The alarming trend of beached whales filled with plastic, explained

Our oceans are filling with plastic, which in turn is filling up the bellies of the creatures in the sea.

Recently, researchers examined seven beluga whales harvested by Inuvialuit hunters in Canada. This month they reported that they’d found microplastics in the digestive systems of every whale.

“Our observation that that microplastics were present in every individual beluga we sampled underscores the global nature of this emerging pollutant, and the vulnerability of remote regions to contamination,” researchers wrote in a paper published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin.

Microplastics aren’t the only concern; this year we’ve seen several whales wash …

Vox Sentences: When Trump knew

Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what’s happening in the world. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

Trump reportedly knew about whistleblower before aid release

  • More is known about President Donald Trump freezing nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine thanks to the impeachment inquiry testimony of White House Office of Budget and Management (OMB) official Mark Sandy, which was released this week. [NPR / Elena Moore]
  • Sandy told lawmakers Trump voiced concerns about the aid in

TikTok is accused of censoring anti-Chinese government content, again

A US teenage TikTok user’s attempt to spread awareness about China’s oppression of its Uighur Muslim population has renewed questions about censorship on the China-based social media company’s platform.

Earlier this week, 17-year-old Feroza Aziz, who lives in New Jersey, posted on TikTok what was presented as a threepart tutorial on how to get longer eyelashes but quickly switched to a call-out about China’s treatment of its Muslim population. Several human rights groups have accused China of putting 1 million Muslims, mostly from the Uighur ethnic group, into concentration camps and shutting down or destroying mosques. China’s government …

ICE used a fake university to weed out student visa fraud. But the students say they were duped.

Undercover US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have been operating a fake university designed to lure in immigrants seeking to obtain student visas fraudulently — but the students are claiming they are the ones who have been deceived.

ICE has arrested about 250 students at the University of Farmington in Farmington Hills, Michigan, for violating the terms of their visas, which mandate that they be enrolled full-time at a federally accredited educational institution while they complete their studies, an ICE spokesperson said Wednesday.

The University of Farmington, which ICE agents opened in 2015 to weed out fraudsters, did not qualify …

Rudy Giuliani tried to score big bucks in Ukraine as scandal unfolded

When Rudy Giuliani talked with top Ukrainian officials about getting dirt on Joe Biden earlier this year, he also wanted something else: lots of money.

That’s the upshot of two new reports from the New York Times and the Washington Post, both of which are based on draft documents and legal agreements apparently drawn up by President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and his allies.

At one point in early 2019, Giuliani reportedly wanted Yuri Lutsenko, Ukraine’s then-prosecutor general, to pay his consulting firm $200,000 — purportedly to help the Ukrainian government recover illegally embezzled assets. At another point, Giuliani …

How queer and trans people are turning the internet into a safe holiday space

“Thanksdreading: when you’re trans and dreading Thanksgiving dinner bc you’re gonna be surrounded by a whole buncha family that don’t know [or] respect your preferred name and pronouns.”

The Twitter user who expressed this fear isn’t alone. Sentiments like this one are very common online, from the user complaining that her relatives refuse to use her correct pronouns, to the one worried about dealing with relatives who don’t know they’re out.

For many people, going home for the holidays is difficult: It can mean crossing ideological lines, entering into charged political conversations, or even worrying that your basic identity — …

Moral grandstanding is making an argument just to boost your status. It’s everywhere.

So often during a congressional hearing, when it comes time for a lawmaker to question a witness, they don’t ask a question at all. They grandstand, making a political argument for the people watching at home.

What’s common in Congress is now common in every public forum. On Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, people are using social platforms to make themselves look moral (and therefore good). It’s status-seeking, not argument, and it detracts from the democratic goal of actually engaging in arguments in good faith.

The thing is, it’s hard to know if someone is moral grandstanding when they, for …

You can now buy Star Wars hypebeast sneakers, fancy Dutch ovens, and status parkas. Here’s why.

If you are a Star Wars super-fan in 2019, you can hypothetically purchase these items to demonstrate your devotion: a $395 Darth Vader dutch oven, a $239 Swarovski crystal figurine of Yoda, or a $599 limited edition Columbia Sportswear parka (inspired by coats worn by the 1979 film crew).

Of course, it helps to have disposable income as a fan — especially for a franchise like Star Wars that produces a cycle of new content almost every year or two. The third installment of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker, will be released next month …

Vox Sentences: Trump wins some, loses some

Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what’s happening in the world. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

Trump and House Dems trade blows in court

  • President Donald Trump’s week began with a court loss and a court win: a federal judge ruled a former White House official cannot ignore a congressional subpoena, as Trump instructed him to do; while the Supreme Court said Trump’s accounting firm doesn’t have to turn over the president’s tax returns to Congress. [Lawfare /

After this summer’s Trump fundraiser backlash and boycotts, SoulCycle’s CEO has resigned

Three months months after SoulCycle became a national conversation due to backlash against an investor’s fundraiser for President Donald Trump, the company’s CEO, Melanie Whelan, has resigned.

“We’d like to inform you that we recently reached a mutual agreement with our board in which Melanie will resign from her position as CEO and director effective today,” Adrienne Gemperle, SoulCycle’s chief people officer, wrote in an email to SoulCycle staff on November 26. Vox obtained the email from an employee at the boutique fitness studio. “Melanie will stay on in an advisory capacity to the company.”

“I’m deeply grateful for the …