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Vox Sentences: Colombia learns what happens when you let people vote on peace

Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what's happening in the world, curated by Dara Lind and Dylan Matthews. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

We finally know some things about Donald Trump's taxes; Colombia rejects its peace deal with the FARC; Elena Ferrante, unmasked.

$916 million loser

Donald Trump Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
  • On Saturday night, the New York Times published pages from Donald Trump's 1995 tax return. The documents show that he reported a $916 million net operating loss that year (much of it carried forward from earlier years). [NYT / David Barstow, Susanne Craig, Russ Buettner, and Megan Twohey]
  • Since Trump refuses to release his returns himself (bucking presidential tradition), this is a huge coup. It's also a ballsy move to make against a man who repeatedly threatens to sue news organizations (even if the Times did, in fact, act legally). [Slate / Mark Joseph Stern]
  • The Times got the tax returns mailed anonymously (the return address said "Trump Tower"). No one knows who sent them, though it appears to be someone connected to Trump's then-wife Marla Maples. [NY Mag / Margaret Hartmann]
  • But the returns are definitely legit — they track with what author Tim O'Brien (who's seen Trump's taxes but can't discuss them publicly) knows about Trump. And that is: yes, this is absolutely a man who can lose nearly a billion dollars, because his business empire is built on sand. [Bloomberg / Timothy L. O'Brien]
  • He also appears to be a man who didn't pay federal income tax for nearly two decades. The returns published by the Times showed this could be a possibility... [Vox / Alvin Chang]
  • ...and Trump surrogates Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, in one of the biggest own goals of this campaign, proceeded to confirm it on Sunday talk shows, by bragging that Trump was a "genius" for avoiding taxes. [NBC News / Christina Coleburn]
  • (You may recall that four years ago, the Republican presidential nominee criticized Americans who didn't pay income tax for not having skin in the game.) [Mother Jones / David Corn]
  • Trump argues he had a "fiduciary" duty to minimize the tax he paid. That, as Gretchen Morgenson explains, is not what the word fiduciary means. [NYT / Gretchen Morgenson]
  • Meanwhile, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has ordered the Trump Foundation to stop asking people for money, since a Washington Post investigation found last week that the foundation is not legally certified to do that. [The Atlantic / David A. Graham]

Back to the FARCing drawing board

Sign that says "you are not a victor" Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images
  • Voters in Colombia very narrowly rejected a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in a referendum vote Sunday. [República de Colombia]
  • The referendum loss brings a fruitless end to a protracted peace process that was supposed to be the crowning achievement of President Manuel Santos. [BuzzFeed News / Karla Zabludovsky and Hayes Brown]
  • Polling suggested that the peace deal would pass handily, so the defeat is shocking. [Matt Singh via Twitter]
  • But many voters were extremely resistant to the idea of letting FARC off the hook — including, somewhat counterintuitively, Colombians living in the region devastated most by the civil war. [The New Republic / Steven Cohen]
  • Other possible factors include the fear of a powerful left-wing politics, as in Venezuela, which allowing the FARC to become a legitimate political party could produce. [BBC]
  • No one can agree on what happens now: Opponents of the deal, including former President Alvaro Uribe, say Colombia can just renegotiate a better deal, but both Santos and the FARC say this was the best deal they were going to get. [The Guardian / Sibylla Brodzinsky]

The Story of a True(?) Name

Covers of Elena Ferrante's novels Europa Editions
  • Elena Ferrante is the beloved author of the Neapolitan Novels tetralogy (which is engrossing and insightful, and you should read it), as well as other books (which are probably just as engrossing and insightful, but I, Dara, have not read those). But "Elena Ferrante" is a pseudonym. And now, an Italian author claims he's unmasked the real person who writes under that name. [Vox / Constance Grady]
  • In a New York Review of Books essay, Claudio Gatti uses real estate records to identify the author behind Ferrante — saying, basically, that Ferrante has sometimes lied in interviews and therefore deserves to be doxxed. [New York Review of Books / Claudio Gatti]
  • The unmasking puts an end to a years-long parlor game in literary circles — one that demonstrated how badly readers wanted Ferrante's closely observed, hyperlocal novels to be autobiographical. [n+1 / Dayna Tortorici]
  • (Ironically, it appears that is true in ways one might not expect: The woman Gatti identified as Ferrante had a complicated relationship with a friend and fellow writer that bears a resemblance to the relationship between the two women at the heart of the Napoliad.) [Public Books / Rebecca Falkoff]
  • But the reaction to Gatti's essay has been swift and negative, with other literary publications saying outright that they wouldn't have published the piece. [Times Literary Supplement / Stig Abell]
  • For one thing, Ferrante's writing is, on some level, about the work a woman does in constructing a self. Anonymity didn't hurt that project; it illustrated it. [The New Inquiry / Aaron Bady]
  • And this was a specifically female project. Lili Loofbourow, in a Twitter essay I can't easily sum up, traces the connections between memoir, confession, and femininity — a construction much less respected than the male novelistic project. [Lili Loofbourow via Twitter]
  • It's not exactly like this sort of thing never happens to male authors, though. Thomas Pynchon, who's famously reclusive, was the subject of a dishy magazine story "doxxing" of his own back in the 1990s. [NY Mag / Nancy Jo Sales]


  • Want to understand Donald Trump's id? You could do worse than reading the dude who writes Dilbert, one of Trump's biggest fanboys. [Slate / Ben Dolnick]
  • Inside Obama's war on tobacco — the part of his legacy that might wind up saving the most lives. [The Lancet Respiratory Medicine / Bryant Furlow]
  • Why are men dropping out of the workforce so much faster in the US than in Europe? It's prison, stupid. [Bloomberg / Justin Fox]
  • Anonymous commenters on a message board for scientists concluded Fazlul Sarkar doctored images in his cancer research papers. He lost a tenured position as a consequence. Now he's suing to make those commenters less anonymous. [Vice / Stephen Buranyi]
  • The voters and judges of one tiny state — Delaware — more or less determine corporate law in America. How is that democratic? [The Atlantic / Alana Semuels]


  • "If Colombians were dinosaurs, we would vote for the meteorite." [Anonymous Meme, via Washington Post / Ishaan Tharoor]
  • "I mean this sincerely: I’m glad the left pushes me on this. I’ve said to my staff and I’ve said to my joint chiefs, I’ve said in the Situation Room: I don’t ever want to get to the point where we’re that comfortable with killing. It’s not why I wanted to be president, to kill people. I want to educate kids and give people health care and help feed the hungry and alleviate poverty." [Barack Obama to NY Mag / Jonathan Chait]
  • "Tiffany did not consent to be interviewed for this article, although she did pose for its photo shoot." [NYT / Alessandra Stanley]
  • "As recently as a few years ago, these attacks would lead rangers to killing any suspect bears. But now, Soehn said, 'DNA tests can now exonerate bears who might have been euthanized before.'" [BuzzFeed / Dan Vergano]
  • "Altman walked over to engage them, dutiful as a birthday-party magician. 'So what are your hobbies?' he asked. Nonplussed, Ogwuche said, 'We work and we go to the gym. And what are yours?' 'Well, I like racing cars,”' Altman said. 'I have five, including two McLarens and an old Tesla. I like flying rented planes all over California. Oh, and one odd one—I prep for survival.'" [New Yorker / Tad Friend]

Watch this: Why the Lincoln Memorial was almost never built

Today it's iconic. But for a long time, the Lincoln Memorial was incredibly controversial. Vox's Phil Edwards looked into the full story. [YouTube / Phil Edwards]