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Vox Sentences: The Art of the Democratic Deal

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Trump signals a deal with Democrats on immigration; more questions swirl around the strange sonic attack on American diplomats in Cuba; after Irma and Harvey floodwaters recede, the pollution lingers.

The Art of the Deal: Chuck and Nancy edition

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  • A week after he took everyone by surprise by siding with Democrats on a debt ceiling deal, President Trump appears to be on the verge of doing something similar with immigration. [Vox / Tara Golshan and Alexia Fernández Campbell]
  • Details are still being worked out, but Democrats are trying to hammer out a deal with the president to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for young unauthorized immigrants brought to the US as kids, which the Trump administration said it was ending a few weeks ago. [Vox / Dara Lind]
  • In exchange for Trump extending the program, the Democrats have said they’re prepared fund more surveillance and security measures on the southern US border, as long as there’s no money in there for a wall. [Politico / Burgess Everett, Josh Dawsey, Rachael Bade, and Louis Nelson]
  • That could prove to be a sticking point; in tweets Thursday morning, Trump appeared to suggest the wall was nonnegotiable. But a few hours later, he told reporters that working on DACA was a main priority and “the wall will come later.” [NYT / Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Yamiche Alcindor]
  • But all of this is overshadowed by the appearance that Trump seems to be enjoying working more with congressional Democrats than he does with members of his own party, with whom he’s publicly feuded in the past. [Washington Post / Ashley Parker and Robert Costa]
  • It’s also a slap in the face to many of Trump’s most loyal supporters. Immigration was one of the key issues for them in the 2016 campaign, and a deal with protections for DREAMers and no border wall is against everything Trump promised his base. [National Review / Fred Bauer]
  • So the reaction today was swift, with the usually pro-Trump outlet Breitbart (now being run again by former Trump aide Steve Bannon) calling the president "Amnesty Don." Conservative commentator Ann Coulter suggested Trump should be impeached over the whole thing. [Vox / German Lopez]
  • Congressional Republicans are posturing, reminding people that these are beginning discussions and any deal has to get through them. But Trump’s second allegiance with Democrats is bad news for them, and they’re rattled by the president’s shifting alliances. [Washington Post / Elise Viebeck, Ed O'Keefe, and Mike DeBonis]

The mysterious case of the sonic attack in the nighttime

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  • More than 20 American and Canadian diplomats to Cuba and their families came down with a strange illness in Havana earlier this year, and officials are wondering if it could have been caused by a sonic weapon — which uses sound to cause injury such as hearing loss. [BuzzFeed / Jim Dalrymple II]
  • It’s a very weird story that's only getting weirder. The Associated Press reported today that some of the victims are now experiencing symptoms like memory loss and other forms of mild brain damage — which experts say could not be caused by a sonic weapon. [Associated Press / Josh Lederman, Michael Weissenstein, and Matthew Lee]
  • Harassment of diplomats is nothing new in Cuba. Especially when American-Cuban relations were at a low point, government spies would do things to inconvenience and annoy the American diplomats living there, like draining their spare water supply or rearrange their living rooms. [Vox / Alex Ward]
  • But those provocations were put on hold when President Obama reestablished diplomatic ties with Cuba in 2014. Relations between the two countries have gone south since Trump took office and promised to go back on that deal. [Vox / Alex Ward]
  • Diplomats affected by the attack said they heard a “deafeningly loud sound” they likened to insects buzzing or metal scraping across a floor, while others said they heard nothing at all before they started to experience symptoms. [CNN / Patrick Oppmann and Elise Labott]
  • The news about the sonic weapon has prompted questions of whether the Cubans were trying to hurt Americans, or if it was a spying operation gone wrong, with surveillance equipment backfiring. It’s worth noting that Canadian diplomats were also impacted, which doesn’t make sense in an attack, since Canadian-Cuban relations have consistently been good. [Associated Press / Josh Lederman, Michael Weissenstein, and Matthew Lee]
  • There’s also speculation over whether any other countries were involved in the incident, including Russia. US officials speaking anonymously to reporters have said they are baffled by the case and there’s simply a lot they don’t know. [Gizmodo / Rhett Jones]

Fecal matters

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  • People who are cleaning up and recovering after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma battered Texas and Florida now have a new threat to contend with: the pollution that’s been left behind. [Bloomberg / Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Ari Natter]
  • Florida and Texas residents are dealing with some pretty nasty air and water pollution alike. After the floodwaters receded, there was a lot of concern from public health officials about people wading through a sewage chemical cocktail. [CNN / Susan Scutti]
  • The most noticeable thing has been the raw sewage leaking into the streets and local waterways, including Florida’s protected Biscayne Bay. In Texas, there was concern about contamination getting into private wells. [New Republic / Emily Atkin]
  • But there are plenty of nasty things in the water besides poop. Houston, where Harvey hit, is home to many oil refineries, petrochemical companies, and a couple of Superfund sites, prompting worries about chemicals getting into the water. [NYT / Hiroko Tabuchi and Sheila Kaplan]
  • As Houston’s chemical plants shut down and started up before and after the storm, they released a lot of extra chemicals into the air. This week, area residents have been reporting strange gaseous odors, which in one case turned out to be dangerous levels of benzene in the air. [NPR / Rebecca Hersher and David Schaper]
  • Due to the number of chemical companies it hosts, Houston normally has a high number of air monitors, but many of them were disabled during the hurricane. Officials are now urging area residents to report any strange smells so they can test for pollutants. [NPR / Rebecca Hersher and David Schaper]
  • The Environmental Protection Agency says it will continue to test the water and air, but public health officials are also warning people to test their own water and to avoid swimming or walking in any standing floodwater. [Washington Post / Brady Dennis and Darryl Fears]


  • From "hillbilly mango" to "hipster banana" — the resurgence of the pawpaw fruit. [WAMU / Ally Schweitzer]
  • Colleges across the country are quietly adding Plan B and condom vending machines to their campuses, so students can access emergency contraception easily. [Refinery29 / Amelia Harnish]
  • Meet the “snot otter,” a slippery, two-foot-long brown Eastern hellbender salamander, which scientists and community members in Appalachia are trying to save from dying out. [NPR / Madeline Sofia]
  • San Diego is trying aggressively to curb an outbreak of hepatitis A among its homeless population by installing hand-washing stations around the city and dousing streets with bleach. [Washington Post / Lindsey Bever]
  • There are as many as 20 million contract workers in America’s labor force. Contract work may be boosting the nation’s job numbers, but many say it leaves them feeling like second-class citizens at their companies. [WSJ / Lauren Weber]


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