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Vox Sentences: An attempt to unionize, followed by a mass firing

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A judge rules that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl won't have to serve a prison sentence for deserting in 2009; President Trump embarks on a multi-country trip to Asia; local news cannot catch a break.


Bowe Bergdahl won’t be heading to prison after all

Sara D. Davis/Getty Images
  • Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who deserted his unit in Afghanistan and was later captured by the Taliban in 2009, won’t have to face prison time, a military judge ruled in his case on Friday. [Vox / Alex Ward]
  • Bergdahl, who pleaded guilty last month, is still facing dishonorable discharge from the military, loss of his government benefits, and having to pay a $10,000 restitution. He’ll also be demoted, becoming a private. However, he’s avoiding by far the most serious punishment. [CNN / Dakin Andone, Holly Yan, and Nick Valencia]
  • Prosecutors were hoping to put Bergdahl in prison for up to 14 years for desertion and another charge called “misbehavior before the enemy” (basically, putting other US soldiers who had to search for him in harm’s way). [Vox / Alex Ward]
  • Throughout the trial, Bergdahl’s defense team argued that the soldier suffered from mental illness, which led to his decisions. [Washington Post / Alex Horton]
  • Bergdahl was in captivity for five years and was eventually brought back to the United States in 2014 as part of a prisoner swap negotiated by then- President Obama. [LA Times / Christi Parsons, Michael Memoli, and David Cloud]
  • His high-profile case and the prisoner swap to bring him home have been controversial from the start. President Trump has added fuel to the fire, publicly calling Bergdahl a traitor and calling for his execution. [BuzzFeed / Tasneem Nashrulla]
  • His case was also profiled by the second season of the podcast Serial, featuring extensive audio recordings of Bergdahl explaining why he abandoned his post in Afghanistan, blaming mismanagement and bad conditions and leadership in his unit. [Serial / Sarah Koenig]

The US government and the Trump administration are at odds on the causes of climate change

David McNew/Getty Images
  • The Trump administration released the National Climate Assessment on Friday. It’s a new report on climate change compiled by the US government, and it contradicts many of the things members of the Trump administration have been saying about climate change. [Washington Post / Chris Mooney, Juliet Eilperin, and Brady Dennis]
  • The biggest conclusion of the 477-page report is that humans are responsible for causing climate change, saying there is "no convincing alternative explanation." [US Global Change Research Program]
  • The report examined the impact of a warming climate in the United States, and found that it is impacting air conditions, agriculture, and flooding as well as other adverse weather events in every part of the country. [CNN / Eli Watkins]
  • The report was started under the Obama administration, and the Trump administration did not try to block its release. By law, such reports have to be released every four years. [Bloomberg / Joe Ryan]
  • The overwhelming majority of the scientific community has said this for years, but members of the Trump administration have openly questioned this science and tried to minimize it. (It’s not just Trump’s administration that’s done this; there are plenty of other members of the Republican Party who have said the same thing.) [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • Under Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the government's environmental agency has erased all mentions of climate change from its website and instructed its scientists not to present reports on global warming. (Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general, is a big friend of fossil fuel companies). [NYT / Lisa Friedman]
  • Many scientists feared the Trump administration would try to block the report. It didn’t do this, and now it is in the uncomfortable position of opposing the scientific evidence of the government’s own scientists. [NPR / Christopher Joyce]

Gothamist, DCist, and DNAInfo have gone dark

Mohamed El-Shahed/AFP/Getty Images
  • The company that owns the local news websites Gothamist, DCist, and DNAInfo announced it’s pulling the plug on all three sites after they failed to turn a profit. [NYT / Andy Newman and John Leland]
  • The announcement from owner Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade and a conservative supporter of President Trump, came after employees in the Gothamist and DNAInfo newsrooms tried to unionize with the Writers Guild of America East. [Poynter / James Warren]
  • In all, 115 people are getting laid off. Employees have spoken up, saying they believe shutting down the websites was in part retaliation for the attempt to organize. The union representing some of the employees says it will try to get recourse. [NPR / Laurel Wamsley]
  • And the company hasn’t denied this; a spokesperson admitted that employees unionizing was part of the reason to shut down the websites, but the bigger reason was that the sites weren’t making Ricketts any money. [Forbes / Paul Fletcher]
  • This speaks to a larger problem: the difficulty many local news organizations have in turning a profit. Local papers have been struggling since the internet radically changed how we consume news, and although many have built digital operations, the model isn’t sustainable for many. [CJR / Michael Rosenwald]
  • Cities like New York and DC (where the Gothamist, DCist, and DNAInfo were based) have the benefit of having relatively healthy national newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post. But even those organizations have downsized their metro and local news operations, and a lot of alternative papers like the Village Voice and Washington City Paper are in trouble as well. [NYT / Andy Newman and John Leland]
  • This is really important, because there are fewer people covering government and holding officials accountable on the local level, going to school board, selectmen, and city council meetings. That has consequences, given that these small bodies of government have a lot of direct influence in their communities. [Nieman Lab / Joshua Benton]

Miscellaneous

  • Some departing Twitter employee decided to pull the best last-day prank ever: suspending President Trump’s Twitter account for 11 glorious minutes. [Slate / Elliot Hannon]
  • Scientists think ancient giraffes didn’t really look much like giraffes at all. Instead, they looked like moose with two slender horns. [NYT / Karen Weintraub]
  • NYC strippers are going on strike, saying they are sick of getting their tips taken by scantily clad bartenders who work at their establishments. [Washington Post / Amber Ferguson]
  • Paris Hilton is getting into cryptocurrency, promoting something called the LydianCoin token on her Twitter account. That could get her into trouble with the SEC. [New Yorker / Adam Davidson]
  • Netflix employees who worked on House of Cards are now alleging that Kevin Spacey sexually harassed them on set ... and Spacey’s publicist has since dropped him as a client. [CNN Money / Chloe Melas]

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