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Vox Sentences: The obscure 1920s law that’s strangling Puerto Rico

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Puerto Rico is in disaster mode as the island's residents wait for aid; the GOP unveils the framework for its tax plan; Iraq threatens Kurdistan after its independence referendum.

Puerto Rico's humanitarian crisis is getting worse

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  • One week after Hurricane Maria ripped through the island of Puerto Rico, the situation in the US territory is a full-scale humanitarian crisis. [Vox / Brian Resnick and Eliza Barclay]
  • Many of the 3.4 million US citizens living in Puerto Rico are still waiting for basic aid supplies, like food and clean drinking water. A full 97 percent of the island is still without power after the electrical grid went down during the storm, and cell service is vastly limited, making communication near impossible. [Vox / Brian Resnick and Eliza Barclay]
  • And help from the US mainland is slow to come, even though Puerto Rico is entitled to the same disaster relief response as any other state. Yesterday, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told CBS News that the chain of command is slowing down relief efforts and the lack of supplies is starting to kill people. [CBS News via Twitter]
  • On Monday, the federal government amped up its aid efforts after the criticism with the delay. FEMA said it has 700 workers on the ground, helping out. [Associated Press / Michael Biesecker and Andrew Tayor]
  • Trump could do something really, really simple to help ease some of the suffering: He could waive an obscure 1920s shipping law called the Jones Act, which mandates that shipments between American ports are made with specifically American-built, American-owned ships that are manned by US citizens or permanent residents. [Vox / Matt Yglesias]
  • Now the requirements of the Jones Act are acting as a chokehold on Puerto Rico, limiting aid shipments to the island. On Wednesday, Trump said he didn’t want to waive the Jones Act because of opposition in the shipping industry. [WSJ / Natalie Andrews and Paul Page]
  • Even for the aid workers who are already on the ground, there are serious challenges to getting food, water, and fuel distributed, as basic infrastructure, like roads, is washed out. Puerto Rico was deeply in debt before the storm hit, which will make rebuilding even more difficult. [USA Today / Doug Stanglin]

You get a tax cut! And you get a tax cut!

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
  • After Republican leaders failed to pass an Obamacare repeal-and-replace effort for the third time yesterday, they are moving on to their next big-ticket item: tax reform. [Vox / Tara Golshan]
  • The White House and the GOP unveiled the framework of their tax plan today, and it includes steep tax cuts for businesses, the wealthy, and the middle class. A full tax bill is still coming. [Vox / Dylan Matthews]
  • Specifically, the framework is proposing that the seven current individual income tax brackets would shrink to three, America’s wealthy would get a tax cut, and the corporate tax rate would be reduced from 35 percent to 20 percent. [WSJ / Richard Rubin]
  • A lot more details still need to be worked out, but these cuts would add up to trillions of dollars in lost revenue. Trump and congressional Republicans have yet to say what other spending they would cut to balance out the numbers. [Washington Post / Damian Paletta, Mike DeBonis, and Carolyn Johnson]
  • The framework could also add a lot more to the national debt, which Republicans spent the past eight years saying they want to reduce. [WSJ / Greg Ip]
  • Trump is already spinning the proposal as a boost to middle-class families, but there aren’t enough details out yet to determine if that will actually happen. [Washington Post / Heather Long]
  • The White House has also said it wants to keep the tax code progressive for the nation’s poor so that they don’t have to end up paying a higher rate. But again, there aren't enough details yet to verify that will happen. [Vox / Dylan Matthews]

Kurdistan voted overwhelmingly for independence. Now comes the hard part.

Rahman Hassani/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • A few days after Iraqi Kurdistan overwhelmingly voted for independence, Iraq’s government is cracking down on the northern region. [Vox / Elizabeth Winkler]
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has put down a Friday deadline for the Kurds to either give up control of its two international airports or have international travel cut off. [NYT / David Zucchino]
  • Iraqi Kurds really want their own nation — about 92 percent of the nation’s 3.3 million people voted to secede from Iraq in a nonbinding referendum on Monday. [The Guardian / Martin Chulov]
  • And even though the vote is nonbinding, it carries weight; Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani planned to use the referendum to start independence negotiations in earnest with Iraq’s government. [The Atlantic / Joost Hilterman]
  • Baghdad has opposed the move from the beginning (as have many other Middle Eastern countries and Western nations). Iraq has a lot to lose if oil-rich Kurdistan were to form its own country, especially in the economic sector. [Vox / Elizabeth Winkler]
  • But Kurdistan could also stand to lose a lot, since much of its oil output has to go through Turkey to be exported around the world. Turkey, afraid that the Kurdish independence movement could spread to its country’s Kurds, has plenty of reason to try to quash this effort. [The Atlantic / Alex Dziadosz]


  • Scientists have determined that rodents of unusual size are indeed very real, after one fell out of a tree in the Solomon Islands. [National Geographic / Jason Bittel]
  • Saudi Arabia has fired a senior education official for producing a textbook showing former King Faisal at the UN ... sitting next to none other than the original Jedi master himself, Yoda. [Washington Post / Adam Taylor]
  • Scientists are learning more about the mostly underwater South Pacific continent called “Zealandia,” and believed it was once shallow enough for plants and animal species to migrate across it. [The Guardian / Naaman Zhou]
  • Mongolian women tend to be better educated and go to college more than their male peers, but they are still chipping away at a gender gap and trying to lessen the amount of domestic violence in the developing nation. [NPR / Katya Cengel]
  • There’s a serious corruption case going on in college basketball, with the federal government charging coaches with accepting bribes from sportswear companies to funnel star players to certain agents. [ESPN / John Gasaway]


  • “People still want better access to better coffee. Big money has validated that.” [Linea Coffee founder Andrew Barnett to Eater / Daniela Galarza]
  • “The technology and existence of group chats isn’t new, and spans generational use. But at this juncture, they are especially important. In the moments when I’ve felt like curling into myself and shutting down, almost-instantaneous affirmations of life become essential.” [The Outline / Aaron Edwards]
  • “America is a superpower. It was supposed to use laser-guided bombs and precision munitions. What did we get instead? Massive bombs, mortar rounds and countless artillery strikes. Is that how you liberate Raqqa? You’re murdering civilians instead.” [Syrian shopkeeper Hatem to BBC / Quentin Sommerville and Riam Dalati]
  • “There were days where we felt like, Godammit, what are we doing here? We write a story and it’s going to reach 50,000 people. Breitbart writes a story and it’s going to reach 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 million people. What kind of a voice do we have in this debate?” [Newspaper editor Matt Christensen to NYT / Caitlin Dickerson]
  • “What the Kardashians are selling is not makeup as much as access: to the fantasy of their lives, and their wealth.” [Racked / Zan Romanoff]

Watch this: How QWERTY conquered keyboards

There's a big chance your keyboard says QWERTY. In this episode of Vox's Overrated, Phil Edwards investigates the keyboard's history. [YouTube / Phil Edwards]

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