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Thousands leave warravaged Aleppo as dangerous complex evacuation nears end – UN

Following today’s meeting in Geneva of the Humanitarian Access Task Force of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), Jan Egeland, the UN Senior Adviser on Syria, said that some 35,000 had left eastern Aleppo in over 200 buses and perhaps 750 cars and trucks, all leaving through the Ramouseh gate, where the UN has posted observersDescribing the operation as “very complex,” he thanked the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as well as the UN team in place, working in shifts night and day alongside all Red Cross and Red Crescent colleagues who had organized the evacuation from east Aleppo. Mr. Egeland also thanked the 32 non-governmental organizations that had worked with the UN in Idlib and in rural Aleppo, where, he said, tens of thousands of people from east Aleppo now joined “hundreds and hundreds of thousands [already internally displaced]. It is a race against the clock and against the winter to provide shelter, warmth and relief to people who are sick, exhausted, and malnourished from five years of war.” Meanwhile, he said that the UN needed more presence in all of the areas where there is fighting, and where tensions are still boiling. “Our presence means protection and that’s the whole purpose of the Security Council resolution [adopted on 19 December]: monitoring will lead to protection.” UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura (right) and UN Senior Advisor, Jan Egeland. UN Photo/Luca Solari Yet he acknowledged that at the moment, it is a “limited but important” UN contingent of 31 international and national staff dedicated to monitoring, in addition to the 100 people from the UN in Aleppo that are there for the very large assistance operation. “More people are on their way and we have requested full and unimpeded access to all areas in eastern Aleppo.” “To get this protection we need all of these permits that are so slow to get now from the Syrian Government, from the Governor’s office, from all of these institutions in Syria that are slow to give us the access we need,” Mr. Egeland underscored, adding that while the UN would have liked to be a part of all of the negotiations that take place that have humanitarian implications, “all in all, this was the largest operation that I know of that took place and I think it saved a lot of lives and I think it means that the end of the battle proved to be less cruel than it could have been.” Finally, he stressed that there are 15 besieged areas beyond east Aleppo, “and it hasn’t gotten better in these areas because all eyes were on Aleppo.” Indeed, so far, only one convoy in December reached Khan Elshih, a Palestinian village south-west of Damascus. “Six thousand people got finally relief there, but all the other places have not yet gotten relief in December. November was also a very bad month.” For his part, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said the bottom line remains now, humanitarian access and aid to those who have been in need – not only in Aleppo but elsewhere as well – and the cessation of hostilities and building momentum on the political process. To this end he reiterated his announcement from earlier in the week that with “renewed unity in the UN Security Council,” it is perhaps time to relaunch the intra-Syrian talks. “We announced the 8th of February, and in Geneva,” he said noting that the new UN Secretary-General would be in Office, among other initiatives and events, that could lead to “a common approach, which is the only one under Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), which endorsed a road map for the a peace process in Syria. The ISSG has established respective taskforces on humanitarian aid delivery and a wider ceasefire. They have been meeting separately since early this year on a way forward in the crisis. Russia and the United States are the co-chairs of the taskforces and the ISSG, which also comprises the UN, the Arab League, the European Union and 16 other countries. read more

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Opinion Torrance Gibsons move to receiver could bolster Ohio State offense

On Aug. 18, freshman Torrance Gibson announced that he’d be changing positions from quarterback to wide receiver.With redshirt junior Cardale Jones and redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett duking it out for the starting quarterback job for Ohio State, Gibson figured that it only makes sense that he switch positions.His future under center is unknown at this point, but nothing has been ruled out quite yet.“If I have a great season, who knows? But it’s not a worry right now,” Gibson said in an interview with ESPN. “I just have to take it one day at a time, and I’m working at receiver right now, and I haven’t done any quarterback things since I changed position. I’m just going to focus on playing receiver now, then I’ll focus on quarterback.”Given the Week One suspensions to junior Dontre Wilson and redshirt sophomore Jalin Marshall, both H-backs, as well as redshirt senior wideout Corey Smith, the door is wide open for Gibson to come in and make a substantial impact on the Buckeyes’ offense.However, it may just be his willingness to contribute in whatever way possible that sets Gibson apart from the crowd.“Well, I just want to play. I don’t want to sit on the bench for a whole year, just wasting a whole school year. It just doesn’t make any sense,” Gibson said. “Just helping the team out, that’s basically what I am doing. Because if I sat on the bench for a whole year (just to play quarterback), that would be selfish.”Aside from the invaluable selflessness that he’s putting on full display, Gibson is as versatile as they come and possesses rare athletic abilities, among other traits.Originally a highly touted dual-threat quarterback coming out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Gibson wowed scouts with his 4.4-second 40-yard dash speed. Considering his incredible leaping ability, coupled with a 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame, it’s easy to see why OSU’s coaches believe Gibson can thrive at receiver.The former five-star recruit is capable of snaring tough, jump-ball catches away from opposing defenders, while putting his breakaway speed to use in reaching paydirt.As of right now, there’s no real deep-threat like Gibson in the Buckeyes’ crowded receiving corps. Gone is Devin Smith, who filled that role beautifully last season. Over the course of his senior year, Smith averaged a gaudy 28.2 yards per catch, which was the best in the country by a whole four yards.OSU coach Urban Meyer said he recognizes the special type of player Gibson can be in OSU’s spread offense.“Torrance is a guy — we still haven’t found our ‘Inside Nine’ guy — he’s the Devin Smith,” Meyer said of the talented freshman in the ESPN report. “(Gibson) came to me, he realizes it’s going to take at least a year to play quarterback here, especially with what’s in front of him. He said, ‘I want to play.’ I said, ‘Well, here are your options: wildcat quarterback, we’ll see what your skill set is at receiver, catching the ball a little bit,’ and we put him back there returning kicks.”There’s seemingly no limit as to what Gibson can become. At OSU, he fits the bill as Smith’s replacement and would add instant offense. The suspensions to the many offensive contributors have provided Gibson with a perfect window of opportunity to see significant playing time. If one day the hyped-up true freshman does indeed decide to return to his natural position of quarterback, that’d obviously be his decision to make. For now, Gibson has a chance to considerably impact the Buckeyes’ offense and help his team repeat as College Football Playoff national champions.Gibson and the rest of the Scarlet and Gray are set to begin their title defense against the Virginia Tech Hokies on Sept. 7 in Blacksburg, Virginia. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. read more