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Vox Sentences: Watch the Throne

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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman selects his son to be his successor; fresh outrage after new video shows Philando Castile’s final moments; Travis Kalanick is officially out as Uber’s CEO.


Game of Thrones, but for a giant oil monarchy

World Leaders Gather In New York For Annual United Nations General Assembly Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
  • This morning saw a dramatic shake-up in Saudi Arabia’s power structure, as King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz skipped over the man who was next in line to succeed him and appointed his own son instead.
  • Salman’s young son — 31-year-old Mohammed bin Salman — will now assume power when the 81-year-old king dies. His 57-year-old nephew, former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, is out of the line of succession. [NYT / Ben Hubbard]
  • Bin Nayef previously served as Saudi Arabia’s interior minister and deputy prime minister. He was popular, both in the country and with US officials, for his intense focus on getting rid of ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorist cells in the country (he survived a 2009 assassination attempt for his efforts). [Brookings Institution / Bruce Riedel]
  • But in the past year, bin Nayef had been keeping a fairly low profile, while bin Salman has increasingly become the country’s public face. The king’s son has been heading up its military campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen and overseeing the country’s economy. [WSJ / Summer Said and Michael Amon]
  • Saudi Arabia is a monarchy, so all power shifts happen within the large royal family.
  • King Salman came to power in 2015, after his brother former King Abdullah died. It’s the second time in two years that the monarch has bypassed the established order in naming a successor. [BBC]
  • Upon taking power, Salman reshuffled the line of heirs when he announced bin Nayef would become crown prince, rather than his half-brother and the only other remaining heir to the throne, Muqrin bin Abdul-Aziz. [BBC]
  • Bin Salman taking power has been a concerning prospect for US officials ever since his initial rise two years ago. Last year, officials in the Obama administration said they believed he was too reckless, getting embroiled in conflicts in Yemen and taking gambles with the country’s economy. But they conceded they had no choice but to support him, fearing that jihadists would take over the country otherwise. [NBC / Robert Windrem and William Arkin]
  • The news also has important implications for the economy of the oil-rich nation, which has been suffering as oil barrel prices fall. Bin Salman is a supporter of OPEC’s effort to limit worldwide oil production as a way to prop up prices. [NYT / Stanley Reed​]

Who’s out at Uber? Everyone, apparently.

Money Sharma / Getty Images
  • After many scandal-ridden weeks, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is officially out.
  • The embattled CEO of the ride-hailing giant officially resigned on Tuesday, after intense pressure from investors who wanted him gone. However, Kalanick will remain on the company’s board of directors. [NYT / Mike Isaac]
  • One of the main people who wanted him out was another company board member, Bill Gurley, who was also a major investor. Gurley was reportedly the person who was able to lead fellow investors away from Kalanick’s corner. [Washington Post / Todd C. Frankel and Elizabeth Dwoskin]
  • After a rash of scandals at Uber — and a subsequent rash of other Uber executives resigning — there are a lot of vacant spots open in the company’s leadership. For most of 2017, Uber has been operating without a CEO, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, or chief marketing officer. Some in the company were reportedly afraid they would not be able to fill any of those spots or recruit new talent if Kalanick stayed on. [Washington Post / Todd C. Frankel and Elizabeth Dwoskin]
  • Now there’s a lot of speculation about who could replace him as CEO. Among the names being tossed around: Disney COO Thomas Staggs, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and former Ford CEO Alan Mulally. [Recode / Johana Bhuiyan]
  • Uber had long been known for a cutthroat corporate culture and aggressively pushing into transportation markets around the world, but increasing concerns about sexual harassment started this year after a former employee published a lengthy blog post about her experience being propositioned by male managers and having her concerns ignored by other Uber officials. [Susan Fowler Blog]
  • A series of scandals followed, the most recent involving Uber board member David Bonderman cracking a sexist joke in the middle of a board meeting to address sexual harassment. [Yahoo Finance / J.P. Mangalindan]
  • With the company trying to demonstrate it is making good on its promises to improve, it remains to be seen whether Uber will be able to keep its hold on the ride-hailing market, or if competitors such as Lyft will be able to get greater control. The company known for its pink colors and fluffy mustaches has been busy trying to position itself as a friendlier alternative to Uber. [Vox / Ezra Klein​]

“I don’t want you to get shooted”

Philando Castile and his mother, Valerie Castile.
Valerie Castile and Philando Castile
Facebook
  • Graphic dash-cam video of Philando Castile’s fatal shooting by Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez was released days after a jury acquitted Yanez on all counts.
  • Castile was one of 963 people fatally shot by police last year, but his killing sparked national attention when it was live-streamed on Facebook by his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds. [Washington Post / Mark Berman]
  • The newly released video shows a clearer picture of how a routine motorist stop turned deadly within just 62 seconds. [Minneapolis Star Tribune / Chao Xiong and Andy Mannix]
  • Shortly before Yanez started shooting, the video shows Castile calmly informing the officer that he was carrying a firearm, for which he had a permit. Yanez quickly became agitated, telling him not to reach for the gun. Castile said he was not reaching for it, to which Yanez raised his voice, screaming at Castile, “Don’t pull it out,” then quickly pointed his own gun into the window and fired seven rounds, killing Castile. [NYT / Mitch Smith]
  • As he lay dying, Castile could be heard softly saying that he wasn’t reaching for his gun. The released materials also showed heartbreaking video of Reynolds’s 4-year-old daughter telling her mother not to provoke police further, because “I don’t want you to get shooted.” [Tony Webster via Twitter]
  • Yanez faced two felony counts, one for second-degree manslaughter and another for recklessly discharging his firearm. He was acquitted on both, sparking mass protests in St. Paul. [NPR / Merrit Kennedy]
  • It’s the latest in a long line of criminal justice cases involving police officers shooting black men. Analysis shows African Americans are disproportionate victims of police shootings, accounting for 31 percent of victims in 2012 while making up just 13 percent of the population. [Vox / Dara Lind]
  • The Minnesota verdict has also drawn criticism from gun rights advocates, who argue there was no way for Castile to follow both of Yanez’s commands in that moment: to hand over his license and registration while simultaneously being screamed at not to reach for “it.” [National Review / David French]
  • But there’s a lot of debate about whether the Second Amendment gives equal protection to white and black citizens; a recent sociological study found African Americans who carried firearms were targeted by police more frequently. [The Atlantic / David Graham]
  • And the fact remains that police officers are unlikely to face prosecution for shootings, because their version of events is often believed over that of the victim. And in the cases that do go to court, a fraction of police officers are convicted. [National Police Misconduct Reporting Project / David Packman]
  • Just how hard it is to get a conviction in a police shooting was underlined Wednesday, when former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown was acquitted after fatally shooting Sylville Smith last year. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / Bruce Vielmetti​]

Miscellaneous

  • Tennessee is one of the states that never expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. As a result, hundreds of people who can’t afford health insurance sleep overnight in their cars in the parking lots of free health clinics, the only places they can get care. [NPR / Sarah McCammon]
  • Chelsea Manning was sent to prison seven years ago for leaking national security information. But a newly released report by the Department of Defense says Manning’s leaks were not a threat to the country’s national security. [BuzzFeed / Jason Leopold]
  • The brain drain is hitting West Virginia coal country hard, as many young people are leaving rural Appalachia with no plans to return. [CNN / Drew Kann]
  • A pharmaceutical company took two cheap over-the-counter drugs, Aleve and Nexium, and combined them to make a so-called “convenience drug.” The inconvenient part? It’s way more expensive. [ProPublica / Marshall Allen]
  • There’s still a severe wage gap in America; the top 1 percent of earners made an average of $1.3 million in 2014, while the bottom 50 percent made just $16,000 that same year. [Axios / Christopher Matthews]

Verbatim

  • “This was our new toe, and it was a really good one. We just started using it this weekend.” [Geri Coulbourne to CBC / Paul Tukker]
  • “When the perpetrator is Muslim, you can expect that attack to receive about four and a half times more media coverage than if the perpetrator was not Muslim. You see that — perpetrator who is not Muslim would have to kill on average about seven more people to receive the same amount of coverage as a perpetrator who's Muslim.” [Erin Kearns to NPR / Shankar Vedantam]
  • “One lesson for Democrats would therefore seem to be to look at a mix of indicators for the competitiveness and partisanship of a district, rather than focusing on the 2016 presidential result alone. Trump’s popularity will be a key factor, but so could the long term partisan lean of the district and how it has voted for Congress in the past.” [FiveThirtyEight / Nate Silver]
  • "It’s equally indebted to Dan Brown potboilers and Roland Emmerich disaster movies, with a quasi-dystopian setting (which the movie quickly forgets) and a crazy pseudo-historical backstory that recounts, among other things, how King Arthur and The Knights Of The Round Table were real (but Merlin was a drunk), how the Transformers killed Hitler, and how Shakespeare and Frederick Douglass both knew about the cybernetic organisms that turn into cars." [A.V. Club / Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]
  • “To hear some lawmakers tell it, the female breast exposed in public has the power to destroy the moral fabric of the nation. A woman going topless would subject children to pornography, they say. Families would no longer have the right to enjoy public parks and beaches, which would constitute a threat to the democratic way of life.” [Washington Post / Courtland Milloy]

Watch this: Decoding the ancient astronomy of Stonehenge

The solstice alignments of Stonehenge, explained. [YouTube / Joss Fong]


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