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Vox Sentences: The US is officially the butt of climate jokes

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.

Republican senators are still trying to repeal Obamacare through their tax reform bill; the US is panned during climate talks in Bonn; tensions between Zimbabwe's military and president escalate.

Tax reform or Obamacare repeal? Why not both?

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  • Senate Republicans are going to try to use their tax reform bill as a way to repeal the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate tax penalty (the provision that penalizes people who don’t have health insurance). [Washington Post / Mike DeBonis and Damian Paletta]
  • This move would save more than $300 billion over 10 years that Republicans could then use to pay for more of the tax cuts they want. But it would also mean millions of people would lose their health insurance, according to analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. [Vox / Sarah Kliff and Dylan Scott]
  • This is a contentious, complicated issue — so much so that House leaders completely left it out of their bill for fear it would complicate the chance of passage. [Rachael Bade via Twitter]
  • The key question now is whether Republican leadership can convince senators who voted against Obamacare repeal to vote for their tax bill. Arizona Sen. John McCain, who cast the deciding vote against Obamacare repeal, sounds open to the latest idea. [CNN / Phil Mattingly, Lauren Fox, and Deirdre Walsh]
  • But McCain isn’t the only vote that matters. Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against Obamacare repeal and will also be key votes in the tax bill. Both have said they think adding health care to a tax bill complicates things unnecessarily. [Vox / Ella Nilsen]
  • Ironically, the deal to gut the individual mandate includes the Senate passing a bill called Alexander-Murray, the goal of which is to stabilize the Obamacare health insurance exchanges. [CNBC / Dan Mangan]
  • Senators don’t have much time to hammer out the details of their bill. They are scrambling to find places to save money, because as the bill is currently written, it risks cutting $25 billion from Medicare, which would be devastating to millions of elderly Americans and is likely something Republican senators are trying to avoid. [Vox / Tara Golshan]

Bonn nuit

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  • Representatives from countries around the world are gathering in Bonn, Germany, for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will wrap up in a few days. [NYT / Jonathan Ellis]
  • Bonn is a follow-up to the landmark Paris climate agreement, where the world’s nations have gathered to fill in all the important details on how they will meet their targets to cut CO2 emission levels. [Guardian / Fiona Harvey]
  • The United States is now the only nation in the world that’s not part of the Paris agreement, after the Trump administration’s decision to pull the country out of the climate agreement earlier this year. The last holdouts — Nicaragua and Syria — recently joined. [Reuters / Michelle Nichols]
  • Representatives from the US have been making headlines for touting fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, as well as nuclear power, at the conference. The White House presentation at Bonn was widely panned, drawing protests from some attendees. [Politico / Emily Holden and Kalina Oroschakoff]
  • With the White House out of the picture on climate, American representatives came in the form of US governors, including California’s Jerry Brown, who is outspoken on climate (but still fielded criticism from activists at Bonn). [New Yorker / Bill McKibben]
  • US cities, in particular, are increasingly showing they’re willing to go on the front lines of the climate change fight, and some key areas they’ll likely be looking at include trying to decarbonize their electricity grids and make buildings more energy-efficient. [Vox / David Roberts]
  • Bonn attendees were hit with some sobering news right off the bat. Global carbon dioxide emissions aren’t going down; they’re projected to go up in 2017 and 2018 (emissions stayed level from 2014 to 2016). A lot of this increase is due to China, which is aggressively trying to cut back on its coal emissions but clearly has a ways to go. [Washington Post / Chris Mooney]

Mugabe melee

Ekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images
  • Zimbabwe’s military leaders and ruling political party appear to be headed for a confrontation as tensions are rising in the nation’s capital of Harare. [The Telegraph / Peta Thornycroft]
  • A day after country’s top military leader, Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, said the military might have “step in” to quell political tensions in the country, tanks could be seen on the main roads to the capital. [The Independent / Henry Austin]
  • After Chiwenga’s threat, the government accused the military of treason and of trying to instigate an uprising. [BBC]
  • The tensions that military leaders are trying to quell came after longtime President Robert Mugabe suddenly got rid of his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, a military ally. [Voice of America / Ndimyake Mwakalyelye]
  • There’s a long-simmering political fight between the Mugabe and Mnangagwa camps over who will become the next president. Mugabe is 93 years old, and although Mnangagwa was seen as next in line for the presidency, it’s increasingly looking like first lady Grace Mugabe will take that spot. [Al Jazeera / Tendai Marima]
  • With such a bold move by the army, President Mugabe is now faced with the choice of bringing back Mnangagwa as his vice president or risking an escalating confrontation with the military. [NYT / Jeffrey Moyo]


  • If you feel like President Trump is tweeting more, you’re not going crazy. He is, by a lot. (Which might still be a recipe for feeling like you’re going crazy.) [Bloomberg / Brandon Kochkodin]
  • Japan and South Korea are disagreeing over how to remember. In South Korea there are statues commemorating "comfort women," the Korean women who were forced to become sex slaves for Japan’s army in World War II. Now Japan wants the statues taken down. [NPR / Elise Hu]
  • A cybersecurity firm has determined that Apple’s new facial recognition security feature on the iPhone X can actually be fooled by a mask (albeit an expensive one). Maybe fingerprints aren’t so bad after all. [Wired / Andy Greenberg]
  • In boycotting Keurig coffee makers, Sean Hannity’s conservative fans are joining the ranks of progressive environmentalists who have been trying to get people to give up K-cups for years. [The Atlantic / James Hamblin]
  • Nerds, rejoice. The Lord of the Rings will be turned into a TV show ... because the world needs a Game of Thrones placeholder. [The Ringer / Miles Surrey]


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