clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Vox Sentences: The power's out in Puerto Rico

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.

Senate Republicans are using some very interesting math to try to sell their latest Obamacare repeal bill; Puerto Rico is in the dark after Hurricane Maria; Spain's government is actively trying to stop Catalonia from seceding.

Puerto Rico could be out of power for months

Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images
  • The island of Puerto Rico went dark today, as Hurricane Maria made a direct hit on the US territory as a Category 4 storm. Maria is the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico in about eight decades. [Vox / Brian Resnick]
  • The storm brought 140 mph winds with it — which prompted an island-wide power outage as Puerto Rico’s only utility, PREPA, was damaged. By noon today, all 1.5 million PREPA customers were without power. [El Nuevo Día / Gloria Ruiz Kuilan]
  • Even more concerning is the fact that those people could be out of power for months because the island's only power utility company is hugely in debt, just like the rest of Puerto Rico. [Vox / Alexia Fernandez Campbell]
  • It’s hard to overstate how devastating Maria and other hurricanes have been to the islands and states they’ve hit over the past few weeks. But Puerto Rico stands out as particularly ill-equipped to deal with a severe storm, because the island is seriously broke, and has been for some time. [Vox / Alexia Fernandez Campbell]
  • PREPA was already $9 billion in debt before Maria hit, with old facilities that needed serious repairs. The storm took down a lot of power lines, but it’s still too early to tell if it damaged the power plants themselves. [Washington Post / Steven Mufson]
  • It also doesn’t have the workforce it needs for all these repairs; Puerto Rico is an aging island, with a lot of its young people moving to the mainland US where they can make more money, and many electrical workers are already retired. [Vox / Alexia Fernandez Campbell]
  • Puerto Rico filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, in an effort to expunge some of the $123 billion it owes to its pensioners and bondholders. A long recovery and rebuild from the storm could severely complicate its plans to get back to financial solvency. [Financial Times / Eric Platt]

Obamacare repeal rises from the dead ... again

Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • Once again, Obamacare repeal is back from the dead, and the latest Republican bill looks like it could come close to passing. [Vox / Jeff Stein]
  • The latest iteration is called Graham-Cassidy (after Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, the two Republican senators who drafted it), and as Vox’s Sarah Kliff explains, it’s the most radical Obamacare takedown attempt yet. [Vox / Sarah Kliff]
  • Graham-Cassidy would turn Medicaid into a block grant program, where the federal government would give lump sums to states. Proponents of this idea say it will give states more flexibility with their health care programs, but the fact is that there will simply be a lot less money overall — a $215 billion cut from 2020 to 2026. [Vox / Dylan Scott]
  • The bill does something important with block-granting Medicaid that could influence its chance of passage. Basically, it sweetens the deal for some Republican senators in states that never expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. States that expanded Medicaid will lose billions under the plan, while states that never expanded the program stand to gain money. [Vox / Dylan Scott]
  • As with the two other repeal bills that failed, this bill’s path to succeeding is extremely narrow — like, one vote narrow. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has come out against it, and Maine Sen. Susan Collins has said she has “concerns.” [Bangor Daily News / Michael Shepherd]
  • Right now all eyes are on Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Republican senator from Alaska, who is considered a key swing vote. Alaska expanded Medicaid and so stands to lose big from this bill — which is why the state’s Republican governor has come out against it. [Washington Post / Sean Sullivan]
  • The bill also was roundly blasted by comedian Jimmy Kimmel in his opening monologue last night. Kimmel’s son was born with a congenital heart defect and needed emergency surgery; since revealing this in a past show, Kimmel has been a vocal advocate of affordable health care and very critical of Republican efforts to repeal it. [YouTube / Jimmy Kimmel]
  • Kimmel criticized Cassidy in particular, saying the senator lied when he came on Kimmel’s show and promised he would not support a bill that didn’t cover people with preexisting conditions. Cassidy shot back, but health care analysts say Kimmel’s reading of the bill is more accurate. [Politico / Dan Diamond]

Catalonia is trying to break up with Spain

David Ramos/Getty Images
  • Spanish police are clashing with Catalan separatists a week before the region is set to vote on whether it wants to secede and become independent. [Associated Press]
  • Police staged raids on local government offices and detained 14 Catalan officials, some of them high-ranking. This prompted huge protests in Barcelona, which is part of the country’s Catalonia region. [BBC]
  • The Spanish government has been insistent that the planned October 1 referendum is illegal and has promised to put a stop to it. [The Independent / Jon Stone]
  • Today’s raids the most serious sign that they’re intent on stopping the vote. Police also seized millions of blank ballots and advertisements. But Catalan officials are insisting the referendum will take place. [The Guardian / Sam Jones and Stephen Burgen]
  • There’s a lot at stake for the country if Catalonia votes to secede. For one thing, regional officials have promised that if they get a "yes" vote, the change will be almost immediate, taking place 48 hours after. [NYT / Raphael Minder]
  • There’s also a lot at stake for the European Union, which opposes the referendum and has been watching the proceedings very closely. EU countries have said they would not recognize an independent Catalonia. [LA Times / Lauren Frayer]
  • Catalonia has talked about becoming its own nation for a while, but that has been exacerbated by Spain’s economic woes. Catalonia is a rich part of the country, and some people say they put more into the economy than they get out. But polls also show the Catalan people themselves are split on whether to break away from Spain. [BBC / James Badcock]


  • Liz Thomas, an accomplished thru-hiker who set a record hiking the Appalachian Trail, has a new goal: thru-hiking America’s urban jungle. [Outside Magazine / Glenn Nelson]
  • Researchers are trying to breed more resistant coral that can withstand the impact of warm, carbon-filled oceans. But the experiment itself is raising eyebrows in the scientific community. [NYT / Damien Cave and Justin Gillis]
  • In the age of the Trump administration, outdoor apparel giants like Patagonia, REI, and the North Face are increasingly turning toward environmental activism to protect public lands. [Racked / Russ Arensmen]
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price reportedly flew from DC to Philadelphia in a chartered plane that cost a cool $25,000. (This trip takes 1.5 hours by train, in case you're wondering). [Politico / Dan Diamond and Rachana Pradhan]
  • New York City officials are looking toward repealing an obscure but important 1926 law called the “Cabaret Law,” which bans dancing in clubs without a special license. The original law was racially motivated, and people say it’s onerous. [NPR / Jane Lerner]


  • “Like any urban environment, Otocopolis and Octlantis can be tough places to live. Citizens must be scrappy. The company and food are abundant but all the activity in the cities also attracts predators, including sharks.” [Gizmodo / Ephrat Livni]
  • “All the young birds socialize, get into scraps, and learn how to run away. They learn that if they see another kiwi, they shouldn’t run up to it. And if they get chased, they’ll be fit enough to run.” [New Zealand scientist Rogan Colbourne to the Atlantic / Ed Yong]
  • “The glacier changes regularly. Every day we come here to check the paths are safe. We dig staircases into the ice, if need be, and we fill in dangerous crevasses like the one we are walking through now.” [Iceland tour guide Dan Saulite to the Reykjavik Grapevine / Alice Demurtas]
  • “Maxey's ASL interpretation is an explosive, code-switching mishmash of textbook American Sign Language, pantomime, and makeshift signs he's cobbled together for slang words native to hip-hop (‘molly,’ for example, combines gestures for ‘pill’ and ‘sex’); the way he signs is as worldly and wry and improvisational as he is.” [GQ / Ashley Fetters]
  • “When a collection arrives in Long Island City, the first step is to ‘stabilize’ it, as though it were a patient just arrived at the ER. One recently acquired collection — the archives of the New York Review of Books — had been sitting at the Navy Yard for twenty years. It was covered in oily dirt. The archivists who brought it here had to wear Tyvek suits and facemasks while unpacking it.” [Village Voice / James Somers]

Listen to this: Todd VanDerWerff interviews Ken Burns

Vox's editor at large Todd VanDerWerff interview documentary filmmaker Ken Burns about his new PBS series The Vietnam War. You can listen on iTunes and Art19.

Read more

I’ve covered the GOP repeal plans since day one. Graham-Cassidy is the most radical.

“He took the job and made it smaller”: how Rex Tillerson failed the State Department

I’m a TV weatherman. Here's what happened when I discussed climate change on air.

The Emmys made fun of Donald Trump. So he mocked the awards’ ratings on Twitter.

GOP senators are rushing to pass Graham-Cassidy. We asked 9 to explain what it does.