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Vox Sentences: Do not taunt the Orb

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Trump’s Middle East trip is going about as well as could be expected; the Supreme Court takes a stand against gerrymandering; one of America’s most successful global development programs could be nearing an end.


Ask not what the Orb can do for you, but what you can do for the Orb

Praise orb from whom all blessings flow Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Royal Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  • Visiting Saudi Arabia, President Trump joined Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Saudi King Salman in pledging fealty to the Orb, the Source of All Power, Orb of Orbs.
  • By which I mean the three world leaders attended the opening of Saudi Arabia's Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Riyadh, as part of Trump's Middle East trip. That event featured a large glowing globe, which resulted in the photo op you see above, which looks an awful lot like a turn-of-the-century political cartoon where some kind of caricatured German in a spiked helmet holds the globe in his hands. [The Atlantic / Krishnadev Calamur]
  • But it’s also a good metaphor for how Trump, who campaigned as a committed nationalist, anti-globalist, and opponent of Islam, has largely capitulated to mainstream conservative foreign policy upon taking office. While he praised Russia and Syria on the campaign trail, here he is with the leading Sunni statesmen of the region, who are decidedly opposed to increased Russian influence in the region and are key parts of a rival regional coalition. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • Sisi, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States had a lukewarm relationship with President Obama. They resented his support for Arab democratic uprisings and his diplomatic overtures to Iran. By contrast, on this trip, Trump appears to be embracing the Sunni leaders with open arms. [Washington Post / Marc Lynch]
  • Trump delivered a speech in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, condemning Muslim extremism, striking a more ecumenical tone than he did on the campaign — "This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations" — and describing Islam as "one of the world's great faiths." He didn’t refer to "radical Islamic terrorism," a phrase he had castigated President Obama for avoiding. [NYT / Peter Baker and Michael Shear]
  • He was supposed to say “Islamist extremism,” but wound up saying “Islamic extremism.” That may seem minor, but it’s not. Islamism is a discrete ideology that’s separate from Islam as a whole religion, but “Islamic” associates the extremism with the religion as a whole. [Vox / Zeeshan Aleem]
  • In addition to cutting a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the administration secured $100 million in donations from that country and the United Arab Emirates to the World Bank's Women Entrepreneurs Fund, which was proposed by Ivanka Trump (though she will not administer it). [WSJ / Carol Lee]
  • Women reporters, however, were barred from attending most of an event on women’s empowerment Ivanka held with Princess Reema bint Bandar and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. [Washington Post / Karen DeYoung]
  • Trump has since left Saudi Arabia to go to Israel (he told reporters he "just got back from the Middle East"). [Slate / Ben Mathis-Lilly]
  • In remarks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he told reporters that he "never mentioned the word or the name Israel" in his Oval Office meeting with Russian officials. Of course, no one had accused him of saying that — but Trump's comment seemingly confirmed that Israel was the source of the information he gave to the Russians, a fact that has been reported but not previously confirmed by either government. [Bloomberg / Margaret Talev​]

The Supreme Court finds more voting laws it doesn’t like

The 2012 redistricting map for North Carolina that the Supreme Court rejected. National Map
  • In a second consecutive ruling in favor of voting rights advocates, the Supreme Court declared Monday that North Carolina had engaged in impermissible racial gerrymandering when drawing up two districts in 2011. [Vox / German Lopez]
  • At the time, Republican lawmakers claimed they were trying to comply with the Voting Rights Act by packing more black voters into District 12 (a ribbon of a district along a highway corridor) and District 1 (which acquired mold-like appendages). But the Court (upholding a lower court ruling) found they were really trying to keep black voters out of districts in the rest of the state. [The Atlantic / Vann R. Newkirk II]
  • Some voting law experts got extremely excited about Monday’s ruling — particularly a footnote in the opinion by Justice Elena Kagan that appeared to acknowledge that partisan gerrymandering (which is ostensibly constitutional) is often used as a proxy for racial gerrymandering (which is not constitutional when it’s done to limit minority voting power). Taken to its logical conclusion, this could make the Court show much more scrutiny toward gerrymanders done for ostensibly partisan reasons. [Election Law Blog / Rick Hasen]
  • But other legal experts don’t think Kagan broke too much new ground; they see the ruling as part of the Court’s broader effort to undo racial gerrymandering — both where it hurts nonwhite voters and where it could help them. [Election Law Blog / Justin Levitt]
  • As evidence of this: The fifth vote in Monday’s case (joining the four liberal justices) didn’t come from traditional swing vote Anthony Kennedy, but from conservative Clarence Thomas, who believed the North Carolina gerrymander was unconstitutional because any consideration of race in voting laws is unconstitutional. [Above the Law / Elie Mystal]
  • But the ruling does open the door to challenges of gerrymanders in other states — for example, Texas lawmakers are already concerned. [Dallas News / Jamie Lovegrove​]

A looming deadline for 58,000 Haitians

Suze Lubin (right) is a Haitian who benefited from the TPS program and moved to Florida. Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images
  • The Trump administration has announced that 58,000 Haitians currently living in the US under temporary protected status (after the 2010 earthquake) will be allowed to stay in the country through January 2018... [Miami Herald / Jacqueline Charles]
  • ...but strongly hinted that will be the end of the road, and that they’ll lose legal status at the end of January. [Department of Homeland Security / Secretary John Kelly]
  • The Trump administration was understandably wary of continuing to extend a “temporary” emergency measure for more than eight years after the earthquake actually happened. The problem is that last summer, Haiti was hit by Hurricane Matthew — which has caused a humanitarian crisis of its own, leaving thousands in Haiti without housing. [Miami Herald / Jacqueline Charles]
  • It’s been clear for a while that the administration was looking to find a reason to terminate protections for Haitians. A leak earlier this month indicated that Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was asking questions about how often Haitian citizens committed crimes in the US — which isn’t really supposed to be part of the calculus of whether they should get humanitarian relief, but which could be defended as figuring out whether protecting Haitians was in the US’s national interest. [AP]
  • What was surprising, though, was the administration’s argument that the Haitian government wants its citizens to return — given that a letter sent by the Haitian ambassador to Secretary Kelly was pretty darn clear in saying that the country wasn’t ready yet to take back 50,000 people. [Washington Post / Karen Attiah]
  • Indeed, Haitian emigrants might be able to do more good for Haiti while in the US. The World Bank has found that remittances sent by emigrants tend to increase after natural disasters, and can help with rebuilding. [World Bank]
  • Haiti, ironically (if logically), has been the poster child for emigration as development. One analysis found that four of every five Haitians who’ve been able to escape poverty had done so by leaving the country. [Center for Global Development / Michael Clemens]

Miscellaneous

  • Low unemployment in Utah is leading to large wage hikes, and companies are not happy about it. [NYT / Binyamin Appelbaum]
  • "Mr. Brightside" first hit the UK charts in 2004 — and it has never left the top 100 since. In January 2017, it broke the top 50. [Vice]
  • The Onion has obtained a cache of leaked Trump documents, and they’re everything you might hope they’d be. [The Onion]
  • The case for The Creature From the Black Lagoon, the tale of an “ancient evolutionary glitch who’s just minding his own business in a remote corner of the Amazon,” which must never be remade. [io9 / Cheryl Eddy]
  • How pervasive lead poisoning in New Orleans created a whole generation of poisoned black kids. [The Atlantic / Vann R. Newkirk III]

Verbatim

  • “I sit in the cemetery. Nobody bothers you in the cemetery." [Barbara Tucker to Buffalo News / Stephen T. Watson]
  • “Anytime you find yourself justifying something you said with ‘I certainly didn’t intend to give the spanking myself,’ it is a sign that, at least, you are not making the best possible choices.” [Slate / Mallory Ortberg]
  • “People’s minds never go to ‘Bob must be getting a promotion.' It’s, ‘Bob must be in trouble. This is the beginning of the end for Bob.’” [Sally Augustin to VSJ / Vanessa Fuhrmans]
  • Twin Peaks was playful about everything except pain. It took pain so seriously that over time, an increasing proportion of its initially big viewership did not know how to process it, except to squirm, snicker performatively, or stop watching.” [NY Mag / Matt Zoller Seitz]
  • “Considering all of Sasse’s talk about hard work, maybe the most peculiar aspect of The Vanishing American Adult is how it takes the easy way out: Sasse, a Republican senator and history Ph.D. who holds actual power during a particularly fraught moment, decided that now was the time for him to publish what ultimately amounts to a self-help book for well-to-do parents.” [NYT / Jennifer Szalai]

Watch this: The evolution of American protest music

Music is a critical form of expression in American politics — especially in times of political and social unrest. [YouTube / Carlos Waters, Bridgett Henwood]


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