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Vox Sentences: The biggest NATO/Russia confrontation since the Cold War

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A buildup in the Baltics; what the GOP plans to do with its likely retention of the House of Representatives; ballot referenda!

Getting colder (warrer)

  • In what Reuters calls "NATO's biggest military buildup on Russia's borders since the Cold War," the US announced Wednesday that it will send troops and tanks to Poland, and the UK promised to detail planes to Romania. [Reuters / Robin Emmott and Phil Stewart]
  • Russia, for its part, is reportedly sending ships armed with long-range missiles to patrol the Baltic. [Reuters / Andrew Osborn and Simon Johnson]
  • The Baltic region has been slowly ramping up as a stage for US/Russia tensions over the past few years (and, oh yeah, is probably the most likely place to spark World War III). [Vox / Max Fisher]
  • Some US analysts are concerned that Russia plans to take the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) as a ploy against NATO (though there's some question about whether this is really worth worrying about). [Vox / Mark Galeotti]
  • But tensions in the Baltic are already spilling over into other world conflicts (and creating tensions within NATO). NATO is monitoring a Russian fleet that's steaming toward Syria, and the US and UK have been pressuring Spain to refuse a Russian request to stop and refuel there (which the Russians rescinded Wednesday). [WSJ / Julian E. Barnes and Richard Boudreaux]
  • Of course, Syria itself could become a US/Russian battleground; some experts worry that Hillary Clinton's plan for a no-fly zone, for example, could provoke a confrontation. [The Guardian / Spencer Ackerman]
  • For all the focus on Russia's alleged interest in Donald Trump winning the election next month, it's worth noting that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Clinton already have bad blood: He believes she tried to weaken his rule in Russia during its weakest point. [Time / Simon Shuster]
  • The fact that she will probably beat the most anti-anti-Russian president since World War II is probably not going to help matters. Neither will overheated rhetoric from Putin's nationalist allies about how if Trump isn't elected, the US is asking for nuclear war. [Reuters / Andrew Osborn]

Congress has a plan (lots and lots of hearings)

Paul Ryan John Gress/Getty Images
  • Republicans are losing the fight for the White House, and are battling to retain control of the Senate. At the darkest moments of this campaign (like last week), some were even panicking about their ability to retain the House. [Washington Post / Ed O'Keefe]
  • Such an outcome would be grimly satisfying to the Republican pundits who've been warning for months that Donald Trump would be a toxic standard-bearer for the party. [Washington Post / Jennifer Rubin]
  • But if it would have taken a Democratic sweep to teach the GOP a lesson, it looks like that lesson will go untaught: The party appears to have stopped the bleeding, and will keep the House. [Politico / Rachael Bade and Theodoric Meyer]
  • They have big plans for it. Like investigations of a putative Clinton administration. Lots and lots of investigations. [NBC News / Alex Seitz-Wald and Benjy Sarlin]
  • This peak-obstructionist agenda in the House would be paired with a growing movement, in the Senate, to refuse to confirm any Supreme Court justice nominated by a President Clinton — or even to block all nominees to federal judgeships, period. [The Federalist / Ilya Shapiro]
  • But even a Clinton presidency might not be enough to unify congressional Republicans with each other. Pro-Trump members of the House (including, unsurprisingly, the Freedom Caucus) are already blaming their leadership for Trump's impending loss, saying that leaders like Speaker Paul Ryan shouldn't have spent time criticizing Trump. [NYT / Jeremy W. Peters and Maggie Haberman]
  • The upshot: Barely a year after Ryan reluctantly accepted the speakership of the House, as literally the only member all wings of the party could agree on, he might be fighting off an attempt to replace him. [CNN / Deirdre Walsh and Manu Raju]

The reefer referenda

Marijuana flag at Coachella John Gress/Getty Images
  • A ton of huge public policy fights are riding on state ballot initiatives this Election Day. Proposals to hike the minimum wage, toughen gun control laws, and legalize marijuana will all stand for a direct vote in multiple states on Nov. 8. [Wall Street Journal / Allison Kite]
  • Legalized weed is set to make the biggest leap forward. Five states are set to make recreational pot legal — it's currently only legal in three. Four other states also have ballot initiatives that could roll back marijuana restrictions. [The Boston Globe / David Scharfenberg]
  • Several other states are poised to transform how their elections operate. South Dakota may abolish party primaries in all but the presidential race. Colorado could eliminate its caucuses and give all of the state's independent voters ballots to participate in the presidential primaries. [Governing / Phil Keisling]
  • Direct democracy is great, but this year's vast surge in ballot initiatives risks overwhelming voters. Even those who care deeply can't be expected to sift through the avalanche of choices voters in some states will face in the voting booth on Election Day. [Pacific Standard / Seth Masket]
  • In California, for instance, residents get an absurdly gargantuan 224-page "vote guide" to sift through a ballot with 53 choices to make. That's a consequence of state laws making it remarkably easy for voters to successfully petition to get their issues on the ballot. There's no end in sight to that trend. [The New Republic / David Dayen]


  • Gaetan Dugas was blamed for bringing the HIV epidemic to the US because a report called him "Patient 0." It turns out he was simply "Patient O" — one of thousands of early US HIV victims. [StatNews / Helen Branswell]
  • This close reading of the career of Tom Hanks is one of the best analyses of race, gender, and generation you're likely to see in 2016. [BuzzFeed News / Anne Helen Petersen]
  • You might remember the famous National Geographic photo of the Afghan refugee girl. It's been more than 30 years, and she's still a refugee, and she was just arrested for falsifying her identity papers in Pakistan. [LAT / Shashank Bengali and Zulfiqar Ali]
  • Iceland's election over the weekend could bring victory to the Pirate Party. [The Guardian / Jon Henley and Luke Harding]
  • Hillary Clinton's election night party will be held at a building in New York City that Trump once tried to name after himself; it was named after a moderate Republican instead, and it has a literal glass ceiling. Trolling game, set, match. [Mother Jones / Tim Murphy]


  • “Do you think that an ordinary, reasonable and honest person would consider their conduct dishonest?” “Yes, I think honest people would say drug dealers should give you drugs." [Popehat / Ken White]
  • "'You can’t link politics with salvation,' said Paige Cutler, a senior from New Jersey who’s involved with the Liberty United Against Trump effort. 'That’s just a line you can never cross. And it never should have been.'” [The Atlantic / Emma Green]
  • "While nodding along with their husbands' politics and passing as Trump supporters in their neighborhoods, there's a group of women making fervent plans for what happens when they're finally alone in the voting booth." [Marie Claire / Lyz Lenz]
  • "'Oh, it just infuriates me,' Allison said of Jose’s support for Clinton. 'He became a U.S. citizen, and it just infuriates me that now he’s a U.S. citizen and America is your home, but yet he has a lot of Latino friends and to me it’s like he’s on their side, when I am looking out for America’s best interests in the vote.'" [Huffington Post / Ariel Edwards-Levy]
  • "The ICC, despite being called the International Criminal Court, is in fact an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans." [Gambian Information Minister Sheriff Bojang via Quartz / Lily Kuo]

Watch this: Asian flush, explained

Why "Asian flush" makes drinking alcohol an entirely different experience for 36 percent of Asian Americans. [YouTube / Joss Fong]