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Vox Sentences: “A complete meltdown of humanity” in Aleppo

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Have mass atrocities just begun in Aleppo?; Trump's "plan" to avoid conflicts of interest is not a plan at all.


Aleppo has fallen, but the horror is ongoing

Residents of Aleppo amid the rubble AFP / George Ourfalian via Getty
  • The forces of Bashar al-Assad have won the battle for Aleppo. Russian officials and Syrian rebel leaders confirmed Tuesday that a ceasefire had been negotiated (with Russia and Turkey acting as intermediaries) that would, in theory, allow at least some residents to evacuate the city. [Reuters / Laila Bassam, Angus McDowall, and Stephanie Nebehay]
  • After several weeks of heavy fighting (in a battle that has raged for years), Assad's troops spent the past few days tearing through the last portions of rebel-held Aleppo — in what Vox's Zack Beauchamp calls "a slaughter, being documented in real time and beamed around the world." [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • On Tuesday morning, before the ceasefire, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights told the press it had evidence that at least 82 civilians had been "shot on sight" by government troops. [BBC]
  • That is unlikely to be anywhere near the total number of civilian deaths. The problem is that any humanitarian protection or communications have totally collapsed in the sector of the city besieged by Assad's troops — a UN spokesperson called the situation "a complete meltdown of humanity." [NYT / Anne Barnard and Nick Cumming-Bruce]
  • And rumors indicate that hundreds or thousands of men and boys were rounded up by government troops — reminding more than one human rights observer of the massacre at Srebrenica during the Bosnian genocide in the 1990s. [UN Dispatch / Mark Leon Goldberg]
  • The details of the ceasefire are still unclear, but the Russian government indicates that rebels and their families will be allowed to leave by the path of their choice. [AP]
  • Residents of Aleppo, however — many of whom were broadcasting their "final messages" online during the battle — are not reassured that they will not now be targeted or killed by Assad's forces. [Huffington Post / Willa Frej, Nick Robins-Early, and Rowaida Abdelaziz]
  • Assad's forces have a history of dealing harshly with residents after cities have surrendered. Many are spared death but get detained or exiled instead — in what some observers call the "green bus" strategy. [NYT / Faysal Itani]
  • Many evacuees have headed for Idlib, the last remaining city in Syria held neither by Assad nor by ISIS — instead, it's held by the sometime al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. [The Guardian / Martin Chulov]
  • Idlib is hardly a refuge. It's routinely hit by bombing attacks. And with Aleppo fallen and Assad emboldened, he's likely to turn his attention to Idlib next, as he seeks total victory at whatever cost. [BuzzFeed News / Borzou Daragahi]

Nothing to see here

Trump
  • Donald Trump announced Tuesday that his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump will manage his businesses during his presidency, and that "no new deals" will be made while he is in office. [Vox / Libby Nelson]
  • (Trump made his announcement over Twitter; a planned press conference to discuss Trump's management of his business and potential conflicts of interest has been postponed indefinitely.)
  • Needless to say, the Office of Government Ethics wrote Tuesday that this would not "eliminate conflicts of interest" — the concern, after all, is not just about new deals, but about the extent to which Trump's existing business relationships might skew policymaking. [Politico / Elana Schor]
  • The OGE doesn't itself have power to require the president to separate himself from his business while in the White House. And most conflict of interest laws exempt the president. But a 2012 law — thanks to Republicans in Congress — bars him from "using nonpublic information for private profit." [Huffington Post / Christina Wilkie and Paul Blumenthal]
  • The easiest way to avoid any potential problems, of course, would be to divest from his businesses entirely. The fact that Trump hasn't yet — and that he is, shall we say, a debt-seeking individual — indicates that perhaps he can't afford to. [TPM / Josh Marshall]
  • Of course, Trump's debts — many of which are to foreign banks (and some of which appear to be to Russian banks) — could themselves make him susceptible to private pressure in ways that would affect US policy. [Mother Jones / Russ Choma]

Gambia's dictator calls backsies

Leaders in Gambia Anadolu / Xaume Olleros via Getty
  • Earlier this month, the world celebrated when the dictator of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, conceded in his country's presidential election. But a week later (last Friday), Jammeh reversed his decision, refusing to step down. [BuzzFeed News / Monica Mark]
  • He's petitioned the country's high court, asking for a do-over of the vote. [Reuters / Edward McAllister]
  • And this morning, the Gambian military seized the country's electoral commission. [BBC]
  • A delegation of elected leaders from around the region flew to Gambia to see Jammeh on Tuesday. But during their brief meeting, they were unable to persuade him to step down. [The Guardian / Ruth Maclean]
  • Jammeh, who's claimed a mandate to rule for a billion years, has a reputation for toughness — which both inspired a 2014 coup against him and allowed him to put it down. [The Atlantic / Stuart A. Reid]
  • But popular pressure for Jammeh to step down has been rising since this spring. [Washington Post / Jeffrey Smith and Maggie Dwyer]
  • And even his own ambassador to the United States believes Jammeh needs to accept the results of the election and give up. [Washington Post / Kevin Sieff]

Miscellaneous


Verbatim

  • "By his own account, he did not look too hard even after Special Agent Hawkins called back repeatedly over the next several weeks — in part because he wasn’t certain the caller was a real F.B.I. agent and not an impostor." [NYT / Eric Lipton, David E. Sanger, and Scott Shane]
  • "We hold it as a badge of honor that we can show up hung over and run our list and push paper around and yell and scream and curse and fight, day after day after day, and never ever admit that it takes a toll on us. Respectfully, this is a fucked up way to live." [Mimesis Law / Caleb Kruckenberg]
  • "The plot demands that a private detective film Will Smith's character shouting at Love in the West Village and at Death on the subway." [Village Voice / Alan Scherstuhl]
  • "At end chorus, an extra few measures of music is played when I sing ‘and he said.’ With that, I drop through the floor on a trap door and disappear. The under room has a cushion to catch my fall and my upper dress is ripped away to reveal a short white dress. This happens within seconds. I burst through the doors and sing ‘Marry me, Juliet,’ as white rose petals fall from the rafters.” [Taylor Swift via GQ / Caity Weaver]
  • "Chu has a Nobel Prize. By contrast, Perry took four chemistry courses and got two Cs, a D and an F. He got a C in physics. And a D in something called 'Meat.'" [The Daily Beast / Jeffrey Lewis]

Watch this: Dear Angela Merkel, legislating what women wear is not a way to liberate them

Liz Plank on the “painful irony of full-veil bans.” [Vox / Liz Plank]

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