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Vox Sentences: The US strikes back against Russia’s campaign hacks

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The US strikes back against Russia for campaign hacks; the truth about Trump's effect on the economy; a new ceasefire in Syria.


The US drops the sanctions hammer

Putin Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images
  • The US government has announced sanctions against Russian intelligence agencies over Russia's alleged interference in the US presidential campaign. [Vox / Zeeshan Aleem]
  • The CIA and FBI both believe the Russian government was linked to, and possibly directed, hacks of the private email accounts of Democratic National Committee staffers and of Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. [Vox / Matt Yglesias]
  • The State Department is kicking 35 Russian nationals out of the US for "acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic or consular status." It's ostensibly a response to Russian harassment of US diplomats, but it's really about the hacks. [US Department of State / Mark C. Toner]
  • It also announced it's denying access to two Russian government–owned sites in the US that it claims were being used for intelligence gathering — including a dacha on Maryland's Eastern Shore featured in DC-area lifestyle magazines. [Washington Life / Deborah Kdietsch]
  • The US's strategic calculus in striking back against Russia for the hacks is tricky. The US needed to calibrate a decisive response against continued escalation — and if it explained too much about how it found out Russia was behind the email hacks, it would give Russia insight into intel techniques. [Vox / Timothy B. Lee]
  • That might explain why the new report issued Thursday in conjunction with the sanctions — while it does include new details about how the cells called "APT 28" and "APT 29" conducted the hacking operations — doesn't offer any new evidence connecting the cells to the Russian government. [ABC News / Mike Levine]
  • But the sanctions aren't just aimed at Russia. They're also intended to box in President-elect Donald Trump. [NYT / David E. Sanger]
  • Trump has responded to the sanctions by saying it's time for the country to "move on." But if he wanted to reject them, he'd have to actively lift the sanctions once in office. [Teddy Schliefer via Twitter]
  • At this point, Democrats and Republicans in Congress are in agreement that Russia stepped over the line and Obama's sanctions are good. So for Trump to lift the sanctions, he'd have to go against a bipartisan consensus. [The Daily Beast / Michael Weiss]
  • But the more that Russian hacking gets associated with Trump's own presidential legitimacy, the more partisan it might become. Half of Democrats believe Russia tampered with vote totals (something the US government hasn't alleged)... [Washington Post / Catherine Rampell]
  • ...while Trump supporter Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) praised Russia on Thursday for doing a public service with the hacks — and said they'd done what the press was supposed to do. [Talking Points Memo / Esme Cribb]

The magical realism of the Trump economy

Sprint sign Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
  • You know the drill at this point. Donald Trump brags about something — in this case, Sprint bringing 5,000 jobs back to the US — and the press reports his bragging... [CNBC via Twitter]
  • ...only to actually investigate the claim and find out that Trump doesn't deserve credit. (In this case, the Trump transition team wasn't involved in getting Sprint to relocate jobs — and Sprint's plan was already in place before the election.) [NYT / Nelson D. Schwartz and Michael J. de la Merced]
  • Sprint's actions, in fairness, do reflect executives' excitement about lower taxes and deregulation under a Trump presidency. But others in corporate America are worried that his tendency to single out companies and use Twitter as a "bully pulpit" will erase any of the business predictability his regulatory policy might create. [Reuters / Chris Bergen]
  • But here's the weird thing. Donald Trump absolutely is having an impact on the US economy — simply by giving his supporters "hope." [Politico / Lorraine Woellert]
  • Consumer confidence reached a 15-year-high Tuesday. That's the culmination of a years-long climb. But optimism about the economy spiked drastically — especially among the older Americans most supportive of Trump. [CNN Money / Patrick Gillespie]
  • Consumer confidence matters because it reflects how people make the decisions that keep the economy going. But it's also based on a thousand small data points — which might be entirely subjective. [The Conversation / Gigi Foster]
  • Presidents shouldn't, really, get credit for the economy. But they do. [NYT / Bryce Covert]
  • And Donald Trump looks set to inherit one that's going to make him look pretty good. [CNBC / John W. Schoen]
  • Maybe Obama could have done more to trumpet his own job creation efforts. (This article by Sam Stein makes a pretty good case.) But maybe this is a problem of partisan thinking. [Huffington Post / Sam Stein]

Will this ceasefire hold?

Guven Yilmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  • The government of Bashar al-Assad, its allies, and Syrian rebel groups have reached a ceasefire agreement — negotiated with the help of Turkey and Russia — scheduled to go into effect at midnight local time on Friday. [USA Today / Jim Michaels]
  • If the ceasefire holds, peace talks would be held next month in Kazakhstan.
  • The ceasefire might be no more successful than the prior attempts at ceasefires have been. For one thing, it's not clear which rebel groups are even included — the Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra, for example, says it's part of the ceasefire, though the negotiators said it was not. [BBC]
  • In theory, even failed ceasefires can help speed peace processes along, by binding together the warring sides. [NYT / Max Fisher]
  • But this ceasefire is fundamentally different from prior failed attempts, because it comes after Assad's forces have crushed the rebel stronghold of Aleppo. Assad is undoubtedly winning the war. That gives him little incentive to agree to a deal. [CNN / Tim Lister]
  • To be clear: it's not that Syria's citizens are no longer suffering from fighting. Millions in the capital of Damascus, for example, have been without fresh water for several days, after an attack on the city water facilities. (It's unclear which side carried out the attack.) [Reuters / Sara Barrington]
  • But to Assad, the continued suffering is not an argument against continuing to fight. It's a feature of his strategy, not a bug. [Quartz / Daniel R. DePietris]

Miscellaneous

  • What do you do when a Sarah Lawrence political theorist moves into your house, doesn't pay rent, and refuses to leave? [Mother Jones / Ian Gordon]
  • What it was like to be Carrie Fisher's editor. [The Guardian / Merope Mills]
  • Drones over Alaska. [NYT / Kirk Johnson]
  • The famous conservative economist and commentator Thomas Sowell is retiring his column to focus on his photography, which is honestly pretty great. [Google Photos]
  • On the nuclear war close call of June 3, 1980, when national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski "decided not to wake up his wife, preferring that she die in her sleep." [New Yorker / Eric Schlosser]

Verbatim

  • "The 'Purple Rain' moment had passed, but I am here going to credit any good sex that happened over the next few years to Prince." [New Yorker / Maggie Nelson]
  • "'We should exterminate them.' The words rolled off the voter’s tongue as though he was merely discussing a pest invasion in his home. He was talking about Muslims. I froze as I became suddenly aware of my own Muslim identity, my long hair just barely covering my necklace that bears the name of Allah in Arabic scripture." [The Guardian / Sabrina Siddiqui]
  • "We saw it first with tobacco, marketing it to women as their right to smoke. Then we saw lung cancer deaths surpass deaths from breast cancer. Now it’s happening with alcohol, and it’s become an equal rights tragedy." [Susan Blumenthal to Washington Post / Kimberly Kindy and Dan Keating]
  • "Most blue-collar workers have little direct contact with the rich … but professionals order them around every day. The dream is not to become upper-middle-class, with its different food, family, and friendship patterns; the dream is to live in your own class milieu, where you feel comfortable — just with more money." [Harvard Business Review / Joan Williams]
  • "'I shot myself in the eye with a glitter gun,' I said. I showed him the Party Popper, which I had brought with me, in case he wanted to send it off to the National Institute of Morons for further study." [Washington Post / David Fahrenthold]

Watch this: South Sudan may be heading toward genocide

The nightmare civil war in South Sudan, explained. [YouTube / Sam Ellis and Yochi Dreazen]

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