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Vox Sentences: Opposition leaders are disappearing in Venezuela

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A new lawsuit alleges White House involvement in Fox News's false Seth Rich story; the Venezuelan president gets unchecked powers after "sham election"; a White House commission wants Trump to declare the opioid epidemic a state of emergency.


Trump may have had the inside scoop on literal fake news

Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • On Tuesday, NPR reported on a new lawsuit alleging that the Trump administration reviewed the erroneous and explosive Fox News report about slain DNC staffer Seth Rich before it aired. [NPR / David Folkenflik]
  • The lawsuit was filed by Rod Wheeler, a longtime paid Fox commentator. In it, Wheeler alleges that President Trump himself and members of his staff had intense interest in the Seth Rich story, in part to divert attention from the Russia investigation, and that Trump reviewed the story before it was broadcast. [NPR / David Folkenflik]
  • His lawsuit also contains the explosive detail that members of the Trump administration, including former press secretary Sean Spicer and Trump himself, read the story before it aired. [Vox / Jeff Stein]
  • The detail that Trump reviewed the story before publication is hugely important, especially because NPR already got Spicer to confirm it. [Washington Post / Margaret Sullivan]
  • Rich, a former Democratic National Committee aide, was killed in Washington, DC, in July 2016. Police said the incident was related to an attempted armed robbery, but the case was never solved. [CNN / Faith Karimi]
  • Rich’s killing coincided with the first WikiLeaks release of DNC emails. [Washington Post / Philip Bump]
  • Those two events served as the foundation of what eventually became the Seth Rich conspiracy theory: that he was behind the WikiLeaks document dump and that someone at the DNC wanted to take him out. [Washington Post / Philip Bump]
  • Fox ran with the story, with network hosts like Sean Hannity using it to discredit the theory that Russia had hacked the DNC to help Trump. The network ultimately removed the story, admitting it was erroneous. [NYT / Jim Rutenberg]
  • Now, Wheeler’s lawsuit alleges that the Fox reporter who did the story, Malia Zimmerman, fabricated quotes that were attributed to Wheeler. [NPR / David Folkenflik]
  • Key players named in the lawsuit are already disputing some of the claims, and the White House is refuting involvement. The suit is a long way from being decided, but it is yet another controversy coming out of an already controversial White House. [Vox / Jeff Stein]

Volatility in Venezuela

Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images
  • Venezuela is sliding dangerously close to dictatorship.
  • On Sunday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro won a key victory. The country held an election, the results of which will give Venezuela’s legislature the power to rewrite the constitution and dismiss anyone in the government it sees as disloyal. The legislature is notoriously full of Maduro supporters. [Vox / Zeeshan Aleem]
  • Turnout in Sunday election varies, depending on whom you ask; Maduro loyalists say about 41 percent of the population voted, while opposition parties say it’s closer to 15 percent, with the majority of Venezuelans staging an election boycott. [Vox / Zeeshan Aleem]
  • It’s difficult to verify what actually happened in Sunday's election because there were no independent election observers and no protections put in place to keep people from voting more than once. [BBC / Katy Watson]
  • Early this morning, two prominent members of the opposition party were arrested and taken from their homes. Their families say they don’t know where they are being held. [CNN / Euan McKirdy, Jason Hanna, and Flora Charner]
  • Meanwhile, US officials and Maduro’s opponents alike are calling the election a sham. The US hit Venezuela with sanctions to try to pressure Maduro to hold off on the election; American officials have since ramped up sanctions pressure on the president himself. [The Guardian / Virginia López and Sibylla Brodzinsky]
  • The US is currently considering additional economic measures but so far has held off on an outright ban of Venezuelan oil imports, because the country supplies a large portion of US oil. [WSJ / Christopher M. Matthews and José de Córdoba]

Trump’s opioid commission wants a state of emergency declared

Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • A presidential commission to study America’s deadly opioid crisis just released its recommendations. Chief among them, the commission is asking President Trump to declare a state of emergency over the opioid epidemic. [CNN / Wayne Drash]
  • That’s because of how deadly opioids and illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl have become in the United States. Drug overdoses are killing 142 Americans every day; in 2016, drug overdoses were estimated to have killed more Americans than the wars in Vietnam and Iraq together. [Vox / German Lopez]
  • The report released by the commission is largely in line with existing public health recommendations to deal with addiction: expand drug treatment, require health insurance to cover drug and mental health treatment, and stop throwing those suffering from addiction in jail. [FiveThirtyEight / Kathryn Casteel]
  • In one respect, the commission is actually at odds with the Trump administration: It advocates the use of medication-assisted treatment like methadone and buprenorphine to help users stay off illicit drugs while avoiding sickness from withdrawal. [Office of National Drug Control Policy]
  • Earlier this year, Trump’s health and human services secretary, Tom Price, suggested that medication-assisted treatments were substituting one form of addiction for another, and advocated complete abstinence. He subsequently earned criticism from addiction experts around the country. [Baltimore Sun / Minu Aghevli]
  • As Vox’s German Lopez writes, there’s a lot of good evidence-based research on how we can solve the opioid crisis, including by preventing future generations of drug users and expanding treatment. [Vox / German Lopez]
  • But it’s going to take more money, more resources and a successful effort to destigmatize addiction, frequently seen as a moral failing rather than a curable illness. [Vox / German Lopez]

Miscellaneous

  • Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the difference between cold-brew coffee and iced coffee but were too afraid to ask. [Man Repeller / Haley Nahman]
  • In China, pressure to settle down and get married can be so intense that some people resort to hiring fake girlfriends and boyfriends to come home and meet their families (and get them to stop asking questions). [Washington Post / Kenneth Dickerman]
  • More immigrants seeking asylum in the US are facing an increasingly difficult choice: appear in front of an immigration judge and risk deportation, or don’t show up and get threatened with arrest. [The Marshall Project / Julia Preston]
  • Twelve inmates staged a jailbreak in Alabama — using peanut butter. [AL.com / Carol Robinson]
  • Scientists are increasingly preparing to run for Congress, in the latest example of backlash against the Trump administration and its attitudes toward science and climate change. [Mother Jones / Tim Murphy]

Verbatim

  • “An off-road wheelchair is between £12,500 and £16,000. We can’t afford to buy him that. It’s just like needing school shoes and wellies to go through the mud, but his wellies cost £16,000.” [Jackie Lincoln to BuzzFeed / Emily Dugan and Tom Phillips]
  • “It was we conservatives who rightly and robustly asserted our constitutional prerogatives as a co-equal branch of government when a Democrat was in the White House but who, despite solemn vows to do the same in the event of a Trump presidency, have maintained an unnerving silence as instability has ensued.” [Politico / Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake]
  • “There are hoes and then there are women. As a teenager I could go either way. But as a relative I could go only one way: I would not be a ho.” [NYT / Tressie McMillan Cottom]
  • "Maybe we could have Dad sat (sic) on a horse, top off, giving the full Putin! He's in better shape than his suits suggest." [Email prankster @SINON_REBORN posing as Eric Trump, as reported by CNN / Jake Tapper]
  • “Phthalates are probably a problem in our food system, but macaroni and cheese is not a unique problem, and if it’s one of the few highly processed foods that you eat, risk of phthalate toxicity is as close to zero as possible.” [The Atlantic / James Hamblin]

Watch this: Medicaid, explained: why it’s worse to be sick in some states than in others

Where you live could mean the difference between life and death. [YouTube / Liz Scheltens and Mallory Brangan]


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