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Vox Sentences: Breaking up is hard to do

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Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez faces an imminent corruption trial with big political implications; Google and Walmart team up to challenge Amazon; the British government tries to iron out Brexit wrinkles.


Menendez mania

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  • US Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, will soon go on trial for corruption charges, in a case that could have far-reaching political consequences. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • Menendez is being accused of accepting bribes from a friend and supporter named Dr. Salomon Melgen, who allegedly gave Menendez rides on his private plane and thousands of dollars for his campaigns. [NJ.com / Brent Johnson]
  • Melgen has faced his fair share of legal problems, including fraud cases for overbilling Medicare and Medicaid by $90 million. Menendez has openly admitted he tried to help out Melgen by talking to federal officials about the billing dispute, but has maintained that that in itself wasn’t an illegal act. [NJ.com / Brent Johnson]
  • The main question here is whether Menendez was treating Melgen as a normal constituent, or if the extra financial incentives made him go above and beyond. The act of talking may not be enough to convict Menendez, and prosecutors likely will have to demonstrate that Menendez was actually able to successfully intervene on Melgen’s behalf in exchange for bribes. [Politico / Josh Gerstein]
  • Menendez’s future is hugely important to Senate Democrats and their already diminished political power. If Menendez is convicted and resigns, New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, has the power to appoint a replacement, who would almost certainly be a Republican. [NYT / Shane Goldmacher]
  • Republicans already have a majority in the Senate, but they lost out on their bid to repeal Obamacare by one vote. Right now, bringing back another health care vote seems unlikely, but a Republican in Menendez’s place could help their cause. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • The Menendez trial will start in a few weeks and is expected to wrap up in two months. [Associated Press]

Google and Walmart are teaming up to beat Amazon at its own game

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  • Google and Walmart are teaming up to try to muscle out competitor Amazon in the world of online retail. [NPR / Scott Neuman]
  • Today Walmart announced its products will be sold on Google’s online retail service Google Express, in addition to its own website. [Walmart / Mark Lore]
  • The move is mutually beneficial for the companies; Google has the big technological strength, while Walmart has the products — hundreds of thousands of them. [Recode / Jason Del Ray]
  • It also represents a big leap by Walmart into voice-activated shopping, as customers will be able to use Google’s technology to tell their smartphones or their Google Home devices what to buy. [WSJ / Jack Nicas and Lauren Stevens]
  • But it’s not going to be easy. Amazon still has a big leg up; its inventory is far larger than any other online retailer, and it boasts a formidable home delivery system with Amazon Prime. [NYT / Daisuke Wakabayashi and Michael Corkery]
  • And according to a survey conducted last year, 55 percent of consumers said they went straight to Amazon’s website to search for products, rather than Googling them on their browser. [Bloomberg / Spencer Soper]
  • Meanwhile, Amazon’s quest for global shopping domination continues, as Whole Foods shareholders and the Federal Trade Commission signed off on the sale of the grocery chain to Amazon, clearing another hurdle for the retail giant to move into the grocery business. [CNBC / Lauren Thomas]

Brexit breakup woes continue

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  • The latest Brexit fight between Britain and the European Union is over the courts. [BuzzFeed UK / Alex Spence]
  • Despite British Prime Minister Theresa May’s promise that Britain would no longer be under the jurisdiction of European Union courts after Brexit, people are realizing that will be really hard to do as final deals are being hammered out. [Sky News / Alessandra Rizzo]
  • A new British government position paper says there’s no way for Britain to completely shut out the European Court of Justice, which interprets EU legal matters, as it breaks up with the EU and negotiates new agreements. [BBC / Clive Coleman]
  • While the British supreme court will become the new highest legal authority in Britain post-Brexit, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg could still have a say on certain legal matters that involve both the EU and Britain, including trade and immigration policy. It could still weigh in even after full Brexit in 2019. [The Guardian / Dan Roberts and Owen Bowcott]
  • It's been a week full of bad Brexit news. The latest was a flub where British officials sent out dozens of erroneous letters to EU nationals who live in the UK, telling them they had to leave. [Reuters / Alistair Smout]
  • Immigration and trade deals continue to be hammered out, and other things like airline travel have also come up. Airline carriers are urging the government to strike a deal with the EU, fretting that they won’t be able to offer flights between Europe and Britain without one. [The Guardian / Gwyn Topham]

Miscellaneous

  • Former CIA agent Valerie Plame has a new cause: crowdfunding $1 billion so she can buy Twitter and kick President Trump off it. She still has about $900,004,000 left to raise. [Associated Press]
  • Scientists want to recycle astronaut urine and carbon dioxide from exhaled breaths and turn it into vitamins to give them an extra boost on space missions. [Stat / Catherine Caruso]
  • The Twitter hashtag was first conceived as a fun way to group chat 10 years ago today ... long before anyone knew how many headaches it would create. [Recode / Meghann Farnsworth]
  • A woman who was arrested by Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents in New Mexico is suing the government, saying an agent formed a romantic relationship with her and then convinced her to buy drugs ... which she was then arrested for. [Santa Fe Reporter / Jeff Proctor]
  • New York City’s Village Voice is the latest alt-weekly newspaper to go under, another signal of the gradual disappearance of local storytelling, as opposed to straight newsgathering. [CityLab / David Dudley]

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