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Vox Sentences: More immigrants are attempting deadly crossings into the US

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

An immigration horror story; Poland's presidential veto of two judicial reform bills; the Trump administration's quiet elimination of federal funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs.


A dangerous crossing

Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP/Getty Images
  • Ten immigrants died in the back of a brutally hot tractor-trailer in a San Antonio Walmart parking lot this weekend, as temperatures in the area soared above 100 degrees. [San Antonio Express News / Guillermo Contreras and Emilie Eaton]
  • They are the victims of what authorities believe to be an illicit immigrant smuggling operation. There were nearly 40 people packed into the metal trailer, which lacked air conditioning. [Washington Post / Eva Ruth Moravec, Todd C. Frankel, and Avi Selk]
  • The latest deaths are part of a troubling trend that appears to be on the rise: undocumented immigrants being smuggled in by way of tractor-trailers or other closed containers. Border agents in Texas have increasingly discovered people being smuggled in this way in recent months, including 72 Latin American immigrants discovered in a trailer in the border city of Laredo. [Associated Press / Michael Tarm]
  • Local activists say they fear a crackdown on immigration under Trump will push more immigrants to attempt secretive and deadly journeys by way of commercial trucking. [San Antonio Express News / Jason Buch]
  • Texas has a long history with smuggling stories ending in tragedies, including a similar case from 2003 in which 19 immigrants suffocated in the back of an 18-wheeler. [Houston Chronicle / Keri Blakinger]
  • The driver transporting the immigrants is a Florida man named James Bradley, who does not own the truck and told investigators he was not aware that he was transporting human cargo. [NYT / David Montgomery and Richard Perez-Pena]
  • Bradley is being charged with a federal law that prohibits smuggling illegal immigrants and carries additional steep penalties if they die along the way. If convicted, he could face a maximum penalty of the death sentence or life in prison. [NYT / David Montgomery and Richard Perez-Pena]

Poland’s president curbs controversial reforms

Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • In a surprise move, Polish President Andrzej Duda announced he plans to veto two bills proposed by the Polish legislature that would dismantle the Supreme Court and give the president the authority to handpick new judges. [Vox / Lindsay Maizland]
  • By doing so, Duda bucked the ruling Law and Justice Party and its move to bring the Polish judiciary under its control. [The Guardian / Kate Connolly]
  • It’s a sign of political defiance from Duda to another very powerful politician, Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski. [Financial Times / James Shotter]
  • Law and Justice backed Duda’s candidacy, and many expected the president would rubber-stamp their political agenda. Now that appears not to be the case. [Financial Times / James Shotter]
  • The announcement comes amid mounting pressure at home and abroad to kill the legislation; the two bills prompted massive street protests in more than 100 Polish cities, with many people saying the attempt to consolidate power felt like a return to Poland’s communist era. [CNN / Antonia Mortensen, Joe Sterling and Angela Dewan]
  • The European Union also vehemently spoke out against the attempt to weaken Poland’s judicial branch, threatening to slap additional sanctions on the country and possibly even take away its voting member status. [Politico / Maia De La Baume]
  • It's worth noting that while the vetoes come as a relief to many in Poland and abroad, Duda also approved a third piece of legislation that will dramatically change Poland’s lower courts, giving the country’s justice minister broad authority over them. [Bloomberg / Wojciech Moskwa and Dorota Bartyzel]

The Trump administration moves toward abstinence-only sex education for teens

Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images
  • A few weeks ago, the Trump administration quietly pulled the plug on more than $200 million worth of federal funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs around the country. [NPR / Audie Cornish]
  • The grants were funding research on the most effective forms of preventing teen pregnancy. These projects were three years into a five-year grant period when the funding was axed, leaving researchers scrambling to come up with the money elsewhere. [Austin American-Statesman / Taylor Goldenstein]
  • The move reportedly came from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the US Department of Health and Human Services; Trump recently appointed a well-known abstinence-only education advocate named Valerie Huber to be the office’s chief of staff. [Reveal / Jane Kay]
  • Cutting the funding is unusual, both because the grants were already in place and because the cuts happened outside the normal congressional budget process. [Wired / Megan Molteni]
  • Many of the programs were notified with a letter saying their research was no longer in the government’s best interest. This has prevention advocates concerned that the Trump administration is returning to an era of abstinence-only sex education. [Reveal / Jane Kay]
  • Abstinence-only education, which was the standard up until President Obama took office, was discontinued in favor of research into comprehensive, evidenced-based sex education classes for teens. [Bustle / Bronwyn Isaac]
  • Abstinence-only programs have proven unsuccessful at lowering teen pregnancy rates, and some studies have shown that they may actually make those rates higher. [PLOS One / Kathrin Stanger-Hall, and David Hall]
  • The move comes at a critical time, when teen pregnancy rates have been trending downward due to a combination of better access to contraception and better sex education. [Pew Research / Eileen Patten and Gretchen Livingston]

Miscellaneous

  • The Russians Jared Kushner met with during the presidential campaign last year gifted him with a literal bag of dirt, from his grandparents' village in Belarus. [BuzzFeed / Francis Whittaker]
  • There’s a huge legal battle brewing in Texas over the lack of air conditioning — and inhumane temperatures — in the state’s jails. [Texas Tribune / Jolie McCullough]
  • Michael Phelps was supposed to race a great white shark this weekend on a much-hyped Discovery Channel special. The race aired, but hardly as advertised. [Washington Post / Emily Yahr]
  • People looking for evidence that Venezuela’s political crisis has spiraled out of control need look no further than the Caracas zoo, where emaciated animals roam freely, looking for food — and are occasionally stolen by hungry people. [LA Times / Mery Mogollon and Chris Kraul]
  • In Arkansas, small rural hospitals that depend on Medicaid expansion money say their uncompensated care costs will rise dramatically if Senate Republicans successfully repeal the Affordable Care Act. [Arkansas Nonprofit News Network / Benjamin Hardy]

Verbatim

  • “If the president asks you, you don’t say no. I have rocks in my head and steel balls.” [Ty Cobb to National Law Journal / Katelyn Polantz]
  • “My mother was devastated. She wanted an Indian wedding. I asked why it was important. ‘Because we are Indian. I am Indian,’ my mother said. South Asian weddings, generally, are about a marriage of two families, rather than two individuals.” [NYT / Sopan Deb]
  • “What researchers already knew is that as they battle, the male elephant seals call out in rhythmic clicks or grunts that announce their identities. A few clicks may say: ‘I am Antonio, the Elephant Seal King,’ ‘I am Paul, Prince of the Elephant Seals,’ or ‘Hi, I’m Joe — just an average citizen seal here to learn.’” [NYT / Joanna Klein]
  • “There exists a little-known, government-sponsored marketing group called Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), whose job it is to squeeze as much milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt as it can into food sold both at home and abroad. ... For the past eight years, the group has been the hidden hand guiding most of fast food’s dairy hits — a kind of Illuminati of cheese — including and especially the Quesalupa.” [Bloomberg / Clint Rainey]
  • “The Chainsmokers’ music is so modern and inorganic, so much what aliens would sing to humans to lull us into complacency, that it's always on the edge of the uncanny valley. Their recurring themes of nostalgia and, especially, nature, seem like a kind of campaign to reassure fans that they’re human.” [BuzzFeed / Mae Rice]

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