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Vox Sentences: You win some, you Samsung

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.

South Korea cracks down on corruption with Samsung chief's sentencing; Thailand's former prime minister flees the country; the US slaps its first economic sanctions on Venezuela.

The chief of Samsung is headed to jail

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
  • South Korean billionaire and the head of Samsung Lee Jae-yong is headed to jail to serve a five-year sentence after being convicted of bribery charges. [Reuters / Joyce Lee and Yuna Park]
  • This is the same bribery scandal that derailed the presidency of Park Geun-hye, who accepted millions in bribes from Lee. She was impeached earlier this year. [BBC]
  • It’s also the first sign that South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, doesn’t intend to follow in Park’s footsteps and is putting teeth into his promise to reform the country’s corrupt financial system. [Vox / Zeeshan Aleem]
  • Bribery and corruption scandals are nothing new for the family that runs Samsung. In fact, Lee’s father, Lee Kun-hee, was convicted twice on corruption and embezzlement charges but was pardoned by the president and didn’t have to serve any time. [NYT / Choe Sang-Hun, Jeyup Kwaak, and Paul Mozur]
  • And it’s not just Samsung — families that run South Korea’s biggest corporations, known as chaebols, have huge power and political sway because they are such an important part of the economy. The leaders of companies including Hyundai and the Hanwha Group have also been convicted and pardoned over the years. [Bloomberg / Shelly Banjoo]
  • Moon campaigned on a promise to lessen the power of these families, increase regulation, and make it easier for small businesses to gain a foothold in South Korea’s economy. [Fortune]

Thailand’s former prime minister just fled the country

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images
  • Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has reportedly fled the country, seeking refuge in Dubai. [CNN / Kocha Olarn]
  • Yingluck’s lawyer said she is in the Middle East seeking medical care, but the former prime minister’s sudden disappearance from Thailand comes just a few days before a verdict is issued in a case alleging she mismanaged rice subsidies. [NYT / Richard Paddock and Ryn Jirenuwat]
  • If she’s convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison and be barred for politics in Thailand. An arrest warrant has been issued since her disappearance. [NYT / Richard Paddock and Ryn Jirenuwat]
  • Thailand has been under military leadership since a 2014 coup ousted Yingluck. Promising they would clean up corruption, military members took power and now make up a significant portion of both the legislative and executive branches, and advise King Maha Vajiralongkorn. [Reuters / Panarat Thepgumpanat and Patpicha Tanakasempipat]
  • The former prime minister and her brother (who was himself ousted as prime minister in 2006) have been struggling with the military and monarchy for years. They rose to power on a message of economic populism. [NYT / Richard Paddock and Ryn Jirenuwat]
  • But Yingluck has also been facing a court case for subsidizing rice and giving farmers twice the market rate for their crops. That was popular in the countryside, but it also lost the government a substantial amount of money. [Financial Times / Don Weinland]
  • Many fear this is the latest sign that Thailand’s democracy is in decline and the country could be headed back to a strict monarchy. The military arrests people who criticize its rule and issues edicts on how it wants citizens to behave. [NPR / Michael Sullivan]

The US puts Venezuela in a financial chokehold

Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images
  • The Trump administration has hit Venezuela with its first round of economic sanctions, trying to cut off the country’s credit lines to the United States. [Miami Herald / Patricia Mazzei and Franco Ordonez]
  • The US is doing this in response to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s stubborn march toward an authoritarian government, with American officials characterizing his rule as a dictatorship. [The Independent / Alexandra Wilts]
  • Specifically, the new sanctions take aim at the ability of Venezuela and its state-owned oil company to sell stocks and bonds in the US and cut off the ability of banks to lend the country money. [Washington Post / Anne Gearan and Anthony Faiola]
  • However, the US is still holding off on imposing a full round of economic sanctions on Venezuela’s oil exports, in large part because the country is one of our biggest oil exporters. [NYT / Clifford Krauss]
  • Venezuela has been in an economic and political crisis for months, caused in part by vast government spending combined with a drop in oil prices. The oil-rich nation is very dependent on the energy market; when oil prices started falling, it was no longer able to support vast social programs (as well as a fair amount of government corruption). For more on the Venezuela crisis, check out the latest from the Vox video team. [Vox / Sam Ellis, Christina Thornell, and Edwin Corona]


  • Earth may have extreme weather, but it literally rains diamonds on Neptune. [Discover Magazine / Nathaniel Scharping]
  • The spelling bee is so last year. High schoolers are taking their data computing skills and competing in a world championship for Microsoft Excel. [Associated Press]
  • How a completely unknown book made it to the top of the New York Times book list and was subsequently kicked off — as told by Book Twitter. [Entertainment Weekly / Christian Holub]
  • Today’s smart fridges can tell you what groceries to buy and suggest recipes, but they can’t do the simplest of tasks: hold a magnet. That is frustrating to people who would just like to display their child’s physical report card. [WSJ / Natalie Andrews]
  • Everything you wanted to know about the Distracted Boyfriend meme but were too afraid to ask. [BuzzFeed / Brad Esposito]


  • “A $22 cheesecake lollipop tree comes with a dollop of bubble gum whipped cream that feels more like putty and tastes not unlike dental fluoride. It is a best-seller.” [NYT / Katie Rogers]
  • “Being a prison wife is not easy. Just like any relationship there will be ups and downs. There have been many times in the past ten years that I have questioned my relationship. But luckily we are still together.” [Cassy Wike to Vice / Luke Winkie]
  • “I travel all over the world with this animal, and the amount of complaints and feedback and questions I hear right now are all, ‘We’ve never seen rats in the city like this before. They’re all expressing the same concern: Our rat problem is worse than ever.” [Bobby Corrigan to the New Republic / Emily Atkin]
  • “We were immediately overwhelmed with what we saw — it was clearly a motel office but filled with hundreds of clown dolls, some small, some large, others smiling happily, and a few with sadistic grins on their faces.” [Bloody Disgusting / Joel Terranova]
  • “The science that’s being done on [magic mushrooms] has taken on more of an air of respectability.” [Researcher Jason Slot to the Atlantic / Ed Yong]

Watch this: Voyager 2’s 11 billion mile journey at a human scale

Forty years later, Voyager 2 is really, really, really far from Earth. [Vox / Mac Schneider and Tian Wang]

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