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Vox Sentences: The Purge (of Ohio’s voter rolls)

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.

North Korea threatens the US territory of Guam; Trump's Justice Department supports Ohio purging its voter rolls; South Africa's president survives yet another vote of no confidence.

All eyes on Guam

Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images
  • It's been about 24 hours since President Trump threatened to unleash "fire and fury" on the North Korean regime in response to its aggressive rhetoric on nuclear weapons. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • So far, there has been no fire and no fury — just Secretary of State Rex Tillerson trying to defuse the situation, telling Americans that we are not about to go to war in North Korea and everyone should sleep soundly. [BBC / Anthony Zurcher]
  • But people in the tiny US territory of Guam (located in the Pacific, about 2,200 miles away from North Korea) probably aren’t sleeping very soundly, because North Korea just threatened to bomb them. [Vox / Alex Ward]
  • Guam is home to about 160,000 people and two US military bases. It’s so far unclear how serious North Korea is about its threat or whether it can even successfully launch a missile at Guam, and the island is equipped with missile defense systems for such an attack. [Vox / Alex Ward]
  • Tillerson, who concluded a diplomatic trip to Asia and flew back to the US yesterday, told reporters Trump was simply sending a strong message to North Korea and speaking in forceful “language that Kim Jong Un will understand.” [USA Today / Doug Stanglin]
  • As this drama unfolds in the South Pacific, it’s looking increasingly like Trump’s panic-inducing comments yesterday were ad-libbed, with his aides in the dark about what he was going to say until he said it. [NYT / Jonathan Martin and Glenn Thrush]

A controversial voter law gets a boost from Trump

Ty Wright/Getty Images
  • In a break with the Obama administration, Trump’s Justice Department just sided with Ohio on its efforts to remove infrequent voters from its rolls. [Mother Jones / Ari Berman]
  • Voting officials in Ohio have the power to cancel people’s voter registration if they haven’t voted in years. There’s a multi-year, multi-step process to determine who stays and who goes. [Associated Press / Andrew Welsh-Huggins]
  • Opponents of the practice say the rules disproportionately target minority and homeless voters. They argue that just as voters have rights to cast a vote, they also have rights not to cast a vote, and therefore should not be purged from the voter rolls for exercising that right. [Vox / Garet Williams]
  • The case is headed to the Supreme Court this fall, and the Justice Department filed an amicus brief backing Ohio’s position on Monday. [NYT / Charlie Savage]
  • This is a change from the position the Obama administration took; it called the state's practice unlawful. [NPR / Carrie Johnson]
  • But the change shouldn’t be much of a surprise; Trump is a big proponent of tightening voter eligibility rules across the country, especially given his frequent (and erroneous) tweets about rampant voter fraud nationwide. [PolitiFact / Louis Jacobson]
  • So far, Trump’s larger efforts on voting reform have stumbled, after a presidential voting commission to investigate fraud asked for an astonishing amount of private voter data — and got turned down by nearly every secretary of state in the country. [CNN / Liz Stark and Grace Hauck]

They don't call Jacob Zuma the "Teflon president" for nothing

Sean Gallup/Getty Images
  • South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma is hanging on to power, after he managed to survive a close no-confidence vote early this week. [The Guardian / Simon Allison]
  • At this point, there have been so many no-confidence votes in Zuma that he’s nicknamed “the Teflon president.” [CNN / David McKenzie, Sheena McKenzie, and Brent Swails]
  • This latest vote posed one of the most serious challenges to his power, because more than 20 members of his own African National Congress party voted against him. [Washington Post / Peter Granitz]
  • But it seems the opposition party in South Africa isn’t accepting the outcome of the vote; they are now calling for the South African parliament to be dissolved and early elections to be held in yet another bid to oust Zuma. [Reuters / James Macharia]
  • Zuma has long been a divisive figure in South Africa. He’s been dogged by persistent corruption allegations, including using public money to refurbish his own residence and alleged involvement in an arms deal in the 1990s. [CNN / David McKenzie and Hilary Clarke]
  • And Zuma has other problems — namely, South Africa’s slumping economy. He is up for reelection in 2019. [Marketplace / Andy Uhler]


  • The long, arduous journey of the New York banana, from boat to bodega. [NYT / Annie Correal]
  • Maine's governor wants to raise the voting age to 21, to prove a point about why 18-year-olds should be allowed to buy cigarettes. [Portland Press Herald / Kevin Miller]
  • A few years ago, scientists unearthed the world’s largest dinosaur to date, named the Patagotitan. To give you a sense of its size, picture a dinosaur as tall as a seven-story building. [The Atlantic / Ed Yong]
  • Japanese scientists have solved the pesky problem of melting ice cream (the most important problem of our time). The secret apparently lies in strawberries. [Atlas Obscura / Natasha Frost]
  • Trump did not declare America’s opioid crisis a national emergency yesterday, as many expected he would. But several states have already done so, with varying results. [Stat / Erin Mershon and Andrew Joseph]


  • “I said, ‘Are you here on a date with him? Because I’m here on a date with him. We should probably just go get a drink together and leave this dude here.’” [Lisette Pylant to NY Mag / Madison Malone Kircher]
  • “How would I define a wack artist? A wack artist uses other people's music for their approval. That's what keeps the game watered-down.” [Kendrick Lamar to Rolling Stone / Brian Hiatt]
  • “Now, the proliferation of Instagram playgrounds has shifted mass photography toward images that are largely devoid of experience, beyond the taking of the image itself. In other words: It’s pictures of pictures, all the way down.” [The Ringer / Alyssa Bereznak]
  • “It didn’t used to be that you were worried about providing role models and mentors for males.” [Jennifer Carlo to the Hechinger Report / Jon Marcus]
  • “When you ever feel you don’t know what to do, sing to the person next to you. And that person will sing to the person next to that person, and then you will have this force that’s even stronger.” [Bill Murray to NYT / Sopan Deb]

Listen to this

On the newest episode of Worldly,’s foreign policy podcast, Yochi Dreazen, Jenn Williams, and Zack Beauchamp discuss how worried we should be about North Korea’s nukes, what it means that one of the most reclusive countries on earth has a missile that can hit the US, and why the Trump administration can’t get on the same page about whether it wants to bomb North Korea or talk to it. Listen on Art19, Apple Podcasts, or Stitcher.

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