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Vox Sentences: “It would have been a massacre”

Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what's happening in the world, written by Ella Nilsen. 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 House majority whip is wounded as a gunman attacks Congress members in Alexandria; Uber sees yet another scandal as its CEO departs; the battle to retake Mosul rages on.

One day, two mass shootings

Multiple Injuries Reported From Shooting At Field Used For Congressional Baseball Practice Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, was injured when a gunman opened fire on members of Congress in Alexandria, Virginia, this morning, as they practiced for a congressional baseball game. [AP / Erica Werner]
  • Scalise was standing on second base when he was shot in the hip; he was later taken to the hospital and is reported to be in critical condition following surgery. Also injured were a congressional staffer and a Capitol Police officer. [Vox / Jim Tankersley and Jeff Stein]
  • The suspected shooter has been identified as 66-year-old James Thomas Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, who was killed by police in the ensuing gun battle. [Washington Post / Matt Zapotosky and Ellen Nakashima]
  • Family members said Hodgkinson was upset about Trump’s presidency and Republican leadership in Washington, something he wrote about in social media posts and letters to the editor at his local newspaper. [NYT / Nicholas Fandos]
  • Hodgkinson was a supporter of former Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, volunteering for his 2016 campaign. Sanders took to the floor of the Senate today to say he was “sickened” by the news, and stressed his belief that meaningful political change can only be achieved through nonviolent means. [HuffPost / Marina Fang]
  • The shooting occurred in a residential neighborhood of Alexandria, and passersby who were out for morning runs or walking their dogs near the baseball field took shelter in their neighbors’ homes and a nearby dog park. [Vox / Jim Tankersley and Jeff Stein]
  • If not for the presence of Capitol Police (who were there because Scalise is part of House leadership), Republican Sen. Rand Paul said the shooting could have been much worse, calling it a potential “massacre.” [NBC / Chelsea Bailey]
  • The Alexandria shooting is just the latest in the US, where the rate of gun violence has been steadily rising. In fact, it’s the 154th mass shooting so far this year and the sixth this week. [Washington Post / Christopher Ingraham]
  • And it wasn’t the only shooting in America today; another gunman killed three people and himself, and wounded others, at a UPS facility in San Francisco. [CNN / Eliott McLaughlin]
  • Nevertheless, Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, who watched his colleague get shot this morning, said the Alexandria incident doesn’t change his beliefs on gun rights. Brooks said he didn’t believe in rolling back the Second Amendment, just like he doesn’t believe in rolling back the First Amendment over offensive speech — even if that means an increase in gun violence. [Vox / Dara Lind​]

One star for Uber

Getty Images
  • Two things happened almost simultaneously at Uber yesterday that illustrate the company’s longstanding problem with misogyny.
  • First, embattled CEO and company co-founder Travis Kalanick took a leave of absence after Uber announced it was restructuring to fix problems with its culture — including frequent complaints of a cutthroat work environment and numerous claims of sexual harassment from female employees. [NYT / Mike Isaac]
  • Then — as if on cue — Uber board member David Bonderman dropped a sexist joke ... at a company meeting to address sexual harassment. After board member Arianna Huffington announced the addition of a second woman to Uber’s board, Bonderman quipped that all that would accomplish would be “more talking.” [Yahoo Finance / J.P. Mangalindan]
  • He subsequently resigned, saying his comments were inexcusable and shouldn’t overshadow the reforms Uber is trying to implement. [Yahoo Finance / J.P. Mangalindan]
  • The Bonderman incident caused an uproar, but it’s just the latest example in an onslaught of resignations and controversy at the ride-hailing giant, which is the most valuable private company in the world.
  • Uber has long been known for its aggressive culture and business practices — including low wages for drivers. Its labor practices and the threat it poses to traditional taxi companies have prompted lawsuits around the world. [Reuters]
  • In a more sinister case, a company executive recently obtained the medical records of a woman who had been raped by an Uber driver in India and showed them to Kalanick, reportedly floating a theory that the sexual assault story was planted by a ride-hailing competitor. [Recode / Kara Swisher and Johana Bhuiyan]
  • So what’s next for Uber? After commissioning an investigation into its problems by former US Attorney General Eric Holder, company officials say they plan to increase diversity, give the board of directors more oversight, and tailor compensation practices to incentivize good behavior among company executives. [Holder recommendations]
  • With the string of resignations, the company’s top management is decimated. Uber is currently without a CEO, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, or chief marketing officer. That’s a lot of shoes to fill, and some of Uber’s most recent announced hires are women. [Recode / Rani Molla and Johana Bhuiyan​]

The battle to retake Mosul intensifies

  • Hundreds of Iraqi refugees displaced by fighting in Mosul recently came down with serious food poisoning in a United Nations camp, as they wait for the battle to retake the city from ISIS to end.
  • Around 800 refugees needed to be treated for vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Some were rushed to outside hospitals, while others were cared for inside the refugee camp. [The Guardian / Emma Graham-Harrison]
  • There were initially rumors that the food poisoning was intentional, which was compounded by the fact the meals were paid for by a Qatari charity (Qatar is under increasing scrutiny in the Middle East after other Gulf countries accused it of funding terrorism and subsequently cut diplomatic ties). [New York Times / Tim Arango]
  • But camp officials said it was just unintended consequences of an organization trying to do a good deed; the meal of chicken, rice, soup, beans, and yogurt was prepared by an outside restaurant and driven to the camp, and sat in the hot desert sun for two hours before being consumed. [New York Times / Tim Arango]
  • The refugees affected are just a few of the thousands waiting for Iraqi security forces to retake Mosul from ISIS, which has been occupying the city since 2014. [Time / Jared Malsin]
  • The number of ISIS fighters in Mosul and the space they occupy is shrinking, but the remaining ones are still fighting viciously. Today, ISIS fighters deployed car bombs and attacked Iraqi police while wearing suicide vests. [Washington Post / Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim]
  • It’s not just Iraqi police that are fighting back; they are joined by Kurdish peshmerga fighters, elite members of the Iraqi army and Sunni tribesman — about 100,000 soldiers in all. [BuzzFeed / Mike Giglio]
  • There have been numerous civilian casualties as well; hundreds have been shot dead by militants as they attempted to flee the city in recent days. [BBC]
  • ISIS has had a disproportionate effect on the rapidly growing number of refugees in Iraq, as well as neighboring Syria (which is also dealing with a brutal civil war). In 2013, there were less than 1 million internally displaced Iraqi civilians. By 2015, that number had risen to 4.4 million. [Pew / Phillip Connor]
  • Since President Trump’s orders to crack down on illegal immigrants, 100 Chaldean Iraqi Christians were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents this weekend, and face potential deportation back to their home country, where many fear they could be killed. [Vox / Sarah Wildman​]


  • More Americans are relying on crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe and CrowdRise to pay for their medical bills. Nearly 50 percent of the money raised on GoFundMe last year was for medical expenses. [Bloomberg / Suzanne Woolley]
  • The head of the Michigan Health Department was charged with involuntary manslaughter for his role in the Flint water crisis. He’s the highest-ranking official to be charged. [Associated Press / Dave Eggert]
  • Congressional Democrats have filed the latest emoluments lawsuit against President Trump, alleging his vast business ties are a violation of the Constitution. [Washington Post / Tom Hamburger and Karen Tumulty]
  • The Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh is upset that one of its deputy consul generals was arrested in New York City and charged for coercing his servant to work with no pay. [Reuters / Serajul Quadir]
  • Schools are starting to prioritize students mastering skills and concepts over earning credits. It could drastically change education. [Hechinger Report / Lillian Mongeau]


  • “[The hijab] gives me a visible identity. When people ask, ‘What are you?’ at least there’s one thing I don’t have to explain.” [Linda Sarsour to the Fader / Atossa Abrahamian]
  • “I grew up hoping this country could come close to my dreams — a modern, free democracy. Now I’m not sure it will ever happen in my lifetime.” [Barbaros Altug to Bloomberg / Cagan Koc]
  • “Awkward, Americanized, consumer-focused forms of Buddhism have long since taken over our exercise (yoga), our offices (mindfulness), and our homes (feng shui). Now, with doula programs popping up like mantras in the mind, they’ve come for our deaths.” [Ann Neumann / The Baffler]
  • “Unlike most places in Mexico that have been ravaged by the drug war, what happened in Allende didn’t have its origins in Mexico. It began in the United States, when the Drug Enforcement Administration scored an unexpected coup.” [Ginger Thompson / ProPublica]
  • “It is a sad commentary that Sean Spicer spends so much of his time objecting to my comments at the same time he has done such a poor job in defending the president and promoting his many accomplishments.” [Christopher Ruddy to NYT / Maggie Haberman, Glenn Thrush, Julie Hirschfeld Davis]

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