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Vox Sentences: In which nobody, really, knows what is Aleppo

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Gary Johnson doesn't know what Aleppo is; Matt Lauer doesn't know how to moderate; Wells Fargo customers didn't know they had 1.5 million accounts secretly opened in their names — but got charged for the fees anyway.

What Aleppo is

Building in Aleppo Erdal Turkoglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  • Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico and the Libertarian Party's nominee for president, finally got some media attention Thursday ... for an incident likely to sour all future media attention he gets forever.
  • Asked in an interview what he'd do about Aleppo, Johnson replied, "What is Aleppo?" [The Daily Beast / Mike Barnicle]
  • Johnson issued a statement apologizing for his apparent ignorance soon after the interview (which is more than can be said of certain presidential candidates we can think of). [Sopan Deb via Twitter]
  • But can we be real? A lot of people criticizing Johnson didn't understand what Aleppo is either. Former US Ambassador Chris Hill said it was the capital of ISIS; the New York Times called it a stronghold for ISIS, then corrected itself by saying Aleppo was the capital of Syria. All of these are wrong. [Slate / Ben Mathis-Lilley]
  • Regular Vox Sentences readers may remember that Aleppo is a Syrian rebel stronghold that's been under siege by the forces of Bashar al-Assad for years, trapping hundreds of thousands of civilians. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • Rebels broke the siege early last month, but Assad's forces have reinstated it; this week, they also took several neighborhoods in the south of the city. [Reuters / Angus McDowall, Leila Bassam, and Tom Perry]
  • The siege of Aleppo has contributed a little to the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis. But many civilians have chosen to stay (even after humanitarian corridors were opened earlier this summer), fearing death at the hands of government forces if they leave. [The Telegraph / Josie Ensor]
  • So the question of what Johnson would do about Aleppo isn't (contra the press) a question of refugees. It's a question about an ongoing humanitarian crisis involving hundreds of thousands of people without access to water... [UNICEF]
  • a war in which the United States pointedly refused to get involved. [The Atlantic]

The "Media is going to throw it to Trump!" panic commences

Donald Trump NBC
  • Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton appeared at the same event (consecutively) Wednesday night. The loser was ... NBC moderator Matt Lauer. [NYT / James Poniewozik]
  • Lauer took an adversarial attitude toward Hillary Clinton (spending 13 minutes on her email scandal), then failed to point out that Donald Trump was lying (again) about his stance on the 2003 Iraq War. [Vox / Matt Yglesias]
  • Lauer's performance, plus this week's tightening polls, threatens to activate a deep liberal anxiety: that the media will somehow throw Donald Trump the election by holding him to a much lower standard than Hillary Clinton (as they perceive happened in 2000). [NYMag / Frank Rich]
  • After all, Clinton, as a woman, is expected to meet two standards that are assumed to be opposites ("leader" and "woman"); Donald Trump is only intermittently expected to meet one. [Vox / Dara Lind]
  • But maybe Lauer wasn't as bad as all that. Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall argues that Lauer's passivity toward Trump called attention to how unprepared the candidate was: a "dog ate my homework" dance. [TPM / Josh Marshall]
  • Lauer didn't stop Trump from saying at least six things that would have disqualified any other candidate. [Huffington Post / Sam Stein and Amanda Terkel]
  • And Trump's bragging that he understands the intelligence community much better than Clinton appears to have enraged intelligence officials so much that they blabbed to NBC News about how badly Trump's classified briefings have gone. (When Chris Christie has to serve as the etiquette enforcer, you've got problems.) [NBC News / Ken Dilanian, Robert Windrem, and William Arkin]
  • In Trump's defense, he might not know any better. Apparently most of his policy staff quit in August. Because they weren't getting paid. [Washington Post / Josh Rogin]

The Wells Fargo wagon is a-comin' down the street, and not telling you it has a credit card in your name

Wells Fargo customer going into the bank Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
  • Wells Fargo was fined $185 million Thursday for illegal banking practices — most of them involving signing customers up for services without telling them, then charging for the service. [NYT / Michael Corkery]
  • The bank reportedly opened 1.5 million new accounts secretly and illegally.
  • Wells Fargo has reportedly fired 5,300 employees "over the last few years" for doing this, according to CNN Money (which raises questions about how it failed to prevent other employees from doing the same). [CNN Money / Matt Egan]
  • $100 million of the fines to Wells Fargo were assessed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — the largest in its five-year history. The CFPB's had some victories in its short reign (most notably staying alive in the face of a Republican Congress), but the Wells Fargo scandal might be the most straightforward case for its existence. [Time / Ian Salisbury]
  • It also calls into question Wells Fargo's reputation as the "boring bank" — the only top-tier US bank that didn't put effort into complicated financial instruments and high-risk investment practices. [WSJ / David Weidner]
  • "Boring banking" was supposed to be the key to Wells Fargo's success: proof that conventional banking was simply more lucrative. That might be true, but "aggressive" (or simply illegal) sales tactics might have helped. [The Motley Fool / John Maxfield]
  • It's not like Wells Fargo's record is squeaky-clean, though. In 2008, the bank had to pay $3,500 to descendants of thousands of Mexican laborers whom it had cheated out of back pay in the 1940s. [NYT / Pam Belluck]


  • Want to know if your fridge or ice chest is grizzly bear–proof? Only one way to know for sure: come on over to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, where they'll fill it up with peanut butter and let the bears have at it. [WSJ / Harriet Torry]
  • If you want to pick a fast line at the supermarket, go behind a shopper with a full cart. No, really. [NYT / Christopher Mele]
  • UberX appears to generate about $6.8 billion in consumer surplus a year — that is, benefits to consumers that they don't have to pay for. [Bloomberg / Tyler Cowen]
  • People talk a lot about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton "getting the nuclear codes." But how do they actually work in practice? This handy graphic explains. [Bruce G. Blair to Bloomberg / Dave Merrill, Nafeesa Syeed, and Brittany Harris]
  • BuzzFeed investigated a year of rapes that Baltimore County detectives deemed "unfounded." In many cases, the detectives didn't invesetigate at all before concluding the accuser was lying — even if the accused perp had a prior rape arrest. [BuzzFeed / Alex Campbell and Katie Baker]


  • "'I’m a conservative lesbian who believes that Trump, similar to Hillary & Obama, is more akin to the 2nd coming of Christ … rather than a "saviour" of the USA,' Dankert emailed, ending her note with a smiley face emoji." [Huffington Post / Jennifer Bendery]
  • "Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It's an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out." [Mark Forsyth via Quartz / Cassie Werber]
  • "Unfortunately, when Ford decided to deliver this news to the world, instead of spelling it out in clear English, they decided to deliver some Seussian poetry." [The Verge / James Vincent]
  • "The social programs available to economically-vulnerable families are determined in large part by the state they happen to reside in – so much so that the saying 'pick your parents well' can now be expanded to 'and hope they live in a state with a robust safety net.'" [Institute for Research on Poverty / Sarah Bruch, Marcia Meyers, and Janet Gornick]
  • "When Clinton operatives talk about their 'data-based' campaign, it’s invariably Kriegel’s data, and perhaps more importantly his models interpreting that data, they are talking about. It was an algorithm from Kriegel’s shop — unreported until now — that determined, after the opening states, where almost every dollar of Clinton’s more than $60 million in television ads was spent during the primary." [Politico / Shane Goldmacher]

Watch this: Understanding how Hillary Clinton would govern

Hillary Clinton's greatest skill can also be her greatest weakness. [YouTube / Ezra Klein, Joe Posner]

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