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Russian warning after US downs Syrian jet

An F/A-18E Super Hornet (similar to the one pictured) shot down the Syrian plane© Getty Images An F/A-18E Super Hornet (similar to the one pictured) shot down the Syrian plane Russia has warned the US-led coalition fighting in Syria that it will view its aircraft as targets, after a Syrian military plane was shot down.

The coalition said it had shot down the Syrian SU-22 after it bombed US-backed rebels in Raqqa province on Sunday.

Russia, Syria’s main ally, said it was also halting communication with the US aimed at preventing air incidents.

Syria condemned America’s “flagrant attack”, saying it would have “dangerous repercussions”.

“Any aircraft, including planes and drones belonging to the international coalition operating west of the Euphrates river, will be tracked by Russian anti-aircraft forces in the sky and on the ground and treated as targets,” the Russian defence ministry said.

It denied the US had used a communications channel before the SU-22 fighter bomber was downed.

The memorandum of co-operation with the coalition aimed at preventing air incidents and guaranteeing flight safety was ending as of Monday, the defence ministry added.

What does this signify? Jonathan Marcus, BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent

The downing of a Syrian warplane by a US jet threatens to draw Washington further into the Syrian fighting.

The US has already attacked pro-government forces on the ground after they entered an exclusion zone designed to protect US personnel training and advising anti-government rebels near Syria’s border with Iraq.

Now Washington is extending this protection to forces that it backs who are engaged in the offensive against Raqqa. These local, tactical steps inevitably could have strategic implications creating a further source of friction between Washington and Tehran.

Iran’s focus is increasingly on the border region between Syria and Iraq. The struggle for control of this crucial territory is becoming ever more dangerous.

Iran’s own missile strikes against what it says are IS targets underscores Tehran’s willingness to act in defence of its own interests in Syria.

The co-operation had been halted after the US launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria’s Shayrat airbase in April in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town in Idlib province.

But the US and Russia had agreed to resume communications last month.

The SU-22 fighter bomber was engaged by an F/A-18E Super Hornet after it had dropped bombs near the town of Tabqa in Raqqa province on Sunday afternoon, the Pentagon said.

It is believed to be the first air-to-air kill of a manned aircraft by a US military jet since the Kosovo campaign in 1999.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were operating in the Tabqa area.

The SDF have been fighting Islamic State militants as part of a drive to retake the city of Raqqa, the IS stronghold further to the east.

Map showing control of Iraq and Syria (31 May 2017)

© BBC Map showing control of Iraq and Syria (31 May 2017) A statement from the US-led coalition’s Operation Inherent Resolve said pro-government militiamen had attacked SDF units, driving them from the town of Ja’Din.

The US-led coalition conducted what it said was a “show of force” – a reported buzzing of the pro-government troops by jets – to stop the attack and then called Russia to try to “de-escalate the situation and stop the firing”.

However, the SU-22 dropped bombs on SDF positions a few hours later, the coalition said, and “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defence of coalition-partnered forces [the plane] was immediately shot down”.

Attempts to warn the plane away using an emergency radio frequency failed, the US Central Command said.

The coalition statement added: “The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward Coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-Isis [IS] operations will not be tolerated.”

The coalition, it added, did “not seek to fight the Syrian regime, Russian or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend coalition or partner forces from any threat”.

The Syrian army said its warplane had been on a mission against IS when it came under fire, according to state television.

It said the incident would have “dangerous repercussions” on efforts to fight terrorism.

An army statement said the pilot of the plane was missing.

Although this is the first time the coalition has shot down a Syrian jet, there have been an increasing number of incidents between the two sides:

In a separate incident on Sunday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said they had launched several missiles from Iran into eastern Syria, targeting IS fighters.

The Guards said they had fired mid-range ground-to-ground missiles from western Iran targeting “the headquarters and meeting place and suicide car assembly line” of “IS terrorists” in Deir al-Zour province.

A “large number” of militants were killed and equipment and weapons were destroyed, the Guards said.

The missiles were apparently in response to an IS-claimed attack on the Iranian parliament earlier this month which killed more than a dozen people.

“The spilling of any pure blood will not go unanswered,” a Guards statement said.

Iran has been a key ally of President Assad, sending military advisers and thousands of “volunteer” troops.

Obsessed with the Trump-Russia drama? You're doing it right.

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Maybe your spouse is worried about you. Perhaps it’s your employer. They’ve noticed marked declines in your attention in recent weeks. Just stop refreshing the New York Times and Washington Post, they say. Turn off CNN. Or if you’re into the harder stuff: Stop. Checking. Twitter

Maybe you too have started to wonder whether you’re getting too obsessed with the Trump-Russia storyline right now. The news is coming so thick and fast, it can be hard not to stare slack-jawed at each new development. 

But do you absolutely have to read every new drop of information about Jeff Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak? Did you really have to watch that whole mad-ass Carter Page interview, instead of just the edited bit, where the Trump associate admitted meeting that same gentleman from Moscow at the GOP convention?  Read more…

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Norma McCorvey, who was at center of Roe v. Wade, dead at 69

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Norma McCorvey, whose legal challenge under the pseudonym “Jane Roe” led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision that legalized abortion but who later became an outspoken opponent of the procedure, died Saturday. She was 69.

McCorvey died at an assisted living center in Katy, Texas, said journalist Joshua Prager, who is working on a book about McCorvey and was with her and her family when she died. He said she died of heart failure and had been ill for some time.

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7 meaningful ways to celebrate Black History Month

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While black excellence deserves to be celebrated every day, Black History Month offers a dedicated time to pay attention to the power and resilience of the black community. 

February’s celebration is a reminder to seek out stories and histories that often go overlooked — but it also serves as a call to recognize the various black leaders in our own lives.

Even though it’s the shortest month of the year, there’s a lot you can do to show your appreciation for the community in just 28 days. Here are a few ways you can honor black lives and culture this Black History Month. Read more…

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The heart-wrenching, relevant story behind a viral Twitter account

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You’ve probably seen the haunting Twitter posts popping up over the past couple days. They’re being shared all over, and for good reason. 

“My name is Regina Blumenstein.” reads one. “The US turned me away at the border in 1939. I was murdered in Auschwitz.”

“My name is Arthur Weinstock,” reads another. “The US turned me away at the border in 1939. I was murdered in Sobibor.”

The tweets go on and on, more than 250 of them. They’re the names of Jewish people who were denied refuge in the United States, then later killed in Nazi concentration camps. 

The account sharing those stories, called @Stl_Manifest, started as a project to remember Holocaust victims on social media. But it gained added tragic relevance on Friday when President Donald Trump signed an executive order that effectively amounts to a far-reaching ban on Muslim refugees and other visitors. Read more…

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The Trump administration spent its first full day in power complaining about media coverage

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There was a clear theme of the Trump administration’s first full day in power, and it wasn’t “Make America Great Again.”

Instead, in both President Trump’s address to CIA employees and Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s combative conference held with the White House press pool, a theme of an administrative war against the media emerged. 

Spicer was not subtle in his comments to the press. After taking the podium, he told the room that before sharing news on the President’s first actions in office, he wanted to address the coverage of the previous day. Read more…

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The Trump administration spent its first full day in power complaining about media coverage

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There was a clear theme of the Trump administration’s first full day in power, and it wasn’t “Make America Great Again.”

Instead, in both President Trump’s address to CIA employees and Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s combative conference held with the White House press pool, a theme of an administrative war against the media emerged. 

Spicer was not subtle in his comments to the press. After taking the podium, he told the room that before sharing news on the President’s first actions in office, he wanted to address the coverage of the previous day. Read more…

More about Sean Spicer, Inauguration 2017, Media, Donald Trump, and Us World

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The Trump administration spent its first full day in power complaining about media coverage

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There was a clear theme of the Trump administration’s first full day in power, and it wasn’t “Make America Great Again.”

Instead, in both President Trump’s address to CIA employees and Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s combative conference held with the White House press pool, a theme of an administrative war against the media emerged. 

Spicer was not subtle in his comments to the press. After taking the podium, he told the room that before sharing news on the President’s first actions in office, he wanted to address the coverage of the previous day. Read more…

More about Sean Spicer, Inauguration 2017, Media, Donald Trump, and Us World

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The Trump administration spent its first full day in power complaining about media coverage

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There was a clear theme of the Trump administration’s first full day in power, and it wasn’t “Make America Great Again.”

Instead, in both President Trump’s address to CIA employees and Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s combative conference held with the White House press pool, a theme of an administrative war against the media emerged. 

Spicer was not subtle in his comments to the press. After taking the podium, he told the room that before sharing news on the President’s first actions in office, he wanted to address the coverage of the previous day. Read more…

More about Sean Spicer, Inauguration 2017, Media, Donald Trump, and Us World

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Trump extended family member spotted at Women's March on Washington

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The Women’s March on Washington has already made history as perhaps the biggest post-inauguration protest march in D.C. in history. 

But while the Trump family is apparently staying far away from the massive protest, at least one member of the extended family was reportedly spotted in the middle of the action. 

Venture capitalist Joshua Kushner, the brother of Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was spotted in D.C. amid thousands of marchers, many of whom may have been unaware of who was in their midst. 

Among the men at the #WomensMarch: Joshua Kushner, brother of White House senior adviser Jared. (Photo by @jsidman.) https://t.co/1zeAx318qt pic.twitter.com/FtALNYlvvF

— Benjamin Freed (@brfreed) January 21, 2017 Read more…

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Trump extended family member spotted at Women's March on Washington

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The Women’s March on Washington has already made history as perhaps the biggest post-inauguration protest march in D.C. in history. 

But while the Trump family is apparently staying far away from the massive protest, at least one member of the extended family was reportedly spotted in the middle of the action. 

Venture capitalist Joshua Kushner, the brother of Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was spotted in D.C. amid thousands of marchers, many of whom may have been unaware of who was in their midst. 

Among the men at the #WomensMarch: Joshua Kushner, brother of White House senior adviser Jared. (Photo by @jsidman.) https://t.co/1zeAx318qt pic.twitter.com/FtALNYlvvF

— Benjamin Freed (@brfreed) January 21, 2017 Read more…

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This city is fighting sexual harassment on the subway with a 24/7 hotline

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If you are female and have ever ridden a train or bus, sexually inappropriate gestures, words and even contact are things you might be all too familiar with.

Now the Los Angeles public transit system will be the first in the world to address this problem by offering its riders a 24/7 hotline for sexual harassment, according to a statement from the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

When riders call 1-844-Off-Limits (633-5464), they can talk through the incident with a counselor from the organization Peace Over Violence and receive the resources and information necessary to report it to the police. The group has counseled victims of sexual abuse in LA County and has hosted its own 24/7 hotline for survivors of rape and battery for over 45 years. Read more…

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Cutting Planned Parenthood funding is a great way to punish poor women

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With the imminent inauguration of President-elect Donald J. Trump, Congressional Republicans now have exactly what they need to make good on a long-held obsession: “defunding” Planned Parenthood. 

Their previous effort to strip the nonprofit health care provider of the federal funding it uses for routine healthcare was stymied by President Obama’s veto, but Trump has no such qualms. 

So it’s important that Americans are clear on exactly what this means. 

“Defunding” requires excluding Planned Parenthood from participating in Medicaid, the federal insurance program for poor and low-income Americans younger than 65.  Read more…

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Study says zombies would wipe out humans in less than 100 days

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The zombie apocalypse won’t take long.

A new article in a peer-reviewed student journal finds that the zombie hordes would take Earth’s population down to a mere 273 survivors in 100 days.

The paper, published in the University of Leicester’s Journal of Physics Special Topics, was a fanciful use of the so-called SIR model, which is used in epidemiology to simulate how diseases spread over time. It’s not the first time zombies have been used as a public health metaphor. In December 2015, for example, the British medical journal The Lancet published a tongue-in-cheek paper titled “Zombie infections: epidemiology, treatment, and prevention.” And a viral blog post from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged zombie-apocalypse preparations as a metaphor for real-life disaster preparedness Read more…

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NYPD responds to captain's absurd comments about rape and Tinder

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A police captain made some eyebrow-raising remarks about an increase in sexual assaults in a New York City neighborhood, according to an article published Friday.

His comments were so off-base, and they whipped up a storm of controversy so large, that the mayor’s office had to respond. So did the New York Police Department. 

In comments reported by local news website DNAinfo New York, NYPD’s 94th precinct Capt. Peter Rose distinguished between “stranger rape” and “acquaintance rape,” lumping Tinder into the latter. 

“They’re not total abomination rapes where strangers are being dragged off the streets … If there’s a true stranger rape, a random guy picks up a stranger off the street, those are the troubling ones. That person has, like, no moral standards,” he was reported as saying. Read more…

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