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Vox Sentences: And they’re Ossoff!

Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what's happening in the world, curated 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.

Voters head to the polls in Georgia’s pivotal Sixth District congressional race; a scorching heat wave sweeps across the Southwestern US; the Mexican government is accused of spying on journalists and anti-corruption activists.

Views from the Sixth

Voters Go To Polls In Tight Georgia 6th District Congressional Race Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images
  • There are two special elections happening today to replace Republican Congress members who are now members of President Trump’s Cabinet, but you’ve probably only been hearing about one of them.
  • The one sucking up all the political oxygen is Georgia’s Sixth District, where Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel are neck and neck, facing off to replace former Rep. Tom Price, now the US secretary of health and human services. [Politico / Elena Schneider]
  • Flying under the radar is a congressional race in South Carolina to replace former Congress member and current budget director Mick Mulvaney. But it’s being overshadowed by Georgia — so much so that members of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (whose actual job it is to help elect Democratic candidates to the House) are admitting they haven’t been following South Carolina all that closely. [Roll Call / Simone Pathé]
  • At first glance, the Georgia race may look like an incredibly long shot for Ossoff, given that he’s trying to win a deeply red district. The last time a Democrat represented the Sixth District was 1979, when the district had different boundaries than it does now. [NPR / Rachel Martin].
  • What could make all the difference this time is one Donald Trump. The race is widely seen as a referendum on Trump’s presidency, and a key test of whether Democrats can pull off an upset in the 2018 and win back a majority in Congress. [NYT / Jonathan Martin and Nate Cohn]
  • The high level of interest in the Sixth District had led to an incredible amount of money being poured into the race — the two candidates combined have spent about $50 million, making it the most expensive congressional election in history. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution / Greg Bluestein]
  • Handel, in particular, has been attacking Ossoff for getting donations from outside groups, and there are signs this is resonating with Republican voters. [Vox / Jeff Stein]
  • To be sure, Ossoff and Handel both are getting millions from their respective parties. But Ossoff has also been fundraising off small donors across the country, getting money from more than 200,000 individual contributors. While Handel attacks him for outside fundraising, she has also been raking in cash from groups including the Congressional Leadership Fund PAC, which doesn't have to disclose its donors. [Vox / Jeff Stein]
  • And in at least one case, a family of Republicans who are sick of Trump and disillusioned with the GOP’s agenda in Washington are ditching Handel and casting their ballots for Ossoff. The test tonight will be to see if more join them. [Vox /Jeff Stein​]

It’s too hot for planes to fly in the Southwestern US

Phoenix Boils In Near-Record Heat Wave Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images
  • It is really, really hot in the Southwestern United States.
  • Record-breaking temperatures are hitting parts of California, Arizona, and Nevada, with 119 degrees Fahrenheit recorded in Phoenix and California’s Death Valley getting up to a blistering 127 degrees. [CNN / Madison Park]
  • As a result, some airlines are grounding flights because the scorching air doesn’t give planes the lift they need to stay in the air. There’s no need to turn on the tap for hot water anymore; cold taps are reportedly just as warm. [Pacific Standard / Eric Holthaus]
  • At the electronic music festival Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas this weekend, medical calls doubled compared with last year as the National Weather Services posted heat advisories. There were 443 calls placed in just one day (although it’s important to note not all of these were just attributed to heat; others were from drug and alcohol use). [Las Vegas Review-Journal / Max Michor]
  • And cars have basically become ovens with wheels; a team of National Weather Service meteorologists in Sacramento baked cookies and roasted bacon by leaving them under the windshield of a 200-degree car. [National Weather Service Sacramento via Twitter]
  • This heat wave is the result of high pressure in the atmosphere. Climate change means dramatic heat waves are likely to become more common, as global temperatures overall rise. Last month marked the third-warmest May ever recorded since 1880. [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]
  • A new study found that 75 percent of the world’s population could be living in deadly heat waves by 2100, if global temperatures continue their upward climb. [Nature Climate Change / Camilo Mora et al.]
  • That’s troubling for populations all over the world, but especially in developing or undeveloped countries where people are poor and don’t have access to air conditioning to escape brutal temperatures. [National Geographic / Stephen Leahy​]

Surveillance south of the border

Protest In Mexico City Marks One Year Anniversary Of Missing Students Photo by Brett Gundlock/Getty Images
  • The Mexican government is suspected of spying on journalists, lawyers, and anti-corruption activists, using software that monitors every text, call, and email they send or receive on their cellphones. [NYT / Azam Ahmed and Nicole Perlroth]
  • Since 2011, federal agencies in the Mexican government have bought $80 million worth of software called Pegasus, which can spy on every piece of communication being sent to and from individual phones. The software sent text messages with legitimate-seeming links to its targets; when opened, the links triggered malware downloads to take over the phones. [Citizen Lab / John Scott-Railton et al.]
  • Pegasus is owned by the Israeli firm NSO Group, where former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn served as an advisory board member. [Haaretz]
  • One of the people allegedly being watched by the government is journalist Carmen Aristegui, who has reported on corruption cases, including one involving Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s wife. [The Guardian / Jo Tuckman]
  • The Mexican government was also allegedly spying on lawyers investigating the 2014 disappearance of 43 college students after a clash with police in the southern state of Guerrero. [LA Times / Patrick J. McDonnell and Cecilia Sanchez]
  • The incident of the missing students has proved one of Mexico’s most explosive and mysterious scandals; three years after they disappeared, it’s still unclear what exactly happened to them.
  • First, the Mexican government conducted its own investigation, concluding local authorities handed the protesting students over to a drug gang, who killed and buried them. International investigators have questioned that account, but weren’t able to make much headway on their own inquiry, saying the government stymied them at every turn. [PRI / David Leveille and Monica Campbell]
  • A spokesperson for Peña Nieto has already denied the latest spying allegations, saying the government only deploys surveillance against criminals and national security threats, not journalists. Since the software leaves no fingerprints, it could be tough to definitively prove the federal government’s involvement, but it certainly does nothing to improve relations between Peña Nieto’s government and its critics. [BBC]
  • The country already has a bad reputation for human rights abuses and attacks on reporters; a rising number of journalists are being killed in the country every year for their reporting on cartels and government corruption. [Committee to Protect Journalists​]


  • Five mass drownings, 6,000 carcasses, more than 1,110 tons of rotting wildebeest flesh. It smells awful, but it’s a hugely important contribution to replenishing nutrients in the rivers of the African Serengeti. [The Atlantic / Ed Yong]
  • More health care groups and pharmaceutical companies are trying to (literally) meet patients where they’re at, including motorcycle rallies. [NHPR / Casey McDermott]
  • The toilet of the future is waterless, off the grid, and able to double as a phone charger. It’s already being used in Madagascar, which has struggled with a lack of sanitation systems for years. [Mosaic / Lina Zeldovich]
  • Manufacturing jobs are still plentiful in some parts of America. But manufacturing job quality is still lagging; workers say they want better wages, benefits, and conditions. [Reuters / Timothy Aeppel]
  • Approximately a month after taking the toy world by storm, fidget spinners appear to be on their way out. [FiveThirtyEight / Walt Hickey]


  • “In a condition of affairs at worst disastrous, at best depraved, Ken, Ken, Ken, and Ken are all dating the same woman. Her name is Barbie.” [GQ / Caity Weaver]
  • "When I came here at 17, I didn't even know how to say 'No. 1.' It was hard to go get something to eat, to understand play instructions. I listened to English all day long without actually understanding it. But there's no language on the field. It's just baseball, and that's something you understand." [Óliver Pérez to ESPN / Marly Rivera]
  • “Vitale calls the twin use of the bicycle — increasing officers’ tactical advantage while trying to win the hearts and minds of the public — ‘a tactical dance between protesters and police’ that has played out over the course of American history.” [The Guardian / Jason Wilson]
  • “The ideal 21st century pregnancy is cute and demure, the very opposite of unruly; it makes your skin glow, your hair luscious. All of the unseemly side-effects of pregnancy — the swelling ankles, the varicose veins, the hemorrhoids — are hidden from sight, undiscussed and effectively invisible.” [Cosmopolitan / Anne Helen Petersen]
  • “The first use of a proper name for a tropical cyclone was by Clement Wragge, an Australian forecaster late in the 19th century. He first designated tropical cyclones by the letters of the Greek alphabet, then started using South Sea Island girls' names. When the new constituted Australian national government failed to create a federal weather bureau and appoint him director, he began naming cyclones ‘after political figures whom he disliked.’” [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / Chris Landsea and Neal Dorst]

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