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Vox Sentences: Betsy DeVos passes with a 50%

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Betsy DeVos is confirmed 50-50; atrocities in Syria and a suicide bombing in Afghanistan.

DeVos DeFiant

Betsy DeVos Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • For the first time ever, a Cabinet secretary has been confirmed on a 50-50 vote from the Senate: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made it through thanks to a tie-breaking 51st vote cast by Vice President Mike Pence. [CNN / Tom LoBianco, Ted Barrett, and Eugene Scott]
  • DeVos had become the No. 1 target of many Senate Democrats and progressives — not only because of her religious conservative beliefs but because her absolute disaster of a confirmation hearing inspired two Republican senators to vote against her. [Vox / Libby Nelson]
  • For the most part, though, Republicans are falling in line behind President Donald Trump's nominees. Attorney General Jeff Sessions's questionable record on civil rights isn't enough to peel off Republican votes (he's headed for confirmation)... [Washington Post / Matt Zapotosky]
  • ...and neither is health and human services nominee Tom Price's history of, perhaps, profiting off his own votes in the House. [NYT / David Leonhardt]
  • At present, the Trump nominee least likely to make it to the Cabinet is labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder. Puzder's confirmation hearing keeps getting delayed, and a recent revelation that he once employed an unauthorized immigrant in his household probably doesn't help his case. [USA Today / Michael Collins]
  • But as Vox's Jeff Stein explains, Puzder has way bigger problems. [Vox / Jeff Stein]

Inside Assad’s death camp

Doctors treat an injured Syrian man Diaa Al Din/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  • A new, extensively documented Amnesty International report accuses Syria's Assad regime of killing between 5,000 and 13,000 people in a death camp between 2011 and 2015. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • Reports of Assad's atrocities in the Syrian civil war have been trickling out for years (often detailed in documents physically smuggled out of the country). [New Yorker / Ben Taub]
  • But the Amnesty report, based on interviews with guards and a military judge (among other witnesses), chronicles unprecedented abuse of protesters and disfavored Syrian soldiers. [Amnesty International]
  • As Martin Chulov writes for the Guardian, "The witnesses claimed that once or twice a week 20 to 50 people at a time were hanged after sham trials before a military court." [The Guardian / Martin Chulov]
  • The report doesn't go beyond 2015. But as Syria's civil war has continued, with Assad slowly but apparently inexorably winning, it's unlikely the atrocities have stopped. [NYT / Max Fisher]
  • Assad's behavior doesn't change the fact that US escalation in Syria would have caused serious problems. But with President Trump saying that the US is essentially on Assad's side because they share an enemy in ISIS, it's worth understanding what cost that bears. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]

An attack on the judiciary

Afghan security forces outside the country’s Supreme Court Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  • A suicide bomber killed at least 20 people outside the Supreme Court building in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday. The bomb was detonated as staffers left the building for the day. [Reuters / Mirwais Harooni]
  • The Taliban hasn't claimed the bombing yet, but it looks similar to previous Taliban attacks on official buildings (including an earlier attack on the Supreme Court). [BBC]
  • The attack comes the day after a UN report found that the civilian death toll in Afghanistan is the highest it's been in the eight years the UN's been counting (due in large part to more killings by anti-government forces). [WSJ / Habib Khan Totakhil and Jessica Donati]
  • The Taliban, totally coincidentally, challenged the definition of "civilian," arguing that those who "ordered executions" — like the judiciary — didn't count. [NYT / Mujib Mashal and Fahim Abed]
  • (President Trump's lack of interest in Afghanistan is notable.) [AP / Lolita C. Baldor]


  • The case for locking up fewer violent criminals. [Boston Globe / David Scharfenberg]
  • We now know exactly how lead got into Flint's water, and fixing it will require overhauling the city's whole water system. [Smithsonian / Ben Panko]
  • If you're concerned about Trump's executive orders to date, just imagine what he will be able to attempt after a major terrorist attack. [New Yorker / Ryan Lizza]
  • A random historical point with no contemporary relevance: Despite years of theorizing to the contrary, the evidence is clear that the Reichstag fire was not in fact an inside job. [London Review of Books / Richard Evans]
  • Making sense of the executive order that's just the words "HOT CUBE" written on White House stationery. [Clickhole]


  • "When people get forced off the web, their voices disappear from the internet’s public squares. The ideas and memes that dominate skew even further toward a white male perspective. The web becomes less interesting, less representative, less valuable. We all lose." [Backchannel / Andrew McMillen]
  • "To pry off the Benson roof is to ask the question: What was it like to live before and during the invention of modern sexuality?" [The Atlantic / Deborah Cohen]
  • "In their biggest, most shamefully ignored scoop, on December 9, 1931, the paper found and published a Nazi party document planning a 'final solution' for Munich’s Jews — the first Hitlerite use of the word 'endlösung' in such a context. Was it a euphemism for extermination? Hitler dissembled, so many could ignore the grim possibility." [LA Review of Books / Ron Rosenbaum]
  • "The FDA is commonly viewed as a roadblock. But if your treatment is safe and effective it will fly through the approval process. It has nothing to do with novelty and everything to do with safety and efficacy." [George Church to Wired / Megan Molteni]
  • "In the general election, voters were more likely to shift to Mr. Trump in the counties with the strongest growth in the Hispanic and nonwhite populations since 2000, according to research from a coming book by Ryan Enos, a Harvard political scientist. It appears in survey data, Mr. Enos argues, that this shift in 2016 was driven by whites who had previously voted Democratic — and who don’t appear to have responded in the same way to rising diversity before Mr. Trump’s campaign." [NYT / Emily Badger]

Watch this: What Donald Trump doesn't understand about trade

President Trump's trade policy is simple. The consequences are not. [YouTube / Matt Yglesias, Nicholas Garbaty, and Mac Schneider]

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