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Vox Sentences: Iran accuses an American student of espionage after he scanned historical documents

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Brexit negotiations center on citizenship rights; a US graduate student is sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment in Iran; Venezuelans rebuke their president.

Brexit breakdown

Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg via Getty Images
  • The UK is in its second, high-stakes round of Brexit talks, and so far it’s not going very well.
  • Britain’s Brexit Minister David Davis was in Brussels for less than an hour of talks today before flying home. The UK government said the short meeting was planned from the start, but others said it was evidence of an internal division among British officials over what Brexit should look like, resulting in a lack of strategy. [The Guardian / Daniel Boffey and Jennifer Rankin]
  • The meeting was, apparently, long enough to produce a photo op (or, ahem, flop). Sitting across from their European Union counterparts at the negotiating table, British negotiators were photographed sans briefing papers. The EU officials, in contrast, were all leaning on very thick folders. [The Independent / Jon Stone]
  • British Prime Minister Theresa May and Brexit Minister Davis reportedly remain divided on what exactly the UK’s Brexit terms should be, which is weakening their negotiating power with EU officials. [Bloomberg / Alex Morales and Eddie Buckle]
  • This does not bode well given that they are entering a full week of negotiations with the European Union. Talks began on June 19 and are supposed to wrap with a formal announcement this Thursday. [CNN Money / Charles Riley]
  • UK officials reportedly want to start discussing trade, but that’s being held up by a contentious debate about the rights of British nationals who are living in the European Union and EU nationals living in Britain. [The Atlantic / Yasmeen Serhan]
  • Currently, UK residents are free to move around the EU and live in other member states, and EU residents are afforded the same privilege. [BBC / Alex Hunt and Brian Wheeler]
  • May announced that the 3.2 million EU residents who currently live in the UK can apply to stay permanently, as long as they’ve already been living there for at least five years. She said that offer was contingent on UK citizens who live in the EU being able to stay in their respective countries as well. [The Telegraph / Helena Horton]
  • Davis reportedly wanted May to make an unconditional promise to EU citizens that they would be able to remain in Britain, but she was hesitant to do so. [Bloomberg / Alex Morales and Eddie Buckle]
  • There’s already a wrinkle in May’s citizenship plan; Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said any Dutch nationals who become British citizens under May’s terms should no longer consider themselves Dutch. They would be stripped of their Dutch passports and unable to have dual nationality. [The Guardian / Daniel Boffey]
  • Citizenship isn't the only issue impeding talks; UK officials are balking at the EU’s demand they pay more than 60 billion euros as the official cost of leaving. [The Atlantic / Yasmeen Serhan]

Iran imprisons American student

Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  • A Chinese-American graduate student from Princeton University has been sentenced to 10 years in Iranian prison, accused of spying for the United States. [CNN / Shirzad Bozorgmehr and Jay Croft]
  • Xiyue Wang was arrested last summer while working on his doctoral dissertation in history. According to his professor, Wang was collecting and scanning documents related to his study of Iran’s Qajar dynasty. [Associated Press / Adam Schreck]
  • But the Iranian judiciary believed Wang was up to something much more nefarious; they accused him of working as a spy, accessing restricted areas of Tehran libraries and transmitting thousands of “confidential articles” back to the US State Department and universities in the US and UK. [Washington Post / Erin Cunningham and Carol Morello]
  • Wang’s plight speaks to a power struggle going on in Iran right now between the country's hardline judiciary and its more moderate president, Hassan Rouhani. [NYT / Rick Gladstone]
  • Rouhani’s executive branch and the judiciary are separate branches of government, and the judiciary is overseen by that country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. [Frontline]
  • The hardline judiciary and Rouhani have been clashing recently; on the same day Wang was sentenced, a judiciary spokesperson announced they had arrested Rouhani’s brother, Hossein Fereydoun, on corruption charges. Fereydoun serves as an aide to the president, and Rouhani’s supporters have decried the arrest as politically motivated. [Reuters]
  • Wang’s sentencing also coincides with President Trump’s Monday deadline to decide whether to renew the controversial Iran nuclear deal approved under the Obama administration. Despite Trump’s rhetoric against the deal, he is expected to approve it. [BuzzFeed / Mark Seibel]
  • Wang is the first American imprisoned by Iran since the nuclear deal went through, but he's far from the first American to be imprisoned by Iran.
  • Iranian-American Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian spent a year and a half in prison on charges of spying and “collaborating with hostile governments.” He and four other Americans were released in a prisoner swap as part of the nuclear deal between the US and Iran. [Washington Post / Carol Morello, Karen DeYoung, William Branigin, and Joby Warrick]
  • Conditions in Iranian prisons are notoriously bad, according to former prisoners. Prisoners have to endure solitary confinement and interrogations designed to force confession. [Mother Jones / Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal, and Sarah Shourd]
  • Wang can appeal the judiciary's ruling, and a spokesperson from Princeton said it has been working with the US government to secure his release. [Washington Post / Erin Cunningham]

Venezuelans push back on Maduro

Mario Tama/Getty Images
  • Amid deepening political unrest, millions of Venezuelans delivered a blow to President Nicolás Maduro's tenuous mandate in a Sunday referendum by voting against his planned overhaul of the country’s constitution. [Associated Press]
  • The referendum was organized by parties that oppose Maduro. About 7 million people cast ballots, and opposition parties and independent arbiters reported that 98 percent opposed the president’s plan to install a new constituent legislature tasked with drafting a brand new constitution. [LA Times / Mery Mogollon and Patrick J. McDonnell]
  • The vote was essentially symbolic and won’t prompt any immediate changes in the Venezuelan government. [LA Times / Mery Mogollon and Patrick J. McDonnell]
  • But it’s a clear sign that Maduro and his planned overhaul of the constitution are massively unpopular. Many fear Maduro will use the opportunity to give himself unchecked power. [Washington Post / Rachelle Krygier and Nick Miroff]
  • Right now, the country’s national assembly is one of the few branches of government that contains Maduro opponents, which is why the president is eyeing a shake-up. Venezuelans have been suffering under food and fuel shortages for months, with a government many see as corrupt and mismanaged. [Reuters / Carina Pons and Brian Ellsworth]
  • In Sunday’s vote, a majority of voters also signaled their support for new elections in 2019, and requested the Venezuelan military step in and defend the existing constitution in the meantime. [CNN / Marilia Brocchetto and Hilary Clarke]
  • These results are galvanizing the opposition, who said they plan to follow up the vote with a national strike. [Washington Post / Rachelle Krygier and Nick Miroff]


  • “Forest bathing” is the new trend in outdoor recreation. But the name is a bit misleading — there’s no actual bathing involved. [NPR / Allison Aubrey]
  • A VA hospital in Manchester, New Hampshire, had a recurring fly infestation in one of its operating rooms and surgical tools that were not sterilized. And yet the hospital recently received a four-star rating, which patients and doctors say does not reflect the actual standards of care. [Boston Globe / Jonathan Saltzman and Andrea Estes]
  • The US has infrastructure problems that extend all the way to American research laboratories in Antarctica, where buildings and equipment are in a state of serious disrepair. [NYT / Justin Gillis and Jonathan Corum]
  • State regulators in Texas dole out small fines to huge energy companies when big things go wrong, like machines exploding and thousands of tons of chemicals spewing into the air. [Texas Tribune / Kiah Collier and Ryan Murphy]
  • As intensity gathers around the Russia investigation, former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn has been avoiding the spotlight — and hitting the surf — in his hometown in Rhode Island. ['Michelle Smith and Jennifer McDermott]


  • “Irene walked Lincoln Road every day for decades, and her homemade Dr. Seuss-vibrant dresses made her synonymous with South Beach. In the 1990s globetrotting gay men flocked to Irene like she was the hottest tourist attraction below the Mason-Dixon Line.” [Broadly / Mitchell Sunderland]
  • “You don’t have the right to go into your lab and build something that is ineluctably designed to affect entire ecosystems. If it escapes into the wild, it would be expected to spread and affect people’s lives in unknown ways. Doing that in secret denies people a voice.” [Kevin Esvelt to The Atlantic / Ed Yong]
  • “Rather, the accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.’” [US Department of Education official Candice Jackson to NYT / Erica Green and Sheryl Gay Stolberg]
  • “Those emoji include soon-to-be classics like the ‘Exploding Head,’ ‘Crazy Face,’ ‘Face With Monocle,’ and ‘Sandwich’ emoji, along with an oddly long list of fantasy-themed emoji. (Was anyone really asking for Mage, Fairy, Vampire, Merperson, Elf, Genie, and Zombie emoji?)” [The Verge / Chaim Gartenberg]
  • “It was as if she was brainwashed. [She] looked like a prisoner — it was horrible. I hugged her and hugged her. But she just kept saying she’s in love and [R. Kelly] is the one who cares for her. I hope that if I get her back, I can get her treatment for victims of cults. They can reprogram her. But I wish I could have stopped it from happening.” [J to BuzzFeed / Jim DeRogatis]

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