The Atlantic Daily: Syria and Russia

Omar Sanadiki / Reuters

What We’re Following

Chemical Warfare in Syria: President Bashar al-Assad’s government allegedly used a chemical agent against civilians in an attack that left 58 dead, including children, and at least 160 injured, according to a London-based human-rights group. Syria has been accused of using chemical weapons before, and agreed to destroy them in 2013, but evidence suggests Assad failed to honor the deal. At the time, the Obama administration chose diplomatic pressure over military intervention; could a U.S. airstrike back then have prevented this week’s attack? The story illustrates some of the thorniest dilemmas of foreign policy—and the task of articulating that policy now falls to Rex Tillerson, America’s new secretary of state.

Russia’s Aftermath: The death toll is up to 14 in yesterday’s explosion on a St. Petersburg metro, and the attacker, a suicide bomber, has been identified. Here’s what we know so far. Russia faced a similar attack in 2010, and has been struck by terrorists several times since then; the frequency of the attacks has seemingly diminished their impact. Attacks on Russia may only increase in the future: While Monday’s attack still hasn’t been claimed by a terrorist group, the country’s military involvements in the Middle East are almost certainly making enemies.

Recommended Reading

Political Updates: Susan Rice, the former national-security adviser to Obama, says that contrary to President Trump’s claims, she didn’t spy on his team for political purposes—but she did seem to imply that she’d asked for some of the redacted names in intelligence reports to be “unmasked.” Meanwhile in Congress, GOP senators are preparing to use “the nuclear option” of changing chamber rules to overcome Dems’ filibuster against Neil Gorsuch, but the move won’t significantly change how the Senate operates. In the House, AHCA is under discussion again, but it’s not clear yet whether the health-care bill can succeed on its second go-round. Either way, Trump can rest easy, since his supporters are unlikely to blame a failure on him—for now.


A man looks inside a damaged bus after devastating mudslides and flooding in Mocoa, Colombia, on April 2, 2017. More photos here. (Fernando Vergara / AP)

Evening Read

Jacoba Urist on a recent installation by the artist Ai Weiwei:

Laundromat included 2,046 items—hundreds of pounds of clothing—left by migrants in Greece near the Macedonian border, and then mended in Ai’s Berlin studio. Laundromat was, in many ways, overwhelming: There were tiny onesies and snowsuits, and rows of sneakers. Color photographs from Ai’s trips to refugee camps plastered the walls, while news reports about the crisis papered the floor.

Like Ai, a number of artists in America and abroad are focusing on human rights and calling attention to the refugee crisis. But given the prominence of social media and real-time journalism their task becomes more elusive: With Syrians trapped in besieged cities posting farewell videos online and a 7-year old girl tweeting from Aleppo, what can artists add to the testimonials of the victims themselves?

Keep reading here, as Urist considers how artists can best address human rights.

What Do You Know?

1. In a recent survey, about ____________ percent of U.S. teachers said fears of backlash from parents and administrators made them hesitant to teach about the 2016 election.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

2. At $30 billion, the U.S. foreign-aid budget accounts for ____________ percent of the total federal budget.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

3. Since 2010, ____________ more people have left the New York City metro area than have moved there.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

Answers: 40, less than 1, 900,000

Urban Developments

Our partner site CityLab explores the cities of the future and investigates the biggest ideas and issues facing city dwellers around the world. Adam Sneed shares three of today’s top stories:

After a portion of Interstate 85 collapsed in Atlanta, nearly everyone feared “carmageddon”—but the expected gridlock hasn’t happened. That should teach everyone an important lesson about how traffic works.

No doubt you’ve seen plenty of election maps since November 8, but you haven’t seen one like this. Painstakingly created precinct-by-precinct, it just might be the ultimate map of 2016.

The Trump administration’s plan to fight the nation’s drug-addiction crisis makes one thing clear: The war on drugs is back.

For more updates from the urban world, subscribe to CityLab’s daily newsletter.

Reader Response

In Alana Semuels’s piece today on social mobility in Charlotte, North Carolina, a researcher points to racist attitudes and segregated schools as two factors that make it especially hard to address poverty in the South. On TAD, a Charlotte resident responds:

I agree, but let me also be clear (having lived in the North and the West) that I’ve encountered this attitude everywhere I’ve lived. You do get a certain set of people who believe that it is simply inevitable that people will be poor because of either 1) ascribed characteristics of an ethnicity (however fallacious) or 2) deficient character. Those two attitudes make it very hard to tackle questions of poverty. In the South those attitudes are more naked and white supremacist attitudes are more transparent.

On the education front, I’ve fallen into an interesting spot. We moved into a more affluent neighborhood three years ago but found that our kids were slated to go to schools that were considered to be of poorer quality and less ethnically homogeneous. Even though my neighborhood is supposed to send kids to these schools, what we’ve found is that we’re almost the only family doesn’t use charter schools or some other mechanism to send the kids elsewhere. It’s amazing to see the difference in resources allotted to schools that are only three miles apart.

Read the full discussion here.


Obama Instagrammed, reforms reformulated, glasses raise color, trees sing.

The Atlantic Daily is written by Rosa Inocencio Smith. To contact us, email