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Updated: 22 hours 13 min ago

Tuesday’s World #1 – LITHUANIA

Tue, 2018-02-20 05:00

Hugh Morris, at UK Daily Telegraph wrote:  Lithuania is celebrating 100 years of independence. Sort of. While it shook off more than a century of Tsarist (Russian) rule on February 16, 1918, it was reoccupied at the end of the Second World War and only regained its freedom in 1990. Nevertheless, the country is marking the centenary, as is sure to be hoping the next 100 years is rather less fraught.

Church bells tolled across Lithuania on Friday to mark 100 years of independence regained after World War I by the Baltic nation, which is now firmly anchored in the West but experiencing tension with powerful neighbor Russia.

“At the start of the last century, we looked forward with great hope to any sign of support,” President Dalia Grybauskaite said at a ceremony in the snowy capital Vilnius. “Today we know that we have true friends and allies, and their strong supportive shoulder,” she added, speaking alongside top European Union (EU) officials, presidents and royalty.

Like fellow NATO and eurozone Baltic states Latvia and Estonia, Lithuania increased defence spending and welcomed troops from allies after Moscow’s 2014 intervention in Ukraine.

Vilnius earlier this month accused Moscow of deploying nuclear-capable ballistic missiles to Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic.

To demonstrate collective defense commitments, US and Danish fighter jets deployed in Lithuania roared across the capital’s cloudy skies on Friday.

“Independent Lithuania’s major achievement has been the creation of a genuinely stable democracy,” said Vilnius University analyst Kestutis Girnius.

“Although changes in government have been frequent, and political parties come and go, election results have never been challenged,” he told AFP.

Lithuania can also boast solid economic growth of 3.9 percent last year, though it is beset by daily concerns over rising prices, social inequality and emigration to the richer west.

EU officials and the Presidents of Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Poland and Ukraine as well as Swedish Crown Princess Victoria attended the ceremony in central Vilnius.

Hours earlier, schoolchildren marched across downtown to honour the 20 Lithuanian men who signed the declaration of independence on February 16, 1918.

A hundred bonfires were lit along the central pedestrian avenue later in the day, followed by concerts and fireworks in most cities and towns.

Tuesday’s World #2 – INDONESIA

Tue, 2018-02-20 04:55

(by Ed Adamczyk, UPI and staff reporters at AFP in Karo, North Sumatra, Feb. 19) — Indonesia’s volcanic Mount Sinabung erupted on Monday, sending ash and smoke about 16,000 feet into the air.

No one lives inside a previously announced no-go zone around the volcano. But hundreds of houses outside the 4.3 mile danger zone were covered in volcanic ash.

No injuries were reported, but officials have distributed face masks and urged local residents and tourists to stay indoors to avoid respiratory problems, said local disaster mitigation agency official Nata Nail Perangin-angin.

“In some villages the visibility was barely five metres (16 feet) after the eruption — it was pitch black,” Perangin-angin added.

Mount Sinabung, on the island of Sumatra, erupted in 2010 for the first time in 400 years and has been regarded since as an active volcano. It erupted again in 2013. An eruption the following year killed 16 people, and another in 2016 killed seven.

Monday’s eruption lasted for nearly five minutes.

Rain is expected in the area on Tuesday and Wednesday, which can combine with ash to make slippery travel conditions and increase the possibility of roof collapses and the volcanic version of mudslides, Accuweather reported on Monday. Wet ash also is capable of conducting electricity, which can lead to power failures.

The ash cloud could impact airplane flights around northern Sumatra, to southern Thailand until Tuesday, when the cloud is expected to dissipate. The Australia-based Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Center set its aviation alert level to red after the eruption, warning pilots to avoid the area.

Indonesia is home to around 130 volcanoes due to its position on the “Ring of Fire,” a belt of tectonic plate boundaries circling the Pacific Ocean where frequent seismic activity occurs.

Compiled from reports at United Press International (UPI) and Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Map of Indonesian volcanos – from Wikipedia:

 

Tuesday’s World #3 – NORTH KOREA

Tue, 2018-02-20 04:50

(by Khaleda Rahman, UK Daily Mail, Feb. 12) – North Korean athletes are reportedly being guarded round the clock at the Winter Olympics in a bid to prevent them from defecting.

About 500 North Koreans are in PyeongChang in South Korea for the Games, including athletes, officials, cheerleaders but also security officials, minders and informants, CNN reports.

But although athletes from the two Koreas marched together carrying a unification flag at the opening ceremony, the reality is said to be far different.

Security guards will be keeping guard over athletes at all times to ensure no-one defects to the South, a former North Korean police officer told the network.

Unlike most athletes who bunk with teammates, North Koreans will share their rooms with minders who will be closely monitoring their every move.

Security will follow them everywhere they go, including the bathroom, as any defections will cause embarrassment to Kim Jong-un’s regime and spark a diplomatic crisis.

They will also make note of who athletes speak to and report any suspicious activity back to Pyongyang.

Han Seo-hee, an ex-cheerleader who defected from the North in 2006, said any North Korean group sent abroad is divided into three groups – athletes, administrative officials and security members.

But although North Korean athletes have defected during competitions before, she says it is unlikely any will do so during such a high-profile event.

“I wouldn’t have even considered it,” Seo-hee told CNN.

She was picked to be part of a North Korean cheerleading troupe after she performed for the country’s late leader, Kim Jong-il (Kim Jong Un’s father).

“It will be the same for the cheerleading squad this time. They have family back home, they know if they defect, their family will be terrified and punished,” Seo-hee said.

According to South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, which manages defectors, about 31,000 North Korean defectors have fled to the South since Kim Jong-un’s grandfather took control of North Korea sixty years ago.

Two North Korean athletes have defected during international competitions.

A woman’s ice hockey player defected in 1997. Two years later, a judo athlete defected during a competition in Spain.

Abraham Lincoln – The Great Emancipator

Mon, 2018-02-19 05:00

NOTE: Presidents’ Day, is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of February. Lincoln’s birthday (Feb. 12) and Washington’s birthday (Feb. 22) used to be celebrated separately before the two were combined into Presidents’ Day. In place of Daily News Articles, we offer this post on Abraham Lincoln. (Friday’s post was on George Washington.) The regular  Daily News Article resumes Tuesday, February 20.

HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT OUR 16TH PRESIDENT? 

Abraham Lincoln was born on Feb. 12, 1809.  Shot by John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865.

Lincoln’s birthday is marked by traditional wreath-laying ceremonies at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site in Hodgenville, Kentucky, and at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The latter has been the site of a ceremony ever since the Memorial was dedicated in 1922. A wreath is laid on behalf of the President of the United States, a custom also carried out at the grave sites of all deceased U.S. presidents on their birthdays.   Lincoln’s tomb is in Springfield, Illinois. (official website: lincolntomb.org)

ABOUT LINCOLN’S GETTYSBURG ADDRESS (NOV. 19, 1863):

  • When the armies marched away from Gettysburg they left behind a community in shambles and more than 51,000 killed, wounded, and missing.  Wounded and dying were crowded into nearly every building.  Most of the dead lay in hasty and inadequate graves; some had not been buried at all.
  • This situation so distressed Pennsylvania’s Gov. Andrew Curtin that he commissioned a local attorney, David Wills, to purchase land for a proper burial ground for Union dead.  Within four months of the battle, reinterment began on 17 acres that became Gettysburg National Cemetery.
  • When the cemetery was dedicated on November 19, 1863, less than half the Union battle dead had been removed from their field graves.  The principal speaker was the renowned orator, Edward Everett.  As was common for the day, his detailed speech lasted for over two hours.
  • Also on the program was a guest who had been invited to present “a few appropriate remarks” only as an afterthought.  President Abraham Lincoln’s delivery of these remarks lasted only two minutes that day.  The short length was in such contrast to the Everett allocution that the audience, stunned for a moment, barely reacted.  Upon returning to his seat Lincoln remarked to a friend: “That speech won’t scour. It is a flat failure.”  To the contrary, the Gettysburg Address has become known as one of the supreme masterpieces of eloquence in the English language.  On November 20, Everett wrote Lincoln “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.”
  • The 272 words of the Gettysburg Address were formulated with great thought by Lincoln.  He wrote the first draft in Washington shortly before November 18 and revised it at the home of David Wills in Gettysburg the night before the dedication.
  • The speech transformed Gettysburg from a scene of carnage into a symbol, giving meaning to the sacrifice of the dead and inspiration to the living.
  • Within a few years, however, the bodies of more than 3,500 Union soldiers killed in the battle had been reinterred in the cemetery.  Following the war, the remains of 3,320 Confederate soldiers were removed from the battlefield to cemeteries in the South.
  • Today the cemetery is the final resting place for over 6,000 honorably discharged servicemen and their dependents from the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War.

Lock of Washington’s Hair Found in 18th-Century Almanac

Mon, 2018-02-19 04:59

Lock of Washington’s Hair Found in 18th-Century Almanac

(by Brigit Katz, Smithsonian Magazine, Feb. 16) – In December, an archivist at Union College in Schenectady, New York, was sorting through some of the college’s oldest books and records when he spotted an 18th-century, leather-bound almanac that had never before been catalogued. The book was titled Gaines Universal Register or American and British Kalendar for the year 1793, and its pages were filled with population estimates for the American colonies and comparisons of various coins.

The almanac might not make for the most thrilling historical read, but as Sean Rossman reports for USA Today, inside the book was a fascinating relic: a lock of hair that, according to some experts, was snipped from the head of George Washington.

The book containing the hair is believed to have belonged to Philip J. Schuyler, the son of General Philip Schuyler, one of the college’s founders and a personal friend of Washington. “Philip Schuyler’s,” an inscription in the book reads, according to a Union College press release, “a present from his friend Mr. Philip Ten Eycke New York April 20, 1793.”

As the archivist, catalogue and metadata librarian John Myers, was paging through the almanac, he noticed a small envelope tucked into the front cover. Inside were several strands of gray hair, tied neatly together with a single thread. Written on the envelope were the words “Washington’s hair, L.S.S. & … GBS from James A. Hamilton given him by his mother, Aug. 10, 1871.”

In an interview with Avi Selk of the Washington Post, Myers says he was floored by the discovery. “No,” he recalls thinking. “Not the Washington Washington’s hair.”

But experts have reason to believe that the hair did indeed once belong to the Washington. Union College staff consulted with John Reznikoff, a manuscript and documents dealer who has collected the illustrious locks of Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Beethoven, Napoleon and other historical titans. The hairs at Union College can’t be subjected to DNA analysis, which would destroy them, but based on his examination of several photographs, Reznikoff is as sure as he can be that the strands hail from the head of the nation’s first president.

“Without DNA, you’re never positive, but I believe it’s 100 percent authentic,” Reznikoff says, according to the Union College statement.

How did a Founding Father’s follicles end up in a dusty almanac stored at Union College? Experts aren’t entirely sure, but it’s likely a convoluted story, one that reads like a “who’s who” of the Revolutionary era. Susan Holloway Scott, an independent scholar and author…says in the statement that she thinks it is “quite possible” that Washington’s wife, Martha gave a lock of her husband’s hair to Eliza Hamilton, the wife of Alexander Hamilton.

The couples were close friends, and in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was common practice to give locks of hair to loved ones as a gift. The Smithsonian, in fact, is home to a framed display containing the hair of the first 14 American presidents. The locks were likely gifted to friends and family members.

Eliza Hamilton was the daughter of General Philip Schuyler, the Union College founder, and the sister of Philip J. Schuyler, who owned the recently discovered almanac. Holloway Scott thinks Eliza passed the lock of hair onto their son, James Hamilton, who in turn distributed several strands to his granddaughters, Louisa Lee Schuyler and Georgina Schuyler. Recall the inscription on the envelope containing the lock: “Washington’s hair, L.S.S. & … GBS from James A. Hamilton given him by his mother, Aug. 10, 1871.”

It isn’t clear why the hair was placed inside a book, or how that book came to Union, but the Schuyler family certainly had close ties to the college. India Spartz, head of special collections and archives at Union’s Schaffer Library, is now working to preserve the hairs, which the college plans to put on display.

“As an archivist, we come across interesting material all of the time,” Spartz says in the college press release. “But this is such a treasure for the campus.”

Watch a local ABC report:

https://www.studentnewsdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/lock-of-George-Washingtons-hair_ABC.mp4

.
and a CNN report:

https://www.studentnewsdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Washingtons-hair_CNN.mp4

School breaks record for gathering of Abraham Lincolns

(By Ben Hooper, UPI, Feb. 15, 2018) — A Kentucky elementary school announced it broke a world record by gathering 556 people dressed as Abraham Lincoln.

Officials at Lincoln Elementary School in Louisville said 556 people, including students and faculty members, donned stovepipe hats and chinstrap beards to break the record for most people dressed as Abraham Lincoln in one place.

“We admire Abraham Lincoln,” Principal Susan French-Epps told WLKY-TV. “We’ve studied his contributions that he has made for all citizens and appreciate the opportunity to celebrate the month of his birth and give him some love on Valentine’s Day.”

The school is submitting records and evidence from the event to Guinness, which lists the current record as 250 Abe Lincolns.

[Larry Elliott, a Lincoln impersonator, also attended the event, where he delivered the Gettysburg Address to the children. He held a cake as the students sang “Happy Birthday.”].

Watch a news report:

https://www.studentnewsdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Lincoln-world-record.mp4

Impressive or Oppressive Regime?

Fri, 2018-02-16 05:04
A cartoon with a question requiring the student to demonstrate understanding of the cartoonist's intended meaning.

News quiz for week ending 2/16/18

Fri, 2018-02-16 05:00
A quiz with questions relating to the week's Daily News Articles.

George Washington, Father of our Country

Fri, 2018-02-16 05:00

NOTE: Presidents’ Day, is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of February. Lincoln’s birthday (Feb. 12) and Washington’s birthday (Feb. 22) used to be celebrated separately before the two were combined into Presidents’ Day. In place of Daily News Articles, we offer this post on George Washington. Monday’s post will be on Abe Lincoln. The regular  Daily News Article resumes Tuesday, February 20.

ON WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAY: (from archives.gov)

  • George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. Americans celebrated Washington’s Birthday long before Congress declared it a federal holiday.
  • The centennial of his birth prompted festivities nationally and Congress established a Joint Committee to arrange for the occasion.
  • At the recommendation of the Committee, chaired by Henry Clay of the Senate and Philemon Thomas of the House, Congress adjourned on February 22, 1832 out of respect for Washington’s memory and in commemoration of his birth.
  • In 1862, prompted by a memorial from the mayor and other citizens of Philadelphia, the U.S. House and Senate commemorated the 130th Anniversary of Washington’s birth by reading aloud his Farewell Address.
  • In a special joint session held in the House Chamber, the House and Senate, along with several cabinet officials, Justices of the Supreme Court and high-ranking officers of the Army and Navy, gathered to listen to the Secretary of State read the address aloud.
  • Eventually, the reading of George Washington’s Farewell Address became an annual event for the Senate, a tradition that is still observed to this day.
  • Washington’s Birthday, however, did not become a legal holiday until January 31, 1879 when Congress added February 22nd to the list of holidays to be observed by federal employees in the District of Columbia.
  • In 1971, Congress switched Washington’s Birthday holiday from his birthdate, Feb. 22, to the third Monday in February and it evolved into being called “Presidents Day.” The day now celebrates both Washington’s birthday and President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, which is Feb. 12.
  • Read Washington’s Farewell Address at gwpapers.virginia.edu

GEORGE WASHINGTON AND THE CONSTITUTION:

  • In 2012, George Washington’s personal copy of the Constitution, in which he had written notes, sold at auction for $9.8 million.
  • The Mt. Vernon Ladies Association bought it.
  • It allowed us to see, for the first time, how cautiously our first president assumed the office, his eyes not toward history but the future.
  • Next to two passages explicating the signing of a bill into law, which he bracketed, Washington has written in cursive, “President.”
  • He also inscribed “Presidential Powers” next to the paragraphs that lay out the president’s role as commander-in-chief, as well as his authority to grant pardons, make treaties and appoint Supreme Court justices.
  • Beneath that, in the paragraph that reads, “He shall from time to time give Congress information of the state of the union,” Washington has added “required,” and it was he who established the address as an annual event.

CHALLENGE:  How many times have you read through the entire Constitution?  Read through the U.S. Constitution every day for a week.  For the full text, go to the U.S. Archives: archives.gov

U.S. data show increase in fatal crashes on April 20, day of pot events

Thu, 2018-02-15 05:00

(by Penelope Overton, Portland Press Herald) – A review of 25 years worth of car crash data has found a link between the so-called “high holiday” celebrated by marijuana users on April 20 (4/20) and a rise in fatal car accidents.

The study conducted at the University of British Columbia looked at U.S. government statistics from 1992 – the year after the informal pot-smoking event was popularized – through 2016.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia and University of Toronto used accident data from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to compare the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes after 4:20 p.m. on April 20 to the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in each state a week before and one week later. They found there to be a 12 percent increase on average, which represents 142 deaths over 25 years between 1991 and 2016, the most recent data available.

The risk is even higher among young drivers, they found – for drivers 21 or younger, the increased risk grew to 38 percent.

The research published Monday in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine by Dr. John Staples of University of British Columbia and Dr. Donald Redelmeier of University of Toronto does not consider whether the April 20 risk to a driver changes if they are in a state that has legalized cannabis, Staples said. Each U.S. state varies, making it difficult to categorize and compare state risks by level of legalization, he said.

The research does not consider whether cannabis played a direct role in the April 20 fatal crashes, Staples said, because a police drug report – which combines lab tests and the impression of the officer – was included in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System for only about a third of the 1,369 drivers involved in a deadly April 20 accident over that time period. More importantly, because cannabis lingers in the body for so long, a positive lab test does not mean the person was impaired.

Previous studies have shown the active ingredient in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) decreases reaction times and makes driving speed and lane position more erratic.

“Despite this evidence, driving after cannabis consumption is surprisingly common,” the authors said in a letter in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Staples and Redelmeier said they found no increased risk of crashes before 4:20 p.m. on April 20.

Staples said the study should prompt 4/20 event organizers to consider ways to make sure participants, and those who will share the roads with them, make it home safely. When Canada legalizes recreational marijuana use this summer, almost 100 million people in North America will live in a place where it is legal to consume cannabis, Staples said.

“It’s going to be really important for both the U.S. and Canada to figure out what that means for public safety as well as public health,” Staples said, adding, “It’s a really relevant question to be thinking about now since legalization seems to be progressing across the United States and in Canada.”

The idea for the research came out of Staples’ time spent working at hospitals in Vancouver, British Columbia, where staff there learned to prepare for a wave of patients connected to the large 4/20 cannabis celebration that happens in that city every year. Not all patients had attended the event, nor consumed cannabis, but the staff of both of the city hospitals knew their intake numbers would spike on that day, and some of that surge was linked to the cannibis use. Dr. Staples said, “…It struck me that 4/20 was a really great natural experiment through which we could examine cannabis intoxication and the risk of motor vehicle crashes.”

But it’s difficult to know how closely the two are linked because U.S. federal prohibition on marijuana limits the types of research that can be done on it, Staples said.

Previous studies have shown that many pot-using motorists drive after partaking and think it’s safe to do so.

Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012. Data show that 15 percent of DUI arrests in Colorado last year involved marijuana, and a 2016 survey found about half of users in the state think driving under the influence of pot is safe.

Dr. Andrew Monte, an emergency medicine physician and toxicology expert at the University of Colorado, …said the study offers an important message. “…We need to realize that people should not be using [cannabis] and driving.”

Portland Press Herald. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from pressherald .com. [Also incudes some information from ABC News, Fox News, Newsweek, UPI and UK Independent.]

George Washington’s Advice

Thu, 2018-02-15 05:00

(by Phyllis Schlafly, Eagle Forum) – The man who is known to all Americans as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen,” gave us much sound advice on how to keep our independence and freedom. George Washington’s advice is part of our American heritage that should be known to all our citizens.

#1 RELY ON GOD

When George Washington took the oath as first President of the United States on April 30, 1789, he added this four-word prayer of his own: “So help me God.”

These words are still used in official oaths by Americans taking public office, in courts of justice, and in other legal proceedings. Washington’s words show that he was a man who believed in asking God’s help in every part of our private and public lives.

During the terrible times of the Revolutionary War, Washington repeatedly counseled his troops to put their faith and trust in God. Here is one of his messages:

“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine, whether Americans are to be, freeman or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own …. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army …. Let us therefore rely on the goodness of the cause and the aid of the Supreme Being, in whose hands victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble actions.”

In his first Inaugural Address as President of the United States, Washington reverently acknowledged our country’s dependence on Almighty God:

“It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe – who presides in the council of nations – and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States, a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes.”

After serving as our President during probably the most important two terms in our history, Washington advised us again that religion and morality are necessary for good government. In his Farewell Address on September 19, 1796, he clearly said:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

#2 HONESTY

George Washington was a man of great personal honesty. The famous story about Washington chopping down the cherry tree, and admitting it to his father with the words, “I cannot tell a lie,” perfectly illustrates the character of the Father of Our Country. In his Farewell Address, Washington, having served our country in war and peace, gave his advice that we as a nation should be bound by the same rules of honor and honesty that should bind individuals. He said: “I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs that honesty is always the best policy.”

As part of his belief that our nation should practice honesty, Washington urged that our Government always be honorable in money matters. He urged our country to borrow as little money as necessary and to avoid piling up a big debt. He realized that emergencies, such as unavoidable wars, would require us to borrow from time to time; but he urged that these debts be paid off as rapidly as possible. Washington said that failure to do this means we will be making our children pay the debts we ourselves should pay. Here are his words from his Farewell Address:

“Avoid likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.”

#3 RESIST POLITICAL PRESSURES

Washington was well aware of how politicians are subjected to political and economic pressures which may persuade them to give up their principles, or to favor one group over another. In the midst of such pressures from all sides, Washington stood like a rock of strength and advised us how to keep to a standard of truth and justice. As President of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Washington gave this advice to his fellow Delegates:

“If to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the event is in the hand of God.”

The men who followed Washington’s Advice produced the United States Constitution, which has properly been called “the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.”

Washington at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

#4 FORMULA FOR PEACE

George Washington was not only “first in war,” but also “first in peace.” He developed the best formula for keeping the peace that has ever been devised by man: the formula of discouraging the enemy from attack by making sure that he knows beforehand that America is ready for war. In his Fifth Annual Address to Congress, given in Philadelphia on December 3, 1793, Washington said:

“There is a rank due to the United States among nations, which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure the peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.”

Washington’s advice on how best to keep the peace is thus in two parts: (1) we must be ready for war, and (2) just as important, the enemy must know we are ready.

#5 PRESERVE THE CONSTITUTION

Washington realized that as our country grew, there would be “bad guys” who would try to seize powers they shouldn’t have and change the wonderful plan for American freedom and independence set up by the Founding Fathers. On the other hand, he knew that some changes in the Constitution would be necessary from time to time. Washington advised us that these changes should be made only in the way the Constitution provides – and not in any other way. He said in his Farewell Address:

“If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”

Washington thus advised that we should be alert to protect the freedom of the people against men who try to take too much power in an unconstitutional way. Washington believed that “Government is like fire – a good servant, but a dangerous master.”

#6 LIBERTY MUST INCLUDE RESPONSIBILITY

As a schoolboy, Washington wrote in his copybook: “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire – conscience.”

Washington had risked everything he had in the Revolutionary struggle for liberty. But he knew that “liberty” does not mean license to do anything without restrictions. True liberty must include responsibility to conscience – to God and to country. In his Farewell Address, he advised us to give full support to our new Government:

“Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty.”

#7 AVOID FOREIGN INFLUENCE

Washington knew that European nations had been constantly involved in one war after another. He knew that their political and economic interests were not the same as ours. He knew also that various foreign nations would try constantly to extend their influence over the American Government and people. Washington believed that the only way for the United States to grow strong and keep her hard-won independence was to remain free from European wars, problems, and influence. In his Farewell Address, he said:

“History and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”

Washington predicted that foreign propaganda would operate inside and outside our Government. He warned that ‘foreign influence’ in our Government would even trick Americans about whom we can trust. He said in his Farewell Address:

“Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests.”

#8 DON’T EXPECT FAVORS FROM NATIONS

In advising us against becoming entangled with foreign problems, Washington warned us against giving favors to other nations in the hope of receiving favors in return. He warned that we will be “reproached with ingratitude for not giving them more,” and we will have to “pay with a portion of our independence” for placing ourselves in such a position. He said in his Farewell Address:

“There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.”

#9 PATRIOTISM

Washington was one of our greatest American patriots, and he demanded patriotism in the men who served with him in war and peace. Legend tells us that the night he crossed the Delaware, he gave the famous command: “Put none but Americans on guard tonight.” Even though we cannot find this quotation in his published writings, it accurately represents his thinking. In his Farewell Address he advised all our citizens:

“The name of AMERICAN, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation.”

#10 THANKSGIVING TO GOD

Washington advised Americans to set aside a day of public Thanksgiving to God for the great favors He has bestowed on our nation. On October 3, 1789 Washington proclaimed the first Thanksgiving Day – the first of a long series of presidential orders that have remained part of American life down to the present:

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee requested me to commend to the people of United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness, now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next, to be devoted to the service of that great and glorious Being, Who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or will be.”

PA to require voting machines with paper backup

Wed, 2018-02-14 05:00

(by Michael Rubinkam, The Associated Press (AP) — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday ordered counties that plan to replace their electronic voting systems to buy machines that leave a paper trail — a safeguard against hacking — but his budget doesn’t include any money to fund the replacement of the state’s aging, increasingly vulnerable fleet.

The Democrat’s administration said the move to require that new systems include a paper backup will increase the security of voting systems and make balloting easier to audit.

“This directive will ensure that the next generation of the commonwealth’s voting systems conforms to enhanced standards of…auditability and security,” Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres said in a statement.

The Wolf administration said in a statement later Friday that it’s working on a comprehensive overhaul of Pennsylvania’s election apparatus, including its voter registration database. …

The state, however, is not requiring counties to discard their old equipment, at least for now. The directive only requires them to buy machines with a paper backup if they decide to switch systems. Nor does the Wolf administration’s budget plan , released this week, include any new money to help counties replacing their aging systems. …..

Pennsylvania is one of 13 states where most or all voters use machines that store votes electronically without printed ballots or other paper-based backups that could be used to double-check the vote, according to researchers at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

So-called direct-recording electronic machines make it almost impossible to know if they’ve accurately recorded individual votes or if anyone tampered with the count.  …..

Most Pennsylvania counties had replaced their voting machines more than a decade ago with money appropriated by Congress for election upgrades. With those machines at or near the end of their expected lifespans, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania is pushing for state and federal funding to help counties buy replacements. New voting machines can run $3,000 apiece.

The vast majority of Pennsylvania’s fleet of more than 20,000 electronic voting machines leave no paper trail, according to a 2014 tally by state election officials.

Wolf’s Department of State said it has “made no determination” on whether it will eventually bar the use of the direct-recording electronic machines, raising the possibility that such a move is under consideration. A spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an email seeking clarification.

Virginia banned the use of touch-screen voting machines in November’s gubernatorial contest over concerns the equipment could be hacked.

The federal government in September told election officials in at least 21 states, including Pennsylvania, that hackers targeted their systems before the 2016 presidential election. At the time only Illinois reported that hackers had succeeded in breaching its systems. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has said there’s no evidence that vote tallies or registration databases were altered.

In 2006, voters filed suit against Pennsylvania to bar the use of paperless electronic voting machines, contending they were unreliable, lacked adequate safeguards against vote tampering and violated a state law requiring “a permanent physical record” of each vote.

The state Supreme Court dismissed the suit, saying the plaintiffs had not shown that direct-recording electronic machines are more susceptible to fraud or tampering than other kinds of voting systems.

From AP .com. First published Feb. 9, 2018. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The Associated Press.

Two AP news stories

Wed, 2018-02-14 04:59

The Associated Press’ Twitter account presented President Trump’s spending plan for 2018 very differently from then-President Obama’s budget proposals they reported on in 2015 and 2016.

In a tweet on Monday morning, the AP noted that Trump’s $4.4 trillion spending plan “features soaring deficits.”

However, in their tweets about Obama’s deficit-ridden spending plans in 2015 and 2016, the AP instead chose to highlight the positive areas of spending from the plans.

In 2015, the AP highlighted Obama “pledging help for middle class,” while in 2016 they noted that he would be aiming to “combat terror threats, global warming.”

Tuesday’s World #1 – KENYA

Tue, 2018-02-13 05:00

Kenya’s presidential elections were first held in August but the courts ordered a re-run, saying President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory was marred by irregularities. Kenyatta won the election re-run in October, but his opponent Raila Odinga boycotted it. Kenyatta was sworn in for a second term in November.  In January, Odinga, at the urging of lawyer Miguna Miguna, declared himself the “people’s president” and held an inauguration ceremony for himself in the capital. Thousands of his supporters attended the event, despite a government warning that it amounted to treason. The authorities shut down TV stations that were covering the alternate inauguration.

(by Adrian Blomfield, UK Daily Telegraph) Nairobi — Kenya’s government ignored Western pressure and flouted its own judges Friday after it refused to suspend an unprecedented shutdown of independent television stations.

Escalating a broader clampdown, police also arrested a second prominent opposition figure, prompting a renewal of the political violence that has claimed scores of lives since Kenyans voted in a disputed election last August.

The country’s three largest independent television stations remained off the air for a fourth day as Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s president, showed no sign of letting up in his campaign of vengeance against journalists who chose to defy him.

Despite personally being ordered not to by President Kenyatta, the three stations on Tuesday broadcast the build up the parallel inauguration of Raila Odinga, the opposition leader.

Mr. Odinga had himself sworn in as “the people’s president” after refusing to accept his rival’s victory in two elections last year, the first of which was overturned by the supreme court, the second boycotted by the opposition.

Ending an intense period of quiet diplomacy, the United States condemned what it characterised as a government attempt to “shut down, intimidate and restrict the media.”

“Freedom of expression, including for members of the media, is essential to democracy,” the State Department said in a statement.

“We urge the Government… to implement court orders calling for the restoration of television broadcasts.”

Britain has echoed the US call, although both states have also condemned Mr. Odinga for creating a parallel government.

Although a Kenyan activist, Okiya Omtatah, won a court ruling suspending the shutdown, the government communications authority refused to receive the written order, raising fears about the rule of law in one of Africa’s most advanced democracies.

Police first detained a courier sent by Mr. Omtatah to deliver the order, and then ripped up a second copy he attempted to hand over in person.

[Following an order by] Mr. Kenyatta…police have also mounted a three-day stakeout of one television station, NTV, in an attempt to arrest three of the country’s best known broadcast journalists.

The three won a temporary reprieve when a court ordered police to question the journalists before arresting them on undisclosed charges.

An outspoken opposition figure involved in Mr. Odinga’s swearing was less fortunate after police allegedly blew open the doors of his house and seized him in an early morning raid.

Miguna Miguna’s arrest prompted sometimes violent demonstrations by opposition supporters.

…At least 92 people have been killed in election-related violence since August.

The article above published at UK Daily Telegraph on Feb. 2, 2018.

Tuesday’s World #2 – EGYPT

Tue, 2018-02-13 04:58

(from UK Daily Telegraph) – Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered a 4,400-year-old tomb near the country’s famed pyramids at the Giza plateau just outside Cairo, the Antiquities Ministry said on Feb. 3, the latest discovery that authorities hope will help revive the country’s slumping tourism sector.

The tomb was found in a wider area of Giza’s western necropolis, which is known to be home to tombs from the Old Kingdom.

It likely belonged to a woman known as Hetpet, who archaeologists believe was close to ancient Egyptian royals of the 5th Dynasty.

The tomb, unveiled to the media on Saturday, is made of mud brick and includes wall paintings in good condition depicting Hetpet observing different hunting and fishing scenes.

Other scenes also depict a monkey – in pharaonic times, monkeys were commonly kept as domestic animals [pets] – picking fruit. Similar scenes have been found in other tombs belonging to the later 12th dynasty, according to the ministry’s statement. Another scene shows a monkey dancing before an orchestra.

According to the ministry, the archaeological mission behind the discovery started excavation work last October. Archaeologists have been making discoveries near the site since the 19th century, and Mostafa al-Waziri, who led the mission, believes there is still more to be found.

“This is a very promising area. We expect to find more,” Al-Waziri told reporters at the site. “We have removed between 250-300 cubic meters of layers of earth to find the tomb.” …

Al-Waziri believes Hetpet had another tomb in Giza’s western necropolis and said that excavation work is underway to find that one too.

Hetpet is a previously known figure in Egyptian antiquity though her mummy has not been discovered yet. Fragments of artefacts belonging to Hetpet were found in the same area back in 1909, and were moved to a museum in Berlin at the time, Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said Saturday, speaking at the site to reporters and Western diplomats.

Despite all the discoveries already made about ancient Egypt, experts say they hope to find much more – in part thanks to modern technology – treasure still buried under the vast desert. …

Throughout 2017, the Antiquities Ministry made a string of discoveries across Egypt – including some in the southern city Luxor known for its spectacular temples and tombs spanning different dynasties of ancient Egyptian history.

The area of the latest discovery is close to a new museum under construction that will house some of Egypt’s most unique and precious artifacts, including many belonging to the famed boy King Tutankhamun.

Egypt hopes the inauguration of the new museum, along with the recent discoveries, will draw back visitors to the country where tourism has been hit hard by Islamic extremist attacks and political turmoil following the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak and the authorities’ struggles to rein in an insurgency by Islamic militants.

The government has tightened security around archaeological and touristic sites and spent millions of dollars to upgrade airport security especially following the 2015 downing of a Russian airliner by the Islamic State group, killing 224 people on board.

The bombing dealt Egypt’s vital tourism sector a hard blow after Russia suspended flights to and from Egypt.

In December, Cairo and Moscow signed a security protocol and announced plans to resume Russian flights to the Egyptian capital, due to start this month.

Published at UK Daily Telegraph on Feb. 3, 2018.

Tuesday’s World #3 – CHINA

Tue, 2018-02-13 04:56

Gui Minhai, 53, ran a publishing company in Hong Kong known for books critical of the Chinese government. He disappeared in Thailand where he was on vacation in October 2015. Chinese state media accused him of publishing books that slandered Communist Party leaders. Four other publishers taken by the Chinese were released but Gui remained in custody until October last year. He is forced to remain in China where he is kept under strict police surveillance.

(by Tom Phillips, UK Guardian) BEIJING –Three weeks after he was snatched from a Beijing-bound train, Hong Kong based publisher Gui Minhai (who has Swedish citizenship) has resurfaced in police custody, making what activists denounced as a [coerced] video confession to a series of unspecified offenses.

“I feel ashamed about myself. I have made mistakes,” Gui, 53, is filmed telling a small group of reporters who said they had been given access to the prisoner by Chinese security officials.

“My message to my family is that I hope they will live a good life. Don’t worry about me. I will solve my own problems myself.”

[Mr. Gui, who has published books on the personal lives of Chinese Communist Party leaders, has spent much of the past two years in Chinese custody.

He first made headlines in 2015 when he vanished from Thailand and resurfaced in China, along with four other Hong Kong-based publishers.

After his disappearance, there were allegations that he had been abducted by Chinese agents across international borders in an extrajudicial process. Chinese officials, however, say Mr. Gui and the four other men all went to China voluntarily.

The publisher ultimately confessed to being involved in a fatal traffic accident more than a decade earlier – a confession supporters say was forced.

Human rights groups believe the publishers are victims of a crackdown on dissent against China’s ruling Communist Party. Mr. Gui, who was briefly freed from custody last October, has been in and out of Chinese detention since 2015, when he disappeared during a holiday in Thailand.]

Gui, a Hong Kong-based publisher…had last been heard of on January 20 when he was seized by plainclothes agents as he travelled to China’s capital with two Swedish diplomats. …They had been heading to the Swedish embassy for a medical check-up amid suspicions he was suffering from a rare neurological disease.

However, Gui rejected that narrative on Friday as he was paraded before reporters from communist news outlets….

Gui accused Sweden of “sensationalising” his case and tricking him into a botched attempt to flee China.

“I fell for it,” he says. “Sweden offered me a plan, and that was to use my medical appointment as an excuse to get to the Swedish embassy in Beijing. And then they would wait for an opportunity to get me to Sweden.

“My wonderful life has been ruined and I would never trust the Swedish ever again,” Gui adds.

Forced televised confessions have become a hallmark of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s increasingly hardline rule with a succession of government critics – including Gui and the human rights activist Peter Dahlin – appearing on camera to admit their supposed sins.

Published at the UK Guardian on Feb. 9, 2018.

Meet the first Gerber baby with Down syndrome. His name is Lucas.

Mon, 2018-02-12 05:00

(by Josh Magness, McClatchy News) – For the first time ever, Gerber has chosen a baby with Down syndrome to be its “spokesbaby” of the year.

His name is Lucas, and he’s from Dalton, Georgia.

Beginning in 2019, Gerber opened up an online photo contest where people can submit images of their babies with the hopes of being named the Gerber baby of the year. Lucas’ mom, Cortney Warren, told Today that she submitted a smiling photo of Lucas after a relative suggested she should.

[“This is such a proud moment for us as parents knowing that Lucas has a platform to spread joy, not only to those he interacts with every day, but to people all over the country,” Cortney said in a press release.]

Out of more than 140,000 entries, that photo caught the attention of Gerber.

“Lucas’ winning smile and joyful expression won our hearts this year, and we are all thrilled to name him our 2018 Spokesbaby,” Gerber President and CEO Bill Partyka said in statement, according to Time. “Every year, we choose the baby who best exemplifies Gerber’s longstanding heritage of recognizing that every baby is a Gerber baby, and this year, Lucas is the perfect fit.”

The news was announced on the “Today” show on Wednesday morning, when Lucas was officially declared 2018’s Gerber baby.

[“He’s very outgoing and never meets a stranger,” Lucas’s mom, Cortney said. “He loves to play, loves to laugh and loves to make other people laugh.”

“We’re hoping this will impact everyone — that it will shed a little bit of light on the special needs community and help more individuals with special needs be accepted and not limited,” dad Jason Warren said. “They have the potential to change the world, just like everybody else.”]

So what’s next for Lucas? The “Today” show reported that along with receiving $50,000, he will also be promoted on Gerber’s social media throughout the year.

Gerber already featured him on an Instagram post. …

Cortney says she hopes her son will be seen not only as a baby with Down syndrome, but also as a funny, energetic child who loves music and socializing.

“He may have Down syndrome, but he’s always Lucas first,” said Cortney. “He’s got an awesome personality and he goes through the milestones of every child… we’re hoping when he grows up and looks back on this, he’ll be proud of himself and not ashamed of his disability.”

Down syndrome is a genetic condition that causes delays in physical and intellectual development, according to the National Association for Down Syndrome.

Around 1 in 700 babies are born with Down syndrome in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s about 6,000 each year.

From McClatchy News at NC’s The Herald-Sun. Bracketed paragraphs from NBC’s Today .com. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from McClatchy and The Herald-Sun.

Praying Mantis Wearing 3-D Glasses

Mon, 2018-02-12 04:57

Praying Mantis Wearing 3-D Glasses Reveals ‘Completely New Form’ of Vision

(By Katherine Hignett, Newsweek, 2/9/18) – Scientists have used a tiny pair of 3-D glasses to discover exactly how the praying mantis sees the world. For the first time, they have compared mantis vision to that of humans and found the bug interprets three dimensions in a completely different way.

The simple way the mantis sees could one day help small robots’ perception by streamlining intensive computer algorithms. The research was published Thursday in Current Biology.

In a video released alongside the research (see below), Jenny Read, study author and professor of vision science at Newcastle University, in the U.K., describes how human vision works: Each human eye captures a slightly different picture of the world in front of us, creating a three-dimensional whole.

“Our brains match the details of these views to create one image,” Read said. “We use the differences between the two views to work out how far away things are.”

Other animals like monkeys, cats and toads can also see the world in 3-D, and the praying mantis is the only insect known to be capable of this “stereo vision.” But the researchers then investigated whether praying mantises compute 3-D images in a similar way to humans, and discovered significant differences.

The team built tiny 3-D glasses to fit the bugs and sat them in a mini–movie theater. Study author and behavioral ecologist Vivek Nityananda said in the video: “In our insect 3-D cinema, we could show the mantis tasty prey apparently hovering right in front of the mantis.” Convinced, he said, the bug grabs at the fake prey.

Next, the critters were shown much more complex stimuli—multicolored moving dot patterns, which are used to examine human 3-D vision.

Humans can recognize 3-D perspective easily in still images. The mantises, however, focused on movement. When shown two completely different images for each eye, the insects could match up areas that were changing in both. This is something humans can’t always do.

Nityananda said: “Mantises only attack moving prey, so their 3-D doesn’t need to work in still images. We found mantises don’t bother about the details of the picture but just look for places where the picture is changing. This makes their 3-D vision very robust.”

He added in a statement: “This is a completely new form of 3-D vision as it is based on change over time instead of static images…. In mantises, it is probably designed to answer the question, Is there prey at the right distance for me to catch?”

The simplicity of the mantis’s vision makes it an attractive model for vision in robotics, the scientists say. The stereo algorithms needed to interpret a 3-D world can guzzle computing power. A model based on the praying mantis’s vision could eventually help smaller robots like delivery drones detect depth.

Nityananda said, “In the future we could have simpler systems for processing 3-D information inspired by these fascinating insects.”

Watch the Newcastle University video:

https://www.studentnewsdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Praying-Mantis_Newcastle-University.mp4

Drones Grounded At Opening Ceremony – Not On Tape Delay

(AP, Feb. 10, 2018) PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — An army of high-flying drones expected to light up the sky at the opening ceremony of the Olympics was grounded.

Intel Corp. was expected to launch 300 drones as part of an extravagant light show, but those plans were scrapped. International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said Saturday that the drones were not deployed Friday night because of an “impromptu logistical change.”

The Intel drone light show team produces the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 Opening Ceremony drone light show, featuring Intel Shooting Star drones. (Intel Corporation)

NBC aired a light show, but it was from Intel’s launching of 1,280 drones in December in Pyeongchang.

That didn’t keep the television network from highlighting the moment. NBC tweeted on its official @NBCOlympics page: “A swarm of drones brings us one of the most incredible sights of the #OpeningCeremony.”

Intel celebrated breaking a Guinness World Record for the most drones flown simultaneously by tweeting a link to the video.

More than 1,200 drones. One amazing show. See how our drone team pulled off a Guinness World Records title for the Opening Ceremony
— Intel (@intel) February 10, 2018

The incident was reminiscent of the Sochi Games in 2014, when one of the five Olympic rings failed to light — but Russian state television aired rehearsal footage of it happening.

Prank calls

Fri, 2018-02-09 11:08
A cartoon with a question requiring the student to demonstrate understanding of the cartoonist's intended meaning.

News quiz for week ending 2/9/18

Fri, 2018-02-09 05:00
A quiz with questions relating to the week's Daily News Articles.

U.S. airstrike kills 100 Syrian troops after unprovoked attack on base

Fri, 2018-02-09 05:00

(Compiled from articles by Kim Hjelmgaard at USA Today with AP at Chicago Sun-Times) – A U.S airstrike killed about 100 Syrian troops after they launched an “unprovoked” attack against a military base used by American-led coalition forces battling the Islamic State in eastern Syria, the U.S. military said.

U.S. Central Command said the strikes were launched in self-defense after as many as 500 attackers began what appeared to be a coordinated assault on the headquarters of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Syria’s official state-run news agency SANA confirmed the deaths Thursday and labeled the strike an “aggression” and “new massacre.”

While SANA insisted the pro-government troops were battling Islamic State fighters, it also admitted to launching an assault on the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led group opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

[The U.S.-led coalition said in a statement said the attack took place 5 miles east of the Euphrates River de-confliction line. The United States and Russia, which back rival forces in the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province, have kept close contacts to avoid friction. The statement suggested the coalition was calling out Russia on the assault, but it stopped short of actually laying the blame.].

The U.S. involvement is a rare example of U.S. forces striking directly at Syrian regime troops. In June, a U.S. fighter jet shot down a Syrian warplane after it bombed U.S.-backed fighters.

[Last summer, the U.S.-led coalition shot down Iranian-made armed drones and aircraft affiliated with the Syrian government in southern Syria, after they came dangerously close to U.S-backed forces and advisers.

The U.S. airstrike coincides with escalating violence in Syria, where Turkey has been carrying out a military offensive to clear a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia from in a northwestern border town….].

[The airstrike] comes as battlefields in Syria have become more tangled amid military interventions from nations such as Turkey, which oppose the Kurds.

Russia’s foreign ministry meanwhile claimed Thursday that the U.S. airstrike on pro-Assad troops reflected Washington’s attempts to seize Syrian economic assets. Russia is a close ally of Assad and is helping the government bomb rebel-held targets. There was no immediate reaction from Washington over Moscow’s allegation.

At least 19 civilians, including a medic and children, were killed in Syrian government strikes on opposition-held territory near the capital Damascus on Thursday, activists said.

Meanwhile, Turkish officials said the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran will meet in Istanbul to discuss peace efforts for Syria.

The officials said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed to the summit during a telephone call on Thursday. It was not immediately clear when the Istanbul meeting would take place.

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