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Vox Sentences: Some men just want to watch the world burn

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

The planet is boiling, but US-Cuba relations are cooling off.


Cuba: The Refrostening

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  • President Trump might be moving to reinstate the restrictions on American business with and travel to Cuba that were relaxed during the last years of predecessor Barack Obama’s presidency. [Vox / Zeeshan Aleem]
  • Maybe. We’re not sure. Par for the course with this administration, the leaks are outstripping the official announcements.
  • The president ordered a review of current Cuba policy shortly after coming into office. As of April, a low-level National Security Council staffer was heading up the review; many of the State Department appointees who’d normally be providing input hadn’t been appointed yet; and Sen. Marco Rubio, a known Cuba hawk, appeared to have the president’s ear. [El Nuevo Herald / Nora Gámez Torres]
  • If Trump deactivates Obama’s detente, it could be bad news for US travelers — who might be shut off from visiting the island as soon as this month — and for the travel industry that’s been building up infrastructure to profit off their vacations there. [NYT / Elaine Glusac]
  • But it could also be bad for the industries that have long lobbied to open up the Cuban market — including, notably, agriculture. Indeed, Trump’s own agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, said during his confirmation hearings that he wanted to let farmers get exports to Cuba financed. [Foreign Policy / Jessica Holzer]
  • The consequences of a re-entente on Cuba’s economy would be much less clear. There’s reason to believe that since the Obama thaw gave momentum to free market efforts on the island, stopping that thaw would stall those efforts. [The New Yorker / Jon Lee Anderson]
  • Indeed, as rumors about Trump’s decision spread Thursday, Cuba’s National Congress met to approve a plan that would allow the formation of business associations in the future — and a group of entrepreneurs in Havana announced that they’re forming one already in an attempt to speed things up. [AP]
  • Doing a total 180 on US/Cuba policy, however, would run into trouble with some of the rest of Trump’s agenda. The biggest way for the US to upset the Cuban government right now would be to reinstate the “wet foot/dry foot” policy that allowed Cuban defectors to immigrate legally to the US if they hit US soil; however, doing that would get in the way of Trump’s apparent desire to cut humanitarian immigration. [US News / Daniel Trotta and Sarah Marsh]
  • The Trump administration’s extreme budget hawkery when it comes to diplomacy, meanwhile, means that the 2017 budget proposes deep cuts to aid that was going to pro-democracy dissidents. [Havana Times / Fernando Ravsberg​]

Paris is no longer Paris

Climate Marches Take Place Across Country Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images
  • It’s official: President Trump has announced his intent to exit the Paris climate agreement, reached by President Obama and leaders of 194 other nations in December 2015. [Vox / Brian Resnick]
  • This was expected; here’s our section on it in yesterday’s newsletter, if you need a refresher. [Vox / Dara Lind and Dylan Matthews]
  • But it’s still a dramatic, and globally consequential, decision. In his speech explaining the decision, Trump condemned it as a "massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries," leading to "millions and millions of families trapped in poverty and joblessness." Without the deal, Americans "won't lose our jobs. We're going to grow. We're going to grow rapidly." [Vox / Carly Sitrin]
  • Basically all of that is nonsense. The legal implications of the Paris deal are minimal; the Trump administration could still have worked to roll back clean power plant rules without exiting the agreement. Leaving mostly just serves to piss off our allies. [Niskanen Center / David Bookbinder]
  • And it’s particularly deceitful nonsense. It promises that this decision will restore jobs to economically distressed parts of Appalachia — jobs that, Paris or no Paris, aren't coming back. Meanwhile, the US has twice as many solar jobs as coal jobs now, and the administration backtracking on the climate puts those jobs in danger. [Vox / Jim Tankersley]
  • The blowback to the decision is intense. World leaders like Canada’s Justin Trudeau, as well as former President Obama, have condemned the move. Elon Musk has resigned from Trump’s business advisory councils in protest. [Elon Musk]
  • Trump declared in his speech that he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” which makes it all the more striking that Bill Peduto responded by saying, "As the Mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future.” [Bill Peduto]
  • And the long-term repercussions for international diplomacy will be significant. The Bush administration pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol (the previous international attempt to address climate change) in 2001, and both then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell have stated that the situation was handled poorly and caused unnecessary damage to America's reputation. [Mother Jones / Rebecca Leber​]

This is probably the last time we’ll spend a whole section on gravitational waves

LIGO/T. Pyle
  • For the third time in less than two years, scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) have detected a “gravitational wave,” a ripple in the fabric of spacetime caused by the collision of two black holes billions of years ago. [Vox / Brian Resnick]
  • When LIGO (which consists of a detector in Louisiana and one in Washington state) came online in late 2015, scientists weren’t sure they’d detect any remnants of collisions. Gravitational waves had been predicted by Einstein, in his theory of general relativity, but couldn’t be empirically observed before LIGO. [Vox / Brian Resnick]
  • But given how frequent their discoveries have been — and with other machines up and running soon — they now anticipate they could find gravitational waves daily.
  • The discoveries so far — especially the one announced Thursday, which was recorded on LIGO in January but which occurred about 3 billion years ago — have provided evidence that Einstein was right, and alternative theories to account for gravity are wrong. But the jury’s still out. [Wired / Sophia Chen]
  • In the meantime, though, LIGO is moving on to questions like how the black holes whose collisions it records came together to begin with (Thursday’s discovery appears to have come from two black holes that came together after they collapsed, rather than two parts of a binary star)... [The Verge / Loren Grush]
  • ...and what happened to the super-duper-ginormous stars from the early days of the universe, before heavier elements were synthesized (they may have simply winked out rather than colliding with anything). [NYT / Dennis Overbye]
  • It’s also by no means certain that black holes are the only thing LIGO will end up detecting. Other strange things could emit gravitational waves, too. And scientists are very excited to find out. [Vox / Brian Resnick]

Miscellaneous

  • Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, has written an op-ed calling for an "East India Company approach" to Afghanistan. Really. This is a real piece of writing in the world we all inhabit together. [WSJ / Erik Prince]
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield explained its decision to stop offering individual health insurance in Iowa in part based on a member who it claimed had $1 million per month in medical bills. We now know that patient is a teenage boy with hemophilia whom insurers are desperately trying to not get saddled with. [Des Moines Register / Tony Leys]
  • If you're worried about academic free speech, you should be worried about Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an assistant professor of African-American studies at Princeton who has been forced to cancel talks in Seattle and San Diego due to racist death threats. [Seattle Weekly / Sara Bernard]
  • Almost every company and employer has a sexual harassment policy these days. So why is harassment still pervasive? [Harvard Business Review / Debbie Dougherty]
  • The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, has precipitated a much larger political crisis — what happens when an entire city's citizenry doesn't trust the government anymore? [BuzzFeed / Bim Adewunmi]

Verbatim

  • “Listen, nobody gives a fuck what Liam thinks about anything.” [Noel Gallagher to NY Mag / Lane Brown]
  • “The history of Africans in the modern West is roughly as follows: Millennia of minding their own business in Africa, followed by 200 years of enslavement by a foreign civilization, followed by 100 years of Jim Crow oppression, followed by fifty years of very incomplete equality and freedom. And now the scientific establishment, apparently even the progressive scientific establishment, is impatient enough with Africans’ social development that it seems reasonable to ask whether the problem is in the descendants of our former slaves’ genes. If that isn’t offensive I don’t know what is.” [Cato Unbound / Eric Turkheimer]
  • “‘Fucking amazing,’ the 28-year-old filmmaker said upon accepting the award in a two-word thank you Cannes organizers described as ‘the shortest acceptance speech ever heard at the Cannes Festival.’” [Sxith Tone / Fergus Ryan]
  • “I lay on the table, looking up at the ceiling. My internal questions played like a tape over and over in my mind: Why am I here? Did New York expect me to carry this baby to term, only to watch him suffer and die? Since then, I’ve tried to answer that second question. The only answer I’ve come up with is: yes.” [Rewire / Erika Christensen]
  • “I don’t feel good. I have belly pains. My girly days are starting to happen. I’m going to have a black coffee with sugar — which I never have on my studio days because it speeds up my vibrato.” [Céline Dion to Billboard / Mickey Rapkin]

Watch this: How the media’s weapons fetish primes us for war

Between the Tomahawk strike on Syria and the MOAB in Afghanistan, cable news under Trump has been saturated by images of American firepower. But the media's obsession with American weapons sanitizes violence and makes it harder to think critically about why we use deadly force. [Vox / Carlos Maza, Coleman Lowndes]


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