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Vox Sentences: No pressure, Lester Holt!

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.

The first presidential debate; new stats on crime in 2015; an update in the UN secretary general race.

This debate has broken our snark and it hasn't even started yet

Trump supporters Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images
  • So in case you hadn't heard, there's a presidential debate tonight. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • "Debates have the potential to make a small but real impact on the race," Vox's Andrew Prokop says in a review of the academic literature. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • Then again, the academic literature never had to contend with an election like this before — in which giving "tips" to each candidate before the debate involves telling one candidate to tell some jokes and telling the other candidate to avoid telling blatant lies and fill in the massive holes in his proposals. [Vox / Matt Yglesias]
  • This situation has put unusual pressure on moderator Lester Holt to do some real-time fact-checking — something debate moderators have historically avoided but which, Clinton's campaign (and many in the media) argue, Trump's blatant lying demands. [ABC News / Veronica Stracqualursi]
  • It's true that a moderator doing real-time fact-checking would be more likely to have an impact than an exactitude of fact-checkers posting fact checks online after the fact. [Vox / Tara Golshan]
  • But it's also true that Trump's sheer indifference to facts makes him a juggernaut — and that his supporters aren't ignorant of his lies; they just don't care. [Vox / Dara Lind]
  • As Ned Resnikoff argues, we are entering a post-truth politics: in which the public thinks that all politicians are telling fictions and politics is picking the fiction you like best. [Medium / Ned Resnikoff]

A murder (rate) mystery

Police officers Nova Safo/AFP/Getty Images
  • The FBI announced today that murders in the United States rose by 11 percent from 2014 to 2015; violent crime, in general, rose by 3.9 percent. [NPR / Carrie Johnson]
  • The FBI announced today that murders in the United States are still at historically low levels, about half of where they were a quarter-century ago. [Huffington Post / Ryan J. Reilly]
  • Which angle you choose depends on how firmly you believe that the 2015 jump isn't just a blip but presages an enduring trend of rising crime — which is to say, how firmly you believe that activism against police brutality has somehow emboldened criminals. [Vox / German Lopez]
  • The new FBI data hardly bears out the "Ferguson effect" theory, though. Crime rates for most crimes stayed flat or even went down (property crime is at the lowest point in 50 years). The Ferguson effect doesn't exactly predict that murderers will be emboldened but other criminals won't. [Wonkblog / Max Ehrenfreund]
  • But the data also undermines the most common argument made by criminal justice reformers: that the rise in murders is confined to a few big cities and explained by local politics. Murders are up in urban, suburban, and rural areas. [Vox / German Lopez]
  • This is a policy problem, for sure. But how likely it is to affect politics depends largely on whether Americans react differently to crime actually going up than they did during the 25 years when crime was going down but people thought it was going up. [Vox / Dara Lind]
  • The politics of criminal justice reform have always been fragile. A rise in crime could threaten them. But then again, so could the crime-hyping, fearmongering existence of Donald Trump. [The Atlantic / David Frum and Steven Teles]

An election that actually will not end

Antonio Guterres Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images
  • Former UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres is officially the frontrunner to become the next UN secretary general, after leading the Security Council's fifth straw poll Monday. [AP / Edith M. Lederer]
  • Guterres was the only candidate to get at least nine votes "encouraging" him to continue his candidacy (the minimum needed for official "consensus," as long as there are no vetoes). [Reuters / Michelle Nichols]
  • The bad news for Guterres is that he got two votes discouraging his candidacy — and one of those might come from Russia, which, as a permanent member, could be pulling the veto. [Huffington Post / Evelyn Leopold]
  • It's unlikely that Russia is concerned about Guterres's efficacy as refugee commissioner, though that is certainly a valid question. (Current Secretary General Ban Ki-moon refused to reappoint him this year, despite several countries' requests for continuity since we are, after all, in the midst of a global refugee crisis.) [Refugee Resettlement Watch / Ann Corcoran]
  • It's much more likely that Russia is acting in its regional interest. By UN tradition, it's Eastern Europe's "turn" to have a UN SG — and the fact that Guterres is neither Eastern European nor (as many would like) the first woman to lead the UN has been a problem. [The Guardian / Julian Borger]
  • Because the election process doesn't end until there's consensus, a new candidate could emerge that would solve both problems: Bulgaria is hinting it will swap out its current candidate for a new one, a woman who'd secure the support of the Eastern European bloc. [Humanosphere / Tom Murphy]


  • Happy Petrov Day! This is the special time every year where we celebrate Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov for preventing a nuclear holocaust. [BBC / Pavel Aksenov]
  • 55 percent of internet startups in China are founded by women. [Bloomberg / Shai Oster and Selina Wang]
  • Dhaka, Bangladesh, has 7 million people — and only 60 traffic lights. [NYT / Jody Rosen]
  • Gender fluidity in everything: Lionesses in Botswana had grown manes and begun acting like male lions, with one even roaring and mounting other females. [New Scientist / Karl Gruber]
  • Rich suburbs like Greenwich and Darien, Connecticut, are only a couple of highway exits away from the struggling post-industrial city of Bridgeport. And there's some evidence that the former's wealth is actually coming at Bridgeport's expense. [The Atlantic / Alana Semuels]


  • "The killing now is all about reputation, disrespect, revenge, and robbery. That’s what the killings are all about now. They’re not building no nations." [Tio Hardiman to Slate / Leon Neyfakh]
  • "If you vote for Trump, because you’re angry about politicians who never get anything done, or you don’t trust Hillary, or you think it’s time for a change in Washington, think about this: do you want to spend the next four or eight years knowing that you voted against virtually every black person who you will know or meet during that time?" [Philip N. Cohen]
  • "Once upon a time, an actress’s job was to convincingly pretend to be someone else. In the future, her more important job may be pretending to be herself." [Slate / Ruth Graham]
  • "While you were brought up under the delusion of political suppression I was brought up under the delusion of political responsibility. It seems a fine thing for you to defy and break up. To me not in the least." [H.G. Wells to James Joyce, via Paris Review]
  • "Around the Washington Times offices, the column was often read out loud in Podhoretz’s absence, for comic value, in a ritual famously called Podenfreude." [NY Mag / Hanna Rosin]

Watch this: Why Israeli settlements don’t feel like a conflict zone

What I learned from visiting 15 Israeli settlements. [YouTube / Johnny Harris]