Syria war: ‘IS suicide bomber’ kills US troops in Manbij

Screengrab of video published by the Syrian Kurdish Hawar News Agency (ANHA) showing the aftermath of a suicide bomb attack in Manbij, Syria (16 January 2019)Image copyright

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The Kurdish Hawar News Agency said the blast occurred at a restaurant

US soldiers have been killed in an apparent suicide bombing in northern Syria claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, the US military has said.

IS said a militant had detonated an explosive vest next to a US patrol in the Kurdish-held town of Manbij.

Two US soldiers, a civilian employee at the defence department and a contractor died, US Central Command said. Another three US soldiers were wounded.

US forces are in Manbij to back Kurdish and Arab forces.

IS fighters have been driven out of almost all of eastern Syria.

Wednesday’s attack took place at a restaurant near Manbij’s main market.

The US troops were at the restaurant to meet members of the Manbij Military Council, a witness told Reuters news agency.

CCTV footage from a nearby shop shows a large fireball engulfing several people standing on the street outside.

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US troops used armoured vehicles to patrol the centre of Manbij following the attack

The US soldiers were subsequently evacuated by a helicopter that landed on a playground, the Syrian Kurdish Hawar News Agency reports.

It cited the head of Manbij’s health committee as saying that 18 people had been killed, including the US soldiers, and that another 18 had been wounded.

US Central Command later confirmed that four Americans were killed.

“Two US service members, one department of defence (DoD) civilian and one contractor supporting DoD were killed and three service members were injured while conducting a local engagement in Manbij,” it said in a statement.

Last month, President Donald Trump announced that the US would begin pulling out all its 2,000 troops from Syria because IS had been “defeated”.

Opponents of the withdrawal stressed that although IS now controlled only 1% of the territory they overran five years ago, the group had not disappeared entirely.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who has previously criticised Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria, said on Wednesday that the move could encourage IS attacks and “set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we’re fighting”.

Later, US Vice-President Mike Pence said he and President Trump condemned the attack in Syria but reiterated that the withdrawal plan would continue.

“We have crushed the [IS] caliphate and devastated its capabilities. As we begin to bring our troops home… we will never allow the remnants of [IS] to re-establish their evil and murderous caliphate.”

A recent US report said there were still as many as 14,000 IS militants in Syria and even more in neighbouring Iraq – and that they were expected to shift to guerrilla tactics in an attempt to rebuild their network.

Syrian Kurds also fear that Manbij and other towns they control near the border with Turkey might come under attack by the Turkish military, which wants to clear them of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia.

The Turkish government considers the YPG an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades. However, it denies any direct organisational links to the group.

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This Was The Loneliest Frog In The World — Until He Met HER

If a lonely frog’s soulmate even existed, she would live in this deep and lush forest.

It was just a matter of finding her — and that’s what a team of scientists set out to do.

Robin Moore/GWC

It wasn’t just for the lonely frog‘s sake — but for his whole species. The frog, nicknamed Romeo, is a Sehuencas water frog, thought to be nearly extinct.

Robin Moore/GWC

Ten years ago, researchers brought Romeo to a safe place, knowing he was one of the last of his kind. They planned to find a mate for him so Romeo could have a family and help save the species.

But a whole decade passed and people still couldn’t find a mate for Romeo. If Romeo didn’t find a match soon, the whole species might be too far gone to ever come back from the brink. 

Matias Careaga/Museo de Historia Natural Alcide d’Orbigny

So a team of researchers went deep into a Bolivian cloud forest recently in a last-ditch effort to find a Juliet. And this time fate was in their favor. 

The researchers — from Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) and the Museo de Historia Natural Alcide d’Orbigny — found five individual frogs, three males and two females — and one of these would be Romeo’s Juliet. 

Robin Moore/GWC

As Juliet leapt into Romeo’s lonely life, both frogs seemed a little more starry-eyed than normal. 

“It is an incredible feeling,” Teresa Camacho Badani, chief of herpetology at the museum and leader of the expedition that found Juliet, said in a press release provided to The Dodo. “Now the real work begins.”

Robin Moore/GWC

The researchers will do everything they can to learn about this specific type of frog and how the species can best reproduce, while also taking trips back into the forest to understand just how many Sehuencas water frogs may be left and what’s putting them in danger.

Robin Moore/GWC

So far, researchers know that pollution, destruction of habitat and invasive species, as well as climate change, have decimated Romeo’s kind in the wild. But they’re determined to learn how to prevent Romeo and Juliet’s whole species from meeting a tragic end. 

“[We’re] working on a long-term plan to return Romeo’s future babies to their wild home,” Badani said. 

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Oklahoma State dismisses guard Michael Weathers, two others

Oklahoma State basketball players Michael Weathers, Maurice Calloo and Kentrevious Jones are no longer with the team because of a violation of team rules, coach Mike Boynton said in a statement.

“We have a standard of behavior that we expect from everyone in our program and we’re going to move forward with the people who want to abide by those standards,” Boynton said. “I wish the others well as they move on.”

Weathers, a sophomore guard, was averaging 9.2 points per game. Calloo, a freshman forward, was averaging 2.5 points per game, while Kones, another freshman forward, put up 1.3 points per game in eight contests.

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Kate Middleton Just Stepped Out Carrying the Trendiest Handbag

For a visit to the Royal Opera House, Kate Middleton wowed in a magenta Oscar de la Renta blazer ($1,095; and skirt ($1,290; Black tights kept her legs warm, while pointed-toe pumps and a Aspinal of London croc box bag ($1,000; anchored her winning outfit.

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How From Software Is Changing Its Approach To Storytelling For Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Set in the waning years of Sengoku-era Japan, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice features a brighter, more colorful world than we’ve seen out of From Software. This lets them create environments with a different air about them than either Bloodborne or Dark Souls, as the developer tries to both elicit and play with the beauty of Japan during the Warring States period. The change in locale has also prompted From Software to make some key changes to how it tells stories, but it’s not shying away from the key methods fans have come to love.

For starters, don’t let the brighter environments in Sekiro fool you into thinking this will be a cheerier tale. “Of course, this being a From title, there’s beauty and there’s death and decay to contrast that,” says From manager of marketing and communications Yasuhiro Kitao. When choosing a time period for Sekiro, From chose the earlier Sengoku era over the more modern Edo period as its setting specifically because it fit the studio’s style. “Edo is more like Japan coming back from the brink, and really kind of revitalizing itself, and everything’s a lot more early-modern [stuff],” Kitao says. “Sengoku is much like Dark Souls and such, more medieval Japan, and allows us to play with those medieval concepts and those more mystical concepts.”

The company has taken inspiration from history before (the company looked to Victorian London when making Bloodborne), and you can expect a similar approach to Japan in Sekiro. “We decided to take inspiration from the architecture and the vegetation, but there are no actual historical people or locations featured in the game,” Kitao says. “This is a From game we’re talking about. It’s a Miyazaki game we’re talking about. You can probably expect a lot of weirdness to occur and to begin to unravel as you progress through the game.”

With its move away from RPG builds and progression, From is also leaning into telling the story of a set character rather than letting players create their own. Previous From games told the story of their worlds moreso than any individual character, delving into the history of the locations you traversed and telling stories of characters whose footsteps you were following. While your character in those games set important events in motion, you were only one small part of a grander tale. “This time we have a fixed protagonist and we have a cast of characters who we’re trying to build that story around,” Kitao says. “We’re trying to tell more of a drama, if you will, of these characters.”

The story of Sekiro begins with the Young Lord, a child The Wolf is in charge of protecting. Early in the game, The Wolf and the Young Lord are assaulted by a group of enemies led by the Ashina Commander, who defeats The Wolf, chops off his arm, and kidnaps the Young Lord. After finding himself restored to health after the battle and wearing a prosthetic limb, The Wolf’s goal at the start of Shadows Die Twice is to find and retrieve the Young Lord – and exact revenge on his assailant.

“One nice thing about basing the story around these characters is we get to play with the relationship between these characters, between [The Wolf] and the Young Lord, and how their relationship kind of evolves throughout the game,” Kitao says. The Young Lord and The Wolf will meet up several times throughout the story, and the story will place a large emphasis on their relationship. “There is one point in the early game where he is by your side, but this is not a kind of escort mission in the typical sense, and it only happens the one time.”

The Wolf is also a more fleshed-out character than the player characters in other From games. Raised on the battlefield by a character named The Owl, The Wolf will speak to other characters as he encounters them, lending his own character to the story. “Having this key protagonist allows us to build a cast of characters around him, and his personality, and his history,” says director Hidetaka Miyazaki. “We feel like, you know, not the typical NPCs that you run into during the game, but these kind of central – these core characters that are central to his presence in the world, and his story ­– are going to be playing a lot of that role of the story in the gameplay. So, we feel like you’ll be able to experience both his past, in that sense, and the here-and-now of where the game takes place.”

The main area we played through, the Hirata Estates, was couched in the story as a flashback, in which The Wolf fights against Lady Butterfly, an acquaintance of The Owl. “He sort of plays a foster father role to the protagonist,” Miyazaki says. “This Owl character picked up Sekiro on the battlefield and raised him as a shinobi and one of his old acquaintances – or part of that shinobi system of allies – was this Lady Butterfly character. So, while Owl was training the protagonist and teaching him techniques, maybe he got to spar with this character or had some sort of menial relationship with her through the foster-father figure.” 

From isn’t going to lean too heavily on flashbacks to tell its story, however. “It’s mainly focused on the present,” Miyazaki says. “It’s not a game where you’re going back and forth from present to past to piece together the puzzle, but this is a one-off flash back, if you will, to a portion of his past and that allows you to piece a little more bits together of the story. So, you get some extra detail and you can flesh things out for yourself in that way.”

While this more character and narrative-centric approach is atypical for From, Kitao is confident with how the change in direction is taking shape. “It’s actually a very ‘From’ way of doing a protagonist, and the way he conducts himself and the way this character kind of evolves is very kind of From-esque,” he says. Although he’ll have a central role in the story, don’t expect Sekiro to be a chatterbox. “He’ll say a few things here and there, but yeah, he won’t bore you to tears with constant monologues,” Kitao says.

At first, this character-driven approach seems to clash with one of From’s signature storytelling techniques: foregoing a traditional narrative in favor of having players build their own narrative out of vague hints from characters and item descriptions. From is well aware of fans’ love of that technique, and wants to assure them what while the story they’re telling is angled differently, the methodology isn’t changing too much. “That is very much intact in Sekiro, we’re trying to maintain that,” Kitao says. “We don’t want to rob the experience of that kind of fragmented storytelling. We want it to be a user-driven story, a play-driven experience rather than [something] directed by us. We don’t want to feed the user every little bit of information. We don’t want to tell them straight-up the answers, or how something is. We’d like them to experience and explore that for themselves.”

We found plenty of items during our time with Sekiro, and of course the descriptions for these items were more than just functional. The description for the Fistful of Ash item, for example, states it can be thrown to distract enemies, but also mentions that doing exactly that was a hobby of boys growing up in Ashina, the locale in which The Wolf was raised. As we approached a particular area, we also saw a scene of the Young Lord chatting with Emma (one of the characters who helps you in Sekiro’s hub area) play out through ghostly figures in the environment itself, similar to how certain “flashbacks” in games like BioShock occur. However, Kitao says the number of cutscenes in Sekiro won’t be out of line with the company’s past work, and that they won’t have huge info dumps, either. “We want users to pick up on these subtle hints through the cutscenes, through the dialogue, as well.”

That said, From is making some changes to this storytelling approach – namely, who’s doing the telling. Although Miyazaki is handling the overall story, he won’t be doing the bulk of the writing for the dialogue and item descriptions, delegating the job to other members of the staff to “create a fresh experience and something that we hope users have never seen before,” Kitao says. Miyazaki himself doesn’t want to fall back into his old writing tricks, either, something he feels fans wouldn’t be as excited about as they have been in the past.

While Miyazaki finds the change refreshing in some ways, it’s meant getting used to a change in the overall narrative workflow. “Previously, I could have just written some stuff down as part of the text or dialog at home,” Miyazaki says. “Nowadays, for Sekiro I have to communicate this to staff and be really quite forthcoming about it. That’s quite tough in itself. But then to see them reinterpret this into their idea of what that means or that implies, this is enlightening for me, and it allows me to see this different interpretation and then to have this collaborative story building together.” This, in turn, gives Miyazaki the ability to see the story From is building from a new perspective, and for the first time, get a read on how coherent it might be to an outside reader.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice makes a number of tweaks to how From Software tells stories, but from the time we’ve spent with it, it looks to stay true to the company’s mantra of letting players engage with their stories in various engaging ways, even as it aims to tell a more personal tale.

For more on Shadows Die Twice: check out our deep dive into a boss fight, how progression works, and more, and make sure to click on the hub below to follow our coverage all throughout the month.

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Gillette maker’s boss warns on Brexit price rises

A group of Procter and Gamble productsImage copyright
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The boss of Procter and Gamble, maker of Fairy liquid and Gillette razors, says its products could cost more if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.

Tariffs the company may have to pay would be added to grocery bills, David S. Taylor told the BBC.

“If it’s a hard exit it can drive cost in the system,” he said.

Procter and Gamble and many other companies want “an amicable solution between the UK and the EU,” he said.

He joins a chorus of business voices trying to put pressure on MPs to come to an agreement, including the British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Institute of Directors and the Confederation of British Industry.

“What happens is if there’s additional money through tariffs or other costs that have been incurred somehow, we’ll have to cover those. So we encourage the two parties to work together and find a solution,” he said.

Last month, Bank of England governor Mark Carney warned that food prices could rise between 5% and 10% if there is a disorderly Brexit.

Mr Carney told MPs that in the most “extreme” case, prices would rise by 10%, but in a less severe scenario the increase would be about 6%.

The Bank of England has attempted to assess the impact of Brexit on several occasions.

All its assessments have seen it as a potential negative for the economy.

In total, 53% of all imports to the UK come from the European Union, it’s largest trading partner. The UK imports 30% of its food from the EU.

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Recipe: Instant Pot Weeknight Chicken and Rice Burrito Bowls

We all need a foolproof meal that we can turn to on nights we forget to plan and need to get dinner on the table fast. Inspired by these slow-cooker burrito bowls, this recipe comes together quickly with the help of an electric pressure cooker. With chicken, rice, black beans, and corn, it’s a wholesome supper that tastes like it took much longer to make than it actually did.

A Versatile Burrito Bowl in 20 Minutes

Just as with a traditional burrito, this recipe is super versatile. Don’t skip making it because you don’t have one of the ingredients on the list. Besides the salsa, there’s a good chance anything on the ingredient list can be omitted or swapped for something else.

Vegetable broth or even water can be used in place of chicken broth, while pinto, white, or kidney beans can easily be used in place of black beans. Have a pack of boneless, skinless breasts already in the fridge? Go ahead and use that in place of chicken thighs. None of these swaps will affect the cook time or finished burrito bowls.

For a Faster Dinner, Embrace the “Meanwhile”

My go-to tactic for making dinner prep as efficient and speedy as possible is to embrace the “meanwhile.” This means that instead of prepping all the ingredients at the onset (as we’re often told to do), you should work as you go. This is largely a dump-and-go recipe, but there’s still some room to embrace the meanwhile for more efficient and faster prep. Get started by prepping the onion and garlic, and having the spices and broth ready. While the onion sautés and simmers, cut up the chicken and rinse and drain the black beans.

How We Made This Recipe Better

To our readers who’ve had issues with this recipe: We apologize and we hear you! After learning about some of the recipe’s difficulties, we headed back into the kitchen to ensure it would be successful for everyone. After retesting we’ve identified scorched (and sometimes undercooked rice) to be the issue.

When added to the bottom of the pot, the rice browns too quickly, signaling to the pressure cooker there’s stuck-on food. The degree to which this happens differs from machine to machine. We didn’t get a BURN error, but did experience significant scorching. After a few more rounds of testing (and reading though all your comments!) we’ve come up with this solution: Layer the dry rice on top of the chicken-salsa mixture before adding the lid and setting the pressure cooker to HIGH pressure. This keeps the rice from burning and helps it cook to its fluffy, tender best.

We support our readers with carefully chosen product recommendations to improve life at home. You support us through our independently chosen links, many of which earn us a commission.

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Blind 10-Year-Old Dog Looking For Home

Blind 10-Year-Old Dog Looking For Home

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A blind 10-year-old Staffordshire dog was found wandering alone on the street. He was taken in by Birmingham Dogs Home. No one knows how he ended up on the street or anything about his background. All they know is that he deserves a loving forever home.

The dog rescue in Wolverhampton, UK takes in strays and surrendered dogs. Their mission is, “to rescue, reunite and re-home the lost, abused and abandoned dogs from the streets of the West Midlands and South Staffordshire.” The dog was named Boomer and joined other homeless dogs at The Sunnyside Centre.

Screen Shot: YouTube/Birmingham Dogs Home

The shelter has seen an influx of stray and surrendered dogs, and is doing everything they can to find all the dogs forever homes. While Boomer waits for that special someone, he will be sleeping in a warm bed and getting regular nutritious meals. Each dog deserves to find a family that will love them and spoil them, especially senior dogs.

Boomer is blind and a senior, which means people will pass him by. However, they are missing out on an amazing dog. Even though he can no longer see, he loves to go for walks and explore with his nose. He is looking for a forever home that is quiet and filled with people that love to cuddle.

Screen Shot: YouTube/Birmingham Dogs Home

The sweet boy has a lot of love to give and just wants someone to give him a chance. The staff at the shelter describes him as, “a charming boy”. They posted a picture of the beautiful black and white dog saying, “DON’T WALK PAST OUR GOLDEN OLDIES. Meet Boomer, a 10 year old Staffie with so much love to give. Sadly he is blind which is why we are looking for a quieter home for him. He still loves his walks and enjoys nothing more than having fuss and cuddles with his carers.”

Screen Shot: YouTube/Birmingham Dogs Home

The gray on his muzzle makes him even more adorable. The rescue created a video of Boomer to show that he still has energy and would make a perfect companion. If you are interested in adopting Boomer, you can apply on their website.

Check out Boomer in the video below. Remember to adopt not shop!

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Man Sends His Unwanted Cat In A Box Via Postal Service To Shelter: Click “Next” below!

Andrea Powell is an animal enthusiast who lives in West Michigan. Her horse and 3 dogs are her children. She loves to write and share her knowledge of equine and canine nutrition. In her spare time she likes to volunteer with animal rescues, camp with her husband and dogs, and trail ride with her horse.

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Job as Michigan State University interim president in jeopardy for John Engler

John Engler’s tenure as the interim president at Michigan State may be coming to an end days after he suggested that some survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse were “enjoying” the “spotlight” after having been sexually abused.

The school’s board of trustees has scheduled a meeting for Thursday morning, where Engler’s future will be discussed, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. The meeting’s agenda includes an item for “personnel action.”

“This university can no longer move forward with [Engler] at the helm,” trustee Brian Mosallam told ESPN.

A spokeswoman for the university declined to comment.

Engler, a former governor of Michigan, has angered survivors, their supporters and others in the MSU community on several occasions since taking over as interim president nearly a year ago.

Former president Lou Anna Simon resigned at the conclusion of a hearing in which Nassar — a former doctor at Michigan State and national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics — was sentenced to up to 175 years in state prison for sexually abusing young women and girls.

At the time of his appointment, Engler said he intended to work to move the university forward and respect the women who had been abused by Nassar by treating them as if they were his own daughters.

Earlier this week, Engler told the editorial board of the Detroit News that the school was making progress toward moving past the scandal and that some of the outspoken survivors advocating for change at Michigan State and elsewhere were enjoying the attention that garnered.

“There are a lot of people who are touched by this, survivors who haven’t been in the spotlight,” Engler said, according to The Detroit News. “In some ways they have been able to deal with this better than the ones who’ve been in the spotlight who are still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition. And it’s ending. It’s almost done.”

Those comments sparked outrage from advocates, observers and survivors themselves.

“You mean, like having to change the day I grocery shop so my three kids don’t see a photo of their mom demonstrating what was done to her body?” said Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault. “Tell me more about how enjoyable this spotlight is.”

Engler previously apologized at a university board meeting for making other insensitive remarks about survivors. He apologized for the school’s choice to publicly share medical information about a student who sued the university for how it handled a sexual assault complaint not related to Nassar. He denied claims that he asked one Nassar survivor, 19-year-old Kaylee Lorincz, to provide a dollar figure that would satisfy her civil lawsuit against the university in a meeting without her attorney present. He also accused Denhollander of receiving financial kickbacks as part of the civil lawsuit in an email exchange with other university administrators. He later apologized for those comments.

In December, Engler closed a $10 million fund set aside by the school to help Nassar survivors pay mental healthcare bills. Engler claimed the fund, which still had more than $8 million of unclaimed money, was intended to be “a bridge” for survivors until they started receiving payments from the $500 million civil settlement that the university reached with Nassar’s survivors.

There is no record of the university claiming the fund as a temporary bridge prior to Engler’s assertion.

When protestors asked Engler and the trustees to reinstate the fund during a board meeting in December, speakers had to demand Engler make eye contact with them. He later told reporters he was looking through notes about the progress the university had made in reforming its sexual assault policies while the speakers were asking him to reopen the fund.

Michigan State’s trustees voted earlier this month to establish a new assistance fund, the details of which have not yet been announced.

Michigan State had not yet posted notice of its board meeting at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday. The school must post notice of all public meetings at least 18 hours before they are scheduled to begin.

Sources confirmed Thursday’s meeting will be open to the public and is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m.

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Social Media-Compatible T-Shirts : connected fashion

The Insta Tee by Ironic Lux is an Example of Connected Fashion

Connected fashion can refer to a lot of things but in this case, the phenomenon nods to a QR-enabled garment. Appropriately dubbed the ‘Insta Tee,’ the product embraces personalization and endorses the digital presence in the contemporary world. With it, Millennial-friendly label Ironic Lux is tapping into the vast popularity of the Instagram platform and acknowledging how social media is shaping day-to-day interactions.

The connected fashion garment comes with a customizable QR code that can be personalized to lead to the desired Instagram account. Surely rather unconventional, the feature adds a useful function when one attempts to share accounts with strangers or new acquaintances. In addition, the Insta Tee also boasts the wearer’s username on the front, giving the connected fashion item a utilitarian and minimalist aesthetic with a personal flair.

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