote is nonbinding, but some regional officials want to try to get more leverage with that country’s central government. [NYT / Elisabetta Povoledo]

Desperately seeking Amazon

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  • Amazon is trying to decide where it should build its second headquarters, and more than 40 states and cities across America are vying for its business. [USA Today / Nathan Bomey]
  • Amazon is already headquartered in Seattle, and the online retail giant is promising to bring up to 50,000 new jobs and infuse $5 billion into the local economy of whichever city it decides to choose for the second location. So it makes sense that so many cities are jumping at the chance. [Reuters]
  • Some are getting creative with their pitches: City officials in Tucson, Arizona, sent the company a 21-foot-tall saguaro cactus (which eventually had to be returned), while Birmingham, Alabama, built a bunch of huge Amazon boxes and put them all around the city to show its enthusiasm. [NPR / Rick Pluta]
  • Even small states are getting in on the action; New Hampshire recently caused a spat with Massachusetts when the Granite State’s bid to Amazon included some pointed disses of its southern neighbor (while reminding the company that New Hampshire is also close to Boston). [The Boston Globe]
  • Besides submitting bids outlining why they think Amazon should move to them, cities and states are also trying to sweeten the deal with financial incentives. New Jersey is offering a whopping $7 billion in tax breaks for Amazon to move to Newark, while California is offering around $300 million. [Reuters]
  • There’s a question of what states actually gain from this. Some economists say that when states offer so much money upfront to lure a big company, they actually lose out over time and can only hope to break even in the long run. [NPR / Alina Selyukh]
  • And even though Amazon has created a ton of economic growth in Seattle, it also comes with headaches. Seattle housing prices have skyrocketed, and there’s now a growing homeless population as some people can no longer afford rent in the area. [Washington Post / Jonathan O’Connell]
  • It will be a while before Amazon picks its winning city; economists say the most likely contenders include Austin, Atlanta, Boston, and Pittsburgh. Amazon has been adding fuel to the fire by showing social media love to cities and states including DC, Boston, Dallas, and Colorado. [Recode / Rani Molla]

Miscellaneous

  • New Zealand is taking its Bird of the Year competition a little too seriously this year. There’s been vote rigging and a mysterious Instagram account accusing the white-faced heron of racism and calling the kiwi a "fat flightless fuck." [New Zealand Herald]
  • The latest sports doping scandal involves Iditarod sled dogs in Alaska, after some dogs tested positive for an opioid painkiller called tramadol. [NPR / Scott Neuman]
  • Some colleges across the country use student informants to try to catch on-campus drug dealers. The practice is limited, but very little is known about it, and a small number of informants have died in the process. [The Chronicle of Higher Education / Suhauna Hussain]
  • Scientists recently found that getting children to concentrate might not require Ritalin; all it takes is a Batman costume. [The British Psychological Society Research Digest / Christian Jarrett]
  • For just 14,000 rubles (or $244), you too can pay a Moscow-based company to pretend you flew in a private jet for your Instagram photos. [Business Insider / Rosie Fitzmaurice]

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