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Vox Sentences: Food can’t get into Aleppo. But horror stories can get out.

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 horrific assault on a rebel stronghold in Syria is about to commence; Colombia decides whether to end its civil war; Donald Trump … sigh. Is himself.

The last assault

Syrian child in hospital Jawad Al Rifai/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  • The government of Bashar al-Assad is preparing a final assault on the besieged city of Aleppo. As many as 10,000 ground troops have amassed outside the city. [CNN / Barbara Starr and Elise Labott]
  • The offensive caps a week of renewed bombing (with the help of the Russian government) after the end of a temporary ceasefire. [Reuters / Dmitry Solovyov and Ellen Francis]
  • According to the World Health Organization, 338 civilians — including 100 children — have been killed in Aleppo since the ceasefire's end. [NYT / Hwaida Saad and Nick Cumming-Bruce]
  • And 80 percent of UN aid convoys into the city have been blocked. [The Guardian / Nick Hopkins]
  • "Food and medical aid cannot get in," write two Guardian reporters who talked to Aleppo residents via Skype. "But stories of horror can get out." [The Guardian / Emma Graham-Harrison and Hussein Akoush]
  • The Aleppo offensive has attracted rebukes from the US, Germany, and other Western powers; it's been the clearest call yet to prevent what's now seen as, as much as anything, a Russian effort. [The Economist]
  • The Russian government, for its part, is busy insinuating that the US has been trying to protect a terrorist group in hopes that it will overthrow Assad. [BBC]

Vote yes for peace

Pro-Timochenko sign Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images
  • On Sunday, Colombia will vote in a referendum on the peace deal signed this week between the government and the rebel group FARC — a referendum that, if it passes, will end the country's 50-year civil war. [Miami Herald]
  • It's probably going to pass; recent polling has the referendum at 66 percent. But polling is tricky, and feelings on both sides are running high. [The Guardian / Sibylla Brodzinsky]
  • Those most opposed are the most direct victims of the FARC. But if the referendum fails, it's hard to imagine Colombia finding another route to peace. [FT / Andres Schipani and John Paul Rathbone]
  • If it succeeds, meanwhile, it will be a tremendous step forward not just for the country but for the entire hemisphere. [The Dialogue / Michael Shifter]
  • At least one of Colombia's remaining rebel groups has already indicated it will start peace talks after the deal is ratified. [Bernama]
  • Regardless of the outcomes of future peace deals, the Colombia referendum would formally end the last of the Western Hemisphere's official wars. [NPR / Greg Myre]
  • ("Official" is doing a lot of work in that sentence. In El Salvador, for example, to say police and gangs aren't at war is just a matter of semantics.) [InSight Crime]

Donald Trump melts down (again)

Trump deposition Superior Court of the District of Columbia via BuzzFeed
  • Donald Trump, who still has a not-insignificant chance of becoming the next president of the United States, spent the wee hours of the morning Friday urging America to check out the "sex tape" of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado in hopes of discrediting her and continuing their feud. [Slate / Christina Cautericci]
  • This brings the fight between the two into its fourth day. If you had "Trump versus a former Miss Universe" as the takeaway from the first presidential debate, you win. [NY Mag / Jonathan Chait]
  • Meanwhile in Trumpland, BuzzFeed published tapes from the nominee's deposition in two lawsuits against prominent chefs who'd pulled out of his new DC hotel over allegations that he was inflaming anti-Mexican sentiment. [BuzzFeed News / Daniel Wagner]
  • The deposition appears to imply that Trump's anti-Mexican comments at his campaign launch ("racist' and the like) were premeditated. Frankly, after the past 15 months of his campaign, this seems like an academic question. I (Dara) am much more interested in learning if the chefs would have stopped the hotel from a debate-watching deal that would have required guests to pound multiple Budweisers an hour to get their money's worth. [Huffington Post / Travis Waldron]
  • Trump did get a win today. The Commission on Presidential Debates issued a statement that he was correct about the sound setup in the debate hall Monday: It did in fact make it hard to hear him at the beginning of the debate. [Vox / Adrew Prokop]
  • Ironically, he's not entirely wrong about Machado, either: The Clinton campaign clearly did set her out as bait for him. That just makes it all the more illustrative: He saw the train coming and still couldn't get out of the way.


  • Britain's TV regulator has ranked obscene words by level of obscenity. "Bellend" is officially worse than "bollocks." [Jack Shenker]
  • Obsessive promotion of breastfeeding has a downside: About a fifth of new mothers don't make enough milk in the first days of their baby's life, and if their children don't get formula, they suffer starvation symptoms. [Slate / Elissa Strauss]
  • A Virginia prosecutor is trying a 14-year-old boy for allegedly stealing a 65-cent carton of milk at school. Take a wild guess what the targeted kid's race is. [Washington Post / Victoria St. Martin]
  • An MIT biologist claims to have developed a pill that extends human life span. Is it a huge breakthrough, or just more quackery? [NY Mag / Benjamin Wallace]
  • Finally, there's Senate legislation that prisoners in solitary confinement get at least four hours outside their cell a day, can talk to other people and access education programs, and get out as soon as possible. [ACLU]


  • "Bill! Let's go! Let's go! Bill! Let's go! I gotta get home!" [Barack Obama to Bill Clinton via CBS News / Reena Flores]
  • "All you're likely thinking about right now is how this bifold wallet is taunting you. It's not. You're a psychotic individual." [The Onion]
  • "Donald Trump does not represent those best parts of conservativism. To transform his movement into Marxism, just replace 'the bourgeoisie” with 'the coastal elites' and 'false consciousness' with 'PC speech.'" [Scott Alexander]
  • "In other words, the virus that was causing disease was located in the koala genome itself." [PBS Nova / Carrie Arnold]
  • "Amongst the photographs in this subseries are portraits of Alvin Ailey, Tom Waits, Lucinda Childs, Peter Ustinov, Peter Boyle, Laura Foreman, Ann Beckerman, and Robert Alexander. The subseries also contains several poignant photographs of laboratory chimpanzees." [NYU]

Watch this: Why you're safer on a bike share than a regular bike

It's heavy and unwieldy, and that's a good thing. [YouTube / Gina Barton, Johnny Harris, Joe Posner, and Liz Scheltens]