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Vox Sentences: Chalk one up for the swamp

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

China's Xi Jinping gives himself nearly unlimited power; Republicans in the Senate deliver a big win to Wall Street by axing a key consumer protection rule; the US and India forge ahead in a strong partnership during a Tillerson visit.

Mao 2.0

Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
  • China’s President Xi Jinping just got near-unlimited power by having his name written into the country’s constitution, essentially elevating himself to the level of Mao Zedong. [Vox / Zeeshan Aleem]
  • In fact, Mao is the only other Chinese leader whose name was added to the constitution when he was still alive. (Deng Xiaoping was added after his death in 1997.) [Vox / Zeeshan Aleem]
  • Most importantly, this means Xi probably isn’t planning to step down in the near future. All six other members of Xi’s new Politburo Standing Committee are in their 60s, and therefore too old to assume power at the end of his term in 2022. He has named no other successor. [The Guardian / Tom Phillips]
  • Xi is in the middle of his second 10-year term right now. No Chinese president has served for a third term, and if Xi did, it would break precedent. [WSJ / Jeremy Page and Chun Han Wong]
  • Here are some of the key themes from Xi’s speech at the Communist Party Congress earlier this month: While China is going to try to strengthen its economic growth, it will combine that with increased governmental control. Already, Xi’s government is cracking down on dissidents and ethnic minorities and censoring criticism on social media. [The Diplomat / Sarah Cook]
  • Xi’s own version of Communist Party doctrine mixes elements of Mao’s brand of communism with Chinese nationalism, and pushes back on the West. And though Xi hasn’t quite ascended to the “godlike” level of Mao, China is a much more powerful country under his leadership. The question is where he goes from here. [NYT / Chris Buckley]

The Senate just handed Wall Street a big win

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  • Late last night, Senate Republicans narrowly voted to kill a sweeping new rule that blocked mandatory arbitration clauses when people signed up for credit cards and banks. The rule would have allowed consumers to sue banks and other financial institutions like Equifax in class-action lawsuits. [CNN / Donna Borak and Ted Barrett]
  • Vice President Mike Pence had to be brought in to cast the deciding vote and break the tie, after Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Kennedy of Louisiana defected from their colleagues and voted to keep the rule (Graham has fought against some arbitration measures in the past). The House has already voted in favor of the measure. [Politico / Zachary Warmbrodt]
  • It’s a big win for Wall Street, and a big blow to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal watchdog established by Congress after the 2008 mortgage crisis and resulting recession. [NYT / Jessica Silver-Greenberg]
  • Getting rid of the rule means consumers can no longer take part in class-action lawsuits like the ones Wells Fargo customers filed against the company after it was caught signing people up for fake accounts. [LA Times / James Rufus Koren]
  • In lieu of that, consumers will go through arbitration, which congressional Republicans argued can result in more money for consumers. [American Banker / Ian McKendry]
  • The big difference between arbitration and class-action lawsuits is that class action is when a bunch of consumers band together to sue, making it easier for them to afford a lawyer (this is especially important in big cases like the Wells Fargo one). In contrast, it’s difficult for a single consumer to afford to sue. [WSJ / Anna Prior]
  • Many credit card companies and banks now put mandatory arbitration clauses in the small print of agreements consumers have to complete when they sign up for a new credit card or open an account. The latest move from Republicans makes it even harder for consumers to get recourse. [NPR / Chris Arnold]

Tillerson is trying to strengthen the US’s relationship with India

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  • US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is meeting with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and top officials there, in an attempt to forge a closer partnership with the country. [WSJ / Niharika Mandhana]
  • The secretary of state signaled that the United States would be pursuing more cooperation with India in a recent speech, when he said the US should align itself more closely with India, rather than China, because the former is the world’s largest democracy. [CNN / Huizhong Wu and Manveena Suri]
  • Tillerson’s speech did something that’s been missing from American foreign policy under Trump: It named some underlying values guiding foreign policy in South Asia. [Foreign Policy / Manpreet Anand]
  • This sentiment is nothing new; it’s largely a continuation of the foreign policy principles of secretaries of state under Presidents Obama and Bush. [Foreign Policy / Manpreet Anand]
  • Tillerson is bolstering those words with action — specifically, an offer to supply India with US military jets, to help strengthen its security presence in the region. [Times of India]
  • He is also asking India to take a stronger role with other countries including Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. Tillerson wants India to help stabilize Afghanistan’s economy with development aid and help crack down on terrorist cells in Pakistan. [Voice of America]
  • A potential sore point in the relationship is India’s limited trade with North Korea and its ties with Iran, where India gets a lot of its oil from and where it is also working on big infrastructure projects. [Reuters / Jonathan Landay, Aditya Kalra]


  • The dimly lit Edison bulb is making a comeback in the hip bars and restaurants of America. Beyond being a beacon of gentrification, it’s also extremely energy-inefficient. [CityLab / Thomas Campanella]
  • Pregnant women in Wisconsin prisons can legally be shackled — even when they’re in the middle of giving birth. One former inmate is trying to end the practice in the state. [Cosmopolitan / Rebecca Nelson]
  • Lebanon has a severe dog poop problem, in part because Lebanese residents don’t really feel they're responsible for keeping the streets clean, and there are no laws on the books enforcing poop pickup. [NYT / Anne Barnard]
  • Norovirus owes its name to the town of Norwalk, Ohio, where more than 100 students came down with the nasty bug in the 1960s, prompting scientists to study and, eventually, name it. [Stat / Leah Samuel]
  • A Quebec man is very particular about his adult fizzy beverages on flights. He sued the airline Sunwing for serving sparkling wine, rather than champagne, on his flight to Cuba. [National Post / Tom Blackwell]


Listen to this: How a change in hospital policy saved thousands of lives

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