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Vox Sentences: Thousands of gallons of crude oil spill in South Dakota

Joe Sohm/Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images

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Hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil spill out of the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota; Mugabe's days in office appear limited; the Trump administration lifts (and then keeps) a ban on importing elephant hunting trophies from certain African countries.

Oil, oil, everywhere

Joe Sohm/Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images
  • There was a massive oil spill from the Keystone pipeline on Thursday morning, after the pipeline developed a leak in a section running through South Dakota. [Washington Post / Steven Mufson and Chris Mooney]
  • The leak spilled about 210,000 gallons of oil (the equivalent of 5,000 barrels) near the small South Dakota town of Amherst. This makes it the largest oil spill in the state to date. [CNN / Mayra Cuevas and Steve Almasy]
  • State officials have so far said they believe the leak occurred on farmland, and didn’t get into any water or streams. [Associated Press]
  • The leak and spill drew alarm from environmentalists and anti-pipeline activists who are opposed to the separate, but related, Keystone XL pipeline that is proposed to run through the state. (The two projects are owned and operated by the same company, TransCanada.) [NYT / Mitch Smith and Julie Bosman]
  • Even so, officials in Nebraska say this latest spill won’t weigh into their decision on whether to permit the Keystone XL project. [NPR / Richard Gonzales]
  • The Keystone pipeline that leaked is part of the same network of pipeline that is being protested by the Standing Rock tribe, after an extension was proposed that would run through part of their reservation. [National Geographic / Sarah Gibbens and Craig Welch]

Everyone in Zimbabwe is turning on Robert Mugabe

Tafadzwa Ufumeli/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  • Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s days in office are looking numbered, as the country’s ruling party ousted him today, a few days after a military coup earlier this week. Mass protests by people calling for Mugabe to step down are expected in the coming days. [The Guardian / Jason Burke and Alex Maher]
  • Mugabe has been under house arrest for the past few days, but made a brief public appearance at a graduation ceremony in the capital of Harare, which many believe was staged by military leaders to give off the appearance of normality. [CNN / David McKenzie, Euan McKirdy, and Angela Dewan]
  • The tensions with military leaders started on Tuesday after Mugabe suddenly got rid of his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has a lot of military allies. [Voice of America / Ndimyake Mwakalyelye]
  • Mugabe is 93 years old, and although Mnangagwa was seen as next in line for the presidency, for a while it looked like first lady Grace Mugabe was headed for the spot. Now it seems her ascension will likely be cut short. [CNN / Jamie Tarabay]
  • For the past few days, no one in Zimbabwe seemed to know whether the country was under a military coup or not. Some people say they’re cautiously hopeful for an end to the decades-long rule of Mugabe (under which the economy has suffered). [BuzzFeed / Tamara Griffin]
  • But people aren’t too sure whether Mnangagwa and the military will be much of a change; the 75-year-old politician is widely seen as ruthless and corrupt, just like Mugabe. [NYT / Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura]

There’s bad news for the elephants

Ishara Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images
  • The Trump administration has backtracked on a controversial decision to lift a ban on “trophy” elephants killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia. The administration announced its reversal around on Friday night; it will make a decision after a review of the rule. [NYT / Emily Cochrane]
  • is drawing ire as it recently lifted a ban on "trophy" elephants killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia being brought into the United States. [USA Today / Matthew Diebel]
  • African elephants are endangered, and the Obama administration implemented the ban to try to protect the populations in those two countries. [NYT / Jada Smith]
  • The Obama administration’s rationale for the ban was that officials in the countries in question weren’t protecting and growing their elephant populations well enough to allow hunting. [NPR / Laurel Wamsley]
  • In its initial reversal, the Trump administration’s Fish and Wildlife Service said that the money that can be generated from big-game hunting in Africa can go toward conservation efforts, thus helping to protect the population. [The Hill / Timothy Cama]
  • But there’s analysis to show that this argument is flawed — numerous studies have shown that the profits from big-game hunting often don’t make it into local conservation efforts (a big reason for this is government corruption). [Washington Post / Christopher Ingraham]
  • Conservationists and activists say they fear that lions may be the next big-game animal to have federal hunting rules relaxed, as US Fish and Wildlife also recently changed its guidelines on lions. [The Guardian / Oliver Milman]


  • Navy pilots were the culprits behind a giant phallus that was drawn in the sky recently. Once a middle school boy, always a middle school boy. [Navy Times / Geoff Ziezulewicz]
  • Brand new Vanity Fair editor Radhika Jones is a powerhouse, having come from the New York Times. But apparently, some people at Condé Nast care more about her fashion choices of zippered dresses and fox stockings. [Women’s Wear Daily]
  • A tech company called Boston Dynamics recently developed a robot that can do backflips with scary precision, so goodbye, world. Welcome our new robot overlords. [WCVB / Jay Bennett]
  • Tesla wants to get into the commercial trucking business, having just unveiled a new energy-efficient semi truck. [The Verge / Zac Estrada]
  • Danish scientists are trying to pinpoint where a thin cloud of radiation that was recently hovering over Europe came from. They think it may have originated in Russian (though Russia denies this). [NPR / Alina Selyukh and Geoff Brumfiel]


Watch this: The environmental cost of free two-day shipping

What’s the environmental impact of online shopping, and what are the solutions to make it more sustainable? [UC Berkeley / Zak Long, Jess Wheelock, Larissa Branin, and Nicolette Bethea]

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This post has been updated to reflect the Trump administration’s reversal on the elephant trophy ban.