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Vox Sentences: Peace in Colombia, take 2

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.

Donald Trump's administration will restore white nationalism to the White House; Facebook's fake-news problem; another attempt at a peace deal in Colombia.


Decline of the West Wing

Steve Bannon Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
  • President-elect Donald Trump has announced the first two staff hires of his incoming administration: Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus will be his chief of staff, and Breitbart publisher Stephen Bannon (a rumored contender for the chief of staff job) will be an "equal partner" to Priebus under the title of "chief strategist and senior counselor." [CNN / Jim Acosta, Dana Bash, and Tal Kopan]
  • Priebus is an odd choice for chief of staff, since he, like Trump, has no experience in the federal government — and since he did not exactly appear to have a lot of influence over Trump during the campaign. [Vox / Matt Yglesias]
  • But Priebus is flying under the radar compared with Bannon, who is as responsible as anyone for the resurgence of white supremacism under the mantle of the "alt-right." [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • This isn't a "liberals call everything racist" thing. This is a "the American Nazi Party, which was convinced Trump was going to sell them out, are heartened by Bannon's hire and think Trump might be for real" thing. [CNN / Andrew Kaczynscki and Chris Massie]
  • It is a "National Review columnists are straight-up condemning one of the Republican president-elect's first hires" thing. [National Review / Jonah Goldberg]
  • The urge to condemn Bannon's hire — to fight the anticipated "normalization" of Bannon's ideology and Trump's platform — is mostly getting expressed so far in criticism of media for not being explicit enough in calling racism a bad thing, and in calls to Congress for members to denounce Bannon. (Since he's not in a Senate-confirmable position, "denounce" is the best that callers can ask for.) [Just Security / Rebecca Hamilton]
  • The problem with putting pressure on politicians to denounce and de-"normalize" Trump and his administration, though, is that constitutional norms require them to treat him as legitimate, insofar as he won a presidential election and that automatically grants him a serious amount of power. [Washington Post / Andrew Sabl]
  • This might be why President Obama, who delivered the 2016 campaign's sickest anti-Trump burns, is now refusing to comment on Bannon's hire or Trump's readiness for office, in the name of a smooth transition of power. [Washington Post / Juliet Eilperin and Greg Jaffe]

More like Fakebook

Mark Zuckerberg and John Kerry Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
  • There is a lot of fake news on Facebook. It's a problem. You may have noticed. [Vox / Timothy B. Lee]
  • This was especially noticeable (and problematic) in the runup to the presidential election last week — especially given the proliferation of sketchy, foreign-based fake "news" pages hyping Donald Trump. [BuzzFeed News / Craig Silverman and Lawrence Alexander]
  • Facebook maintains that the fake political news didn't change anyone's minds about the election — which is either an unsupported assertion or something that Facebook advertisers (who are literally paying Facebook on the premise that its users are influenced by what they see there) should be alarmed to find out. [WSJ / Deepa Seetharaman]
  • The company has promised it's going to start rolling out some form of improved quality control over the coming months in reply to backlash. [The Guardian / Jasper Jackson]
  • (And apparently a "renegade task force" of Facebook staffers is getting out ahead of the challenge.) [BuzzFeed News / Shira Frankel]
  • This is a long-overdue step: Facebook has always used its algorithms to favor certain kinds of news, but refused the responsibility that came with that power. [Vox / Timothy B. Lee]
  • It's worth noting, though, that Facebook has tried fake news controls before. And they didn't work. [CNN Money / Heather Kelly]
  • One big reason: Quality control filters on political news can be used for political ends (to flag articles you disagree with as "fake") — or might be seen as biased even when they aren't (which happened to Facebook's latest attempt to filter out fake news, according to a Gizmodo report). [Gizmodo / Michael Nuñez]
  • This might be a consequence of one of the most frustrating truths in politics: The people who absorb the most information are the most doctrinaire, the most narrow-minded, and, often, totally wrong. [Vox / Ezra Klein]

Peace, take 2

Protesters in Colombia Guillermo Legaria/AFP/Getty Images
  • The government of Colombia and the FARC rebel group have agreed to a new peace agreement, after the previous agreement was defeated in a national referendum last month. [NYT / Nicholas Casey]
  • The defeat of the referendum came as a surprise to observers — but was quickly attributed to a punitive backlash against FARC members. Former President Alvaro Uribe had attacked the peace deal as a referendum on amnesty for the FARC, and voters (especially in urban areas) believed that ex-rebels needed to be punished more harshly. [Vox / Jennifer Williams]
  • The new peace deal addresses these concerns (after the defeat of the referendum, the FARC softened many of its negotiating positions). The group will now have to declare all its assets and turn them over for reparations, and it will no longer get guaranteed legislative representation for its political arm. [The Economist]
  • Ironically, the changes are likely to distract from the land reform provisions of the peace deal — which were so important to the original deal that the government persuaded rural Colombians (who were most directly victimized by the FARC) to support the referendum anyway. [Washington Post / Michael Albertus]
  • And the factors that made it impossible to gauge public opinion, or poll the referendum accurately, still remain. [Vox / Matt Moffett]
  • But this time, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos might skip the referendum part entirely and put it up to Congress for a vote instead. [Colombia Reports / Adriaan Alsema]

Miscellaneous

  • The Netherlands is facing a prison crisis: There aren't enough prisoners to fill them. [BBC / Lucy Ash]
  • Best Sunshine Live is on paper one of the most successful casinos in the world, with higher per-table averages than the biggest casinos in Macau. But when you consider that it's on the little-visited island of Saipan, and appears largely empty on typical business days, it starts to look a bit more like a giant scam. [Bloomberg / Daniela Wei and Matthew Campbell]
  • Why is Facebook not letting journalists repost the horrifying death threats they've received for attacking Trump? [Slate / Mark Joseph Stern]
  • 15 years ago, American vegans were a pop culture laughingstock. Today they're a powerful political constituency and activist group. Here's what changed. [Quartz / Chase Purdy]
  • Tig Notaro's latest closing joke is … well, just read it. [NY Mag / Jesse David Fox]

Verbatim

  • "It happens all the time: Young gay people leave their small towns and head to the big city, where they can find love, acceptance and, in Canada at least, a curling league to call their own." [NYT / Dan Levin]
  • "In Absalom, Absalom, incest is less of a taboo for an upper-class Southern family than acknowledging the one drop of black blood that would clearly soil the family line. Rather than lose its 'whiteness' (once again), the family chooses murder." [New Yorker / Toni Morrison]
  • "For a death squad, the D.D.S. has a surprisingly good reputation." [New Yorker / Adrian Chen]
  • "Bruce [Campbell] told me a few years ago that he could walk past a line of people and 99 people would not know who he was, but the last person would wet himself." [Don Coscarelli to LA Times / Josh Rottenberg]
  • "The American public has been duped. We've been sold an image of freedom and rebellion, conned into expecting effortless style and casual Fridays. It was all a lie. Jeans are bad." [Racked / Hanson O'Haver]

Watch this: How streets, roads, and avenues are different

There's a method to the madness of classifying roads. [YouTube / Phil Edwards and Gina Barton]