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Vox Sentences: Syria said it would evacuate Aleppo’s civilians. It bombed them instead.

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A deadly bait and switch in Aleppo; Congress tries to get its head around the Russia hacks; hyperinflation in Venezuela.


Cease/fire/ceasefire

Tanks in Aleppo AFP / George Ourfalian via Getty
  • On Tuesday, the Syrian government committed to evacuating residents from Aleppo as it took over the city. But the green buses it sent departed empty after the evacuation unexpectedly stalled. [NBC News]
  • Instead, government forces continued to bomb the city Wednesday — hitting an area in which 50,000 civilians have concentrated. [LAT / Nabih Bulos]
  • The about-face was reportedly due to Syrian ally Iran, which was frustrated that it hadn't been included in the talks over the Tuesday ceasefire and had its own demands to impose on the rebels. [NYT / Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad]
  • (Russia is a more important strategic partner for Syria at this point — though in the next phase of Syria's civil war, its interests and Bashar al-Assad's may not always align.) [BBC / Jonathan Marcus]
  • The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called the resumption of bombing "likely a war crime": "The way this deal was dangled in front of this battered and beleaguered population —causing them to hope they might indeed live to see another day — and then snatched away just half a day later is also outrageously cruel." [BBC]
  • It's just perpetuated the ongoing nightmare in which Aleppo's residents have been living for weeks, and from which many have lost hope of escape. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • As of late Wednesday, a new ceasefire (this time including Iran's stipulations) had been agreed to, and the evacuation is reportedly back on. [Reuters / Laila Bassam, Suleiman Al-Khalidi, and Tom Perry]
  • But those government green buses aren't the appealing option they appear to be: They lead either to likely conscription into the Syrian army or to life under continued bombing in rebel-held areas. [NYT / Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad]

From Russia with lulz

John Podesta
Congress is mounting an investigation into why Russia-linked hackers got into Clinton campaign accounts emails — will it go far enough?
David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images
  • The scope of reported Russian meddling in US elections is widening, while the path for investigating it is already shrinking. On Wednesday, we learned that several Democratic House candidates were also targeted by hackers linked to Russia — suggesting an effort to hurt the party that went beyond Hillary Clinton. [The New York Times / Eric Lipton and Scott Shane]
  • Meanwhile, Republican leadership on Capitol Hill is choking off the most powerful possible congressional response to Russian interference. House and Senate Democrats have called for a bipartisan select committee to investigate what occurred, which is much more aggressive than what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan want to allow. [Politico / Austin Wright]
  • The process questions here really matter. Which kind of investigation Congress allows to proceed will guide how investigators can issue subpoenas, call witnesses to testify in front of cameras, and reveal to the public what they learn about Russian interference. [Vox / Jeff Stein]
  • Part of the reason Democrats see the more sweeping probe as being so essential is because of the ongoing confusion over the evidence. Since a leak from the CIA showed it concluded Russia was trying to help Donald Trump, other federal agencies have suggested their judgment was premature. [Reuters / Mark Hosenball and Jonathan Landay]
  • That uncertainty isn't stopping some leading Democrats from reaching conclusions about Russian involvement. Sen. Harry Reid says he was sure someone from Trump's campaign was working with Russia on the hack — an allegation for which he has provided no evidence. [The Huffington Post / Sam Stein and Ryan Grim]
  • We're also learning more about how easily the hacks may have been avoided. One report suggests that a single typo — between "legitimate" and "illegitimate" — may have been the reason Russian agents were able to hack into the Clinton campaign's emails. [Vox / German Lopez]

Venezuela's highest-denomination currency will now be worth $6

Venezuelans in line for the bank AFP / Federico Parra via Getty
  • Venezuela's economy is officially in a state of hyperinflation — only the 57th time that an economy has met the technical definition of hyperinflation (currency worth 50 percent less than the previous month for more than 30 consecutive days) in the more than 200 years the concept ahs existed. [Miami Herald / Jim Wyss]
  • The country's economic and fiscal collapse has been ongoing for months, but it got even more acute in November: The Venezuelan bolivar lost 55 percent of its value against the dollar in the past month alone. [BBC]
  • The government's response: a last-minute currency swap. As of Wednesday, 100-bolivar bills (the highest denomination, now worth about 3 US cents) are being removed from circulation and replaced with higher-denomination bills and coins. [WSJ / Anatoly Kurmanaev]
  • Venezuelans and observers have been calling for higher-denomination bills for months: It's much easier to buy things with a 20,000-bolivar note (the new highest denomination, worth $6) than to have vendors count your money by weighing your mass of 100-bolivar bills on the same scale they use to weigh your sliced cheese. [Washington Post / Francisco Toro]
  • But the extremely tight turnaround — Venezuelans had only 72 hours to replace their 100-bolivar bills — caused panic among rural residents who lacked bank access and Venezuelans who were hoping to hold on to their savings until they'd be worth something again. [Fusion / Manuel Rueda and Mariana Zuñiga]
  • President Nicolás Maduro doesn't appear to be gaining control over his country's economy. (Venezuela has been suspended from the regional trade group Mercosur — but a government minister crashed Mercosur talks anyway Wednesday and threw a "temper tantrum.") [AP]
  • But he's not giving up political power, either. His electoral commission continues to quash calls for a recall — and talks between Maduro and the opposition, facilitated by the Vatican, have broken down. [Reuters / Andrew Cawthorne]

Miscellaneous


Verbatim

  • "We have no formal chain of command around here." [President-elect Donald J. Trump via Twitter / Tasneem Nashrulla]
  • "Twitter was told it was 'bounced' from Wednesday's meeting between tech executives and President-elect Donald Trump in retribution for refusing during the campaign to allow an emoji version of the hashtag #CrookedHillary, according to a source close to the situation." [Politico / Nancy Scola]
  • "Oliver fed into xenophobic stereotypes to produce a meme with no political utility." [The New Republic / Sarah Jones]
  • "President-elect Donald Trump’s team is struggling so hard to book A-list performers for his inaugural festivities that it offered ambassadorships to at least two talent bookers if they could deliver marquee names, the bookers told TheWrap." [TheWrap / Itay Hod]
  • "There was a trend of blaming the murders on problems in the relationship." [Emily Meyer to the Trace / Kerry Shaw]

Watch this: Boxed out

Why do cars look so different in movies from the 1970s? A satisfyingly thorough answer to their evolution. [Vox / Christophe Haubursin]

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