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Vox Sentences: Elon Musk has a plan to get us the hell out of here

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.

A bad night for Donald Trump; Elon Musk's plan for a Mars shuttle; don't look now, but we're a few days away from a government shutdown.


Trump and Clinton at first debate Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
  • How bad was Donald Trump's performance in the first presidential debate? Well... [Vox / Caroline Framke]
  • It was so bad that the judgment that Trump lost was actually shared by voters in scientific snap polls, marking perhaps the first time in the 2016 election that the pundit class has gotten something right. [Vox / Dylan Matthews]
  • It was so bad that Trump was reduced to arguing that his microphone had mysteriously malfunctioned (which wasn't true, and also made it awkward when he then blamed the sensitivity of that microphone for making it seem like he was sniffling). [Sopan Deb via Twitter]
  • It was so bad that when Hillary Clinton brought up Trump's treatment of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado (who'd been making the rounds with reporters for a wave of magazine articles that mysteriously all came out today), Trump fell into her trap. [Cosmopolitan / Prachi Gupta]
  • It was so bad that he then proceeded to dig himself in deeper by calling Fox News Tuesday to defend forcing a 20-year-old beauty queen to work out in front of a roomful of reporters: "She gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem." [Vox / Emily Crockett]
  • (It was so bad that, in other words, America finally saw a brand of sexism it couldn't ignore.) [Vox / Dara Lind]
  • It was so bad that even Trump's alt-right fanboys were despondent, posting that Trump "kind of sucked." [The Daily Beast / Ben Collins]
  • It was so bad that Trump is trying to demand that reporters give him credit fornot bringing up Bill Clinton's affairs, which is not how any of this works. [Reuters / John Whitesides]
  • It was so bad he might not even get the chance to hit Clinton over her husband's behavior later: At least one of his advisers is suggesting that Trump hold out on even attending the other two debates. [Politico / Matthew Nussbaum]

"Must be prepared to die"

Elon Musk Hector Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images
  • Tech billionaire and futurist Elon Musk thinks humanity can build a civilization on Mars in the next 40 to 100 years, and on Tuesday he unveiled the plans for a vehicle that could get us there. [Vox / Brad Plumer]
  • The vehicle, which Musk calls the "Heart of Gold" (it's a reference to theHitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) but the internet calls the "BFS" ("big fucking spaceship"), would partly build on technology Musk's company SpaceX is already producing, but at a much bigger scale. [The Verge / Angela Chen and Loren Grush]
  • (Let me (Dara) take this opportunity to point out that naming a ship the Heart of Gold, when the US has an IRL Zaphod Beeblebrox running for president, is just an invitation for the ship to get stolen.) [Medium / Tess Madera]
  • Humanity's plans to get to Mars are kind of stalled out; NASA has a plan, but funding from Congress keeps stopping and starting. [Vox / Joseph Stromberg]
  • So Musk's presentation — delivered with all the slickness and megalomania one expects from Musk — was a revival of a hard sci-fi nerd dream. [The Verge / Nilay Patel]
  • (It probably shouldn't be surprising that the questions he got from fans during the Q&A were highly technical and maybe a little macabre. It's still weird that fans tried to kiss him afterward.) [The Verge / Nick Statt]
  • But this isn't for fun. Musk is convinced that humanity is headed for an extinction-level event on Earth, what with catastrophic global warming and superhuman AI and all. Mars is our only hope. [Slate / Will Oremus]
  • So when he says the travelers on the first journey in the ship must be prepared that the mission will fail and they will die, he may weigh the relative risks of that versus staying on Earth differently than most people. [Gizmodo / Sophie Kleeman]

A shutdown led by Democrats

Democrats Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
  • So, um, don't look now, but the federal government is on pace to shut down at the end of the week if Congress doesn't pass a funding bill. [AP / Andrew Taylor]
  • Both the House and Senate are working on bills to keep the government open and fund the fight against Zika. But the Senate version failed to pass a procedural hurdle today. [CNN / Ted Barrett]
  • Unlike past shutdowns, this isn't the doing of conservative Republicans: it's because of Democrats, who are upset that the bill doesn't include any relief for Flint, Michigan. [Washington Post / Mike DeBonis]
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wants to add the Flint funding later, to a different bill that's already passed the Senate. But House Republicans blocked an amendment to add it to their version — meaning Senate Democrats are being asked to trust Republicans to follow through later, with no very good reason to. [Huffington Post / Matt Fuller]
  • Both sides could end up caving: A solid enough commitment from the GOP that Flint will get added to a bill eventually could get Democrats to allow the government to stay open. [Huffington Post / Matt Fuller, Jennifer Bendery, and Michael McAuliff]
  • Of course, even if Congress does succeed in keeping the government open, it will be through emergency measures yet again. It's about to end a fiscal year in which it hasn't passed a single "regular" appropriations bill. [Washington Post / Catherine Rampell]


  • The first child with three biological parents was born five months ago. The procedure sounds sci-fi-ish, but it will likely save the child from a fatal genetic disorder. [New Scientist / Jessica Hamzelou]
  • Republicans are totally dominant in state legislatures right now. But fear of Trump coud flip as many as 14 state Houses or Senates this year. [Huffington Post / Ryan Grim, Michael McAuliff, and Paul Blumenthal]
  • It turns out that Michael Chabon's 13-year-old son Abe is something of a fashion wunderkind. So they went to Paris Fashion Week together. [GQ / Michael Chabon]
  • Is Donald Trump simply Andy Kaufman in disguise? It would be irresponsible not to speculate. [Newsweek / Zach Schonfeld]
  • Let us now praise Carmela Vitale, the uncelebrated inventor of the pizza saver, that essential piece of plastic included in every Domino's delivery. [Eater / Kelsey McKinney]


  • "The main concern is that the human cells might migrate to the developing pig's brain and make it, in some way, more human." [BBC / Fergus Walsh]
  • "I liked the neck because it was all worn like a baseball bat. But it reminded me of Elvis Costello, and that definitely didn’t have a good association to me. I just thought: Elvis Costello … nerd." [J Mascis to NYT / Mark Borden]
  • "'Have you been approached by Donald Trump’s campaign wanting to get in on things?' 'No … I wouldn’t have somebody on that’s so mentally challenged. I feel like I’d be taking advantage of him. And you can print that.'" [Zach Galifianakis to LA Times / Josh Rottenberg]
  • "At a time when both liberals and conservatives have become exquisitely aware of income inequality and its ills, the seemingly placid, cold, philosopher-in-chief did more to combat that inequity than any president in at least 50 years." [The Atlantic / Derek Thompson]
  • "The 500-strong colloquy he's now orchestrating may be too sprawling to bear Magaziner's imprimatur distinctly, but browse the standout chapters of his life and you get the sinking sense that if health care reform is anything like his past projects, it will be hopelessly complex, or impossible to sell, or simply ill-advised." [Washington Monthly / David Segal]

Watch this: Superblocks — how Barcelona is taking city streets back from cars

Modern cities are designed for cars. But the city of Barcelona is testing out an urban design trick that can give cities back to pedestrians. [YouTube / Christophe Haubursin and Dave Roberts]