U.S.-led airstrikes accidentally hit Syrian regime forces instead of ISIS, angering Russia

U.S. Central Command admitted Saturday that airstrikes conducted that morning by American-led forces unintentionally hit Syrian government targets instead of members of the Islamic State.

“Coalition forces believed they were striking [an ISIS] fighting position that they had been tracking for a significant amount of time before the strike,” Centcom said. “The coalition airstrike was halted immediately when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military.”

Following the announcement, which threatens the recent U.S.-Russia cease-fire deal, Moscow called an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, criticized Russia for the meeting request, and Moscow in turn bristled at her slam. The mistake has potentially big ramifications because Russia and the United States support opposite sides of the Syrian civil war, though both oppose ISIS.

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Creative Commons licenses under scrutiny—what does “noncommercial” mean?

Commercial v. noncommercial use of CC licenses. Where’s the line of demarcation? sci tech news Continue reading Creative Commons licenses under scrutiny—what does “noncommercial” mean?

The power of protocol analyzers

Network problems require something better than trial-and-error troubleshooting. sci tech news Continue reading The power of protocol analyzers

Obama says he ‘will consider it a personal insult’ if black voters don’t turn out for Clinton

President Obama had strong words of exhortation and critique for black voters and Republican nominee Donald Trump, respectively, while speaking at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation event Saturday evening.

“I will consider it a personal insult and an insult to my legacy if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election,” he said, adding in a plug for Democrat Hillary Clinton, “My name may not be on the ballot, but our progress is on the ballot. Tolerance is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot. Justice is on the ballot. Good schools are on the ballot. Ending mass incarceration, that’s on the ballot right now.”

Turning to Trump, Obama wryly joked about the birther controversy Trump helped fuel. He also alluded to the candidate’s suggestion “that there’s never been a worse time to be a black person,” positing that Trump must have “missed that whole civics lesson about slavery or Jim Crow.”

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10 things you need to know today: September 18, 2016

1.

An explosion rocked New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood on 23rd Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues around 8:30 p.m. Eastern time Saturday evening. Described by witnesses as “deafening,” the blast tore through the lower windows of a nearby building and is said to have originated in or near a dumpster, CNN reports. At least 29 people reportedly sustained injuries, only one of which was critical. A suspicious device built using a pressure cooker was discovered nearby, on West 27th Street, and removed by the New York Police Department’s bomb squad.

2.

The explosion that hit New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood is not believed to be an act of terrorism, although “early indications are that this was an intentional act,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in a press conference late Saturday night. There is no known link between the blast and credible threats against the city, de Blasio added. New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill ruled out natural gas as a cause and said “it appears the explosion happened on the street.”

3.

Presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each responded late Saturday night to the explosion in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood earlier that evening. “Just before I got off the plane, a bomb went off in New York and nobody knows exactly what’s going on, but, boy we are really in a time,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Colorado. “We better get very tough, folks.” When Clinton responded, she took the opportunity to snipe at Trump for jumping to conclude, absent then-available evidence, that the blast was caused by a bomb. It is “wiser to wait until you have information before making conclusions because we are just in the beginning stages of trying to determine what happened,” she said.

4.

At least eight people were injured during a mass stabbing in a St. Cloud, Minnesota, shopping mall on Saturday night. The attacker, who was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer, wore a security uniform and “made references to Allah while attacking,” The Associated Press reports. One victim remains hospitalized but none of the injuries are life-threatening, authorities said. St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson said the suspect, who has not been named, was known to police for minor traffic violations.

5.

A New Jersey 5K race was canceled Saturday morning after an explosion in an outdoor trash can believed to be caused by a pipe bomb. Local police said the explosion in Seaside Park, on the Jersey Shore, happened briefly before the nearby Marine Semper Fi 5K race was scheduled to start. Law enforcement swept the area and reportedly found one or two other homemade explosive devices nearby. No injuries have been reported, but the boardwalk and beach were evacuated. The incident is being investigated as terrorism and is not thought to be connected to the explosion later Saturday in New York City.

6.

U.S. Central Command admitted Saturday that airstrikes conducted that morning by American-led forces unintentionally hit Syrian government targets instead of members of the Islamic State. “The coalition airstrike was halted immediately when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military,” Centcom said. Following the announcement, which threatens the recent U.S.-Russia cease-fire deal, Moscow called an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, criticized Russia for the meeting request, and Moscow in turn bristled at her slam. The mistake has potentially big ramifications because Russia and the United States support opposite sides of the Syrian civil war, though both oppose ISIS.

7.

New analysis from Reuters released Saturday finds Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are basically even in terms of Electoral College support. Were the election held today, it “could end in a photo finish,” perhaps similar to the contested George W. Bush vs. Al Gore race in 2000. Where Trump was previously believed to trail Clinton’s Electoral College count considerably, Reuters now considers Florida — with the fourth most electors of all 50 states — a likely win for Trump. Even with this shakeup, neither candidate comes close to 50 percent support nationwide: Clinton has a slight lead of 42 percent national support to Trump’s 38 percent.

8.

President Obama had strong words of exhortation and critique for black voters and Republican nominee Donald Trump, respectively, while speaking at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation event Saturday evening. “I will consider it a personal insult and an insult to my legacy if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election,” he said, adding in a plug for Democrat Hillary Clinton, “My name may not be on the ballot, but our progress is on the ballot.” Turning to Trump, Obama wryly joked about the birther controversy Trump helped fuel. He also alluded to the candidate’s suggestion “that there’s never been a worse time to be a black person,” positing that Trump must have “missed that whole civics lesson about slavery or Jim Crow.”

9.

The Syrian civil war and refugee crisis will be at the top of the agenda when the United Nations General Assembly convenes on Monday. World leaders and their proxies are gathering at U.N. headquarters in New York City to discuss Syria as well as the Islamic State, Brexit, and who will succeed U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who finishes his term at the end of 2016. Ban and President Obama will each make their final U.N. addresses during this assembly, while new British Prime Minister Theresa May will make her U.N. debut.

10.

Four attackers killed 17 Indian soldiers at an army base in Kashmir early Sunday morning, the deadliest such attack in recent years. The base is located in disputed territory near the Pakistani border, and initial reports suggest the rampage may have been organized by the Pakistan-based Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammad. Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh blamed Pakistan for the attack on Twitter. “Pakistan is a terrorist state and it should be identified and isolated as such,” he wrote, describing the militants as “highly trained, heavily armed and specially equipped” with AK-47 rifles and grenade launchers. All four militants were killed by Indian forces.

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10 things you need to know today: September 18, 2016

Trump and Clinton respond to NYC explosion with promises and critique

Presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each responded late Saturday night to the explosion that rocked New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood earlier that evening.

“Just before I got off the plane, a bomb went off in New York and nobody knows exactly what’s going on, but, boy we are really in a time,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Colorado. “We better get very tough, folks. It’s a terrible thing that’s going on in our world and in our country and we are going to get tough and smart and vigilant. We’ll see what it is.”

When Clinton responded, she took the opportunity to snipe at Trump for jumping to conclude, absent then-available evidence, that the blast was caused by a bomb. “I think it’s important to know the facts about any incident like this,” she said shortly before midnight. “That’s why it’s critical to support the first responders, the investigators who are looking into it trying to determine what did happen. I think it’s also wiser to wait until you have information before making conclusions because we are just in the beginning stages of trying to determine what happened.”

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The children of 9/11

The children of 9/11 are growing up. Fifteen years after that cataclysmic day in 2001, the infants of the time — or those still in their mothers’ wombs — are high school age. Then-toddlers are nearing or even starting college. The tweens of 2001 are young adults, and their elder siblings are marking life’s milestones: marrying, notching career achievements. Having children of their own.

In the arc of childhood, time bends in strange ways. The Sept. 11 attacks are part of history now. But for young people who lost a parent that day, the pain is ever present.

The attacks killed nearly 3,000 people — aboard the four hijacked airliners, at the World Trade Center, and at the Pentagon. Those people left behind 3,051 children under the age of 18, by the count of survivors’ groups. That day marked these youngsters’ entry into a cohort of bereavement, an exclusive club that, as more than one of them observed, no one would ever, ever wish to join.

“You don’t want to be that kid, the one everyone knows about,” said Francesca Picerno, who had just turned 9 when the towers fell and is now an aspiring musician. Her dad, Matthew Picerno, 44, worked as a municipal bond broker at Cantor Fitzgerald, on the 104th floor of the north tower. He left the family home in Holmdel, New Jersey, that morning and never came back.

Enduring so private a grief in so overwhelmingly public a context left a mark on all of these children. It’s braided, they say, into successes and sorrows alike, sometimes in wrenching and unexpected ways. It looms large over every casual encounter with a new acquaintance. It’s a built-in identity some rejected — and still do — while others have come to accept and even embrace it.

“You don’t want to be defined by it,” said Picerno, now a self-possessed 24-year-old, whose professional first name is also her childhood nickname, Ces — what her father and all the family called her. “But it’s such a huge part of who you are.”

When the towers fell, the world’s eyes were on New York City. But the reverberations were also felt with the force of an earthquake in dozens of tranquil suburbs that lay within commuting distance of Manhattan’s financial district — communities like Montclair, New Jersey.

Railroad barons made the town, and its welter of train stations — six, in a community of only 38,000 — not only nourished the village-like neighborhoods that coalesced around these transport hubs but also made for a quick journey into the city, 12 miles away, across the river.

On 9/11, that proximity proved fateful. Almost everyone in Montclair — from its blue-collar enclaves to its hilltop mansions — knew someone working in New York that day: friends and neighbors, colleagues, wives and husbands, daughters and sons. Nine men from Montclair died. Seven of them were married, and most of those were fathers, some to very young children.

When Abigail Carter took a telephone call that morning from her husband, Caleb Arron Dack, she was busy at home with 6-year-old Olivia and 2-year-old Carter. With the baby fussing on her hip, she snatched up the phone, annoyed at the interruption.

Even now, 15 years later, she’s sometimes haunted by the memory of that little burst of impatience at what was to be their last conversation ever. But then, it had begun as such an ordinary day. There was no reason to think they wouldn’t be talking for all their lives.

“Now, I think the hardest thing is just not knowing what you’re missing,” Carter said. “And at the same time, knowing how much you’re missing.”

Montclair enfolded her in an embrace she will never forget, she said. Friends sat vigil; strangers offered greetings on her birthday. Bags of bagels and home-cooked meals appeared faithfully on her doorstep for months. “I had to buy a new freezer for all of them,” she said, mustering a laugh.

But for all the solace offered, Carter came to feel there was something suffocating about her new identity as a 9/11 widow. In so small a community, she knew that she — and especially her children — would be indelibly associated with immense tragedy, with even well-meaning kindness registering as a constant reminder.

In the end, she chose to make a new life for herself and them, in Seattle. The kids are 17 and 21, and doing well. Carter is in high school; Olivia is away at college, studying neuroscience and considering graduate school.

Lauren Kestenbaum, too, felt the need to leave Montclair not long after 9/11. She was 24 when her father, Howard, was killed — not a child, but not quite a full-fledged adult either, something she says she only recognized long afterward. She was on her way to work at the New York Public Library when the planes hit the towers; from a commuter bus, she saw the smoke rising.

Kestenbaum spent the remainder of her 20s in graduate school, first moving to the Midwest and getting a master’s degree in library science, then tackling the rigors of law school at Stanford University. Now she wonders if a grueling stint in academia was an attempt to deflect her loss.

“I was good at being in school, at focusing on goals, on ends,” she said. “I think it was a way of coping with what happened — a way of having some order, having some control.”

In what might be a means of making peace with the past, she is back in Montclair, working in nearby Newark as a children’s legal advocate. Her boyfriend is a friend from childhood who knew her father. Her mother, to whom she remains close, only recently sold the family home, and still lives nearby.

In familiar streets and parks and shops, she can summon happy memories.

“When you lose a parent, at whatever point in life,” she said, “it makes you a child again.”

And then there are those 9/11 kids who have no recollections of a dead parent. Or what seem like none — though a few tiny, tantalizing shards may lie buried in memory.

Kahleb Fallon was only 7 months old when his mother, Jamie Lynn Fallon, was killed at the Pentagon, where she was a logistics specialist. She had bright red hair, and later, whenever the toddler saw that hue on anyone else’s head, he’d point and get excited.

Did he remember that about her? Could he? No one really knows.

Fallon was a 23-year-old single mother with no ties to her baby’s father. Her mother, Pat Fallon, cared for Kahleb as his guardian until he was nearly 5. By then, Jamie’s older brother Mike, who had married and started a family, felt ready to give his little nephew a home. To become his father.

Now Kahleb is 15 and thriving. He likes “regular-kid stuff,” his landscaper father says — sports, video games. Iowa City, with its reserved but warm Midwestern manner, may be the perfect place to raise a youngster who wants, for now, to keep at arm’s length a national and family tragedy that is part of him, yet somehow separate.

“He wants to be Joe Normal,” Mike said. “You know what it’s like to be a teenager.”

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the children were at times their elders’ despair — and their salvation. Many parents, having lost a spouse or partner, said they doubt they could have gone on without the knowledge of how much their children needed them.

Janice Cohn, a psychotherapist who lives in Montclair and treated a number of widows from surrounding communities and served as consultant to the public schools, said many parents struggled, not only those who had lost a spouse.

“With lots of the children I worked with in school, it was ‘How do you make sense of a dangerous world? How do you explain violence and danger in a way that doesn’t make them frightened, or paranoid, or mistrustful?'” she said. “We want our kids to be empathetic, to care about others, but on the other hand, it’s a dangerous world — how do you strike a balance?”

Abigail Carter, who published a memoir of her young widowhood, remembers those early days as a blur — punctuated only by the urgency of helping her children deal with the loss. “They were both so very aware of it,” she said. Her son, only 2, “kept pointing at every building and asking, ‘Is Daddy in there?'” Her daughter, who was 6 and had taken in more information, was worryingly silent.

Many children coped well initially with the loss of a parent, but succumbed later on to bouts of depression and even self-harm. Others struggled with friendships, feeling uneasy and gossiped-about, reluctant to divulge their family history as they moved to new towns or new schools, but unable to keep the word from leaking out.

For others, the usual adolescent acting-out — drug or alcohol use, bad judgment — was magnified by an angry sense of abandonment. Some coped badly when their mother or father began dating or eventually remarried.

Ces Picerno was 18 when her mother, who had spent nearly a decade coping with everything from child rearing to family finances to the loss of her own parents, began dating for the first time since Matthew Picerno’s death. She regrets that rather than being understanding, she was furious. “I was terrible,” she said ruefully.

The two are close now, but spar now and then — tattoos being a prime point of contention. Ces loves hers, especially those that are a tribute to her dad: inked circles on her wrists represent the cuff buttons of his dress shirts, and tattooed on her back is his favorite Frank Sinatra line, from “Summer Wind.”

“The world was new beneath a blue umbrella sky,” she recited, then closed her eyes and hummed a bit of the melody — remembering another bright morning.

Some who lost parents in the attacks see them, even in their absence, as a powerful influence in their lives. Lauren Kestenbaum toyed for a time with corporate law, a path she eventually realized was wrong for her, and says she is much happier now with her children’s advocacy work.

“My father always encouraged me to follow my heart, and at first, without him, that was hard to do,” she said.

Ces’ older brother Matthew, 27, is to be married next month — the first of the family’s three children to wed. When she was little, she said, she had always pictured her father at her own wedding.

After his death, Ces thought she might one day have her two brothers walk her down the aisle. But lately, as she and her longtime boyfriend have talked more about marriage, she had another idea. She asked her mother if she would do it instead.

“She cried,” Ces said. “And said yes.”

Excerpted from an article that was originally published in the Los Angeles Times. Reprinted with permission.

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For sale: 6 charming homes in Martha’s Vineyard

Edgartown. Built this year, this six-bedroom Greek Revival-style home sits near Main Street and the beach. There are four bedroom suites, a high-end kitchen, and an open floor plan.

The property includes a private backyard, a swimming pool, and a detached pool house. $5,795,000. Gerret Conover, LandVest Martha’s Vineyard, (508) 627-3757.

Chilmark. This three-bedroom 1959 house lies on 2.8 acres in the fishing village of Menemsha. The vintage midcentury-modern home has wood-beamed ceilings, large windows with water views, and a glass wall looking out on the deck and water.

The property includes yards, a meadow, vegetable gardens, and deeded access to Menemsha Pond. $1,350,000. Jim Feiner, Feiner Real Estate, (508) 367-0199.

West Tisbury. This four-bedroom home on 8 acres has a gourmet kitchen with a beach-stone fireplace and a dining room-great room with a limestone fireplace and oversize windows.

The property includes a one-bedroom carriage-house suite and a gunite pool surrounded by gardens. $2,600,000. Stacy Ickes, Point B Realty, (508) 367-4886.

Chilmark. This four-bedroom summerhouse on Chilmark Pond offers pond and ocean views. Details include hardwood floors and exposed beams, and the living room has floor-to-ceiling windows and a sliding door to the deck.

The property’s 15 acres feature an outdoor shower, private beach access, and a boat dock. $2,350,000. Rebecca Conroy, Conroy & Co. Real Estate, (508) 645-3533.

Vineyard Haven. Known as the Swindle, this three-bedroom home lies between Nantucket Sound, Lake Tashmoo, and Beach Plum Pond. The house has an open main living space, a fireplace, vaulted ceilings, and water views from almost every room.

Surrounded by protected wildland, the 1.5-acre property features a garden, a deck, and 300 feet of beachfront with a dock. $4,850,000. Jill Hobby Napior, Tea Lane Associates, (508) 642-0831.

Oak Bluffs. This three-bedroom 1870 cottage is a short walk from the public beach and Flying Horses, America’s oldest carousel. The Victorian gingerbread home has exposed beams, the original built-ins, and a balcony off the master bedroom.

Outside are two grassy yards and a deck. $375,000. Marilyn Moses, Ocean Park Realty, (617) 462-0381.

**Want more? Check out these 6 lovely homes on the Connecticut coast.**

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6 captivating books about early America

Independence Lost by Kathleen DuVal (Random House, $18).

DuVal’s lively, deeply researched book recovers the dramatic story of how the revolution played out in the borderlands contested by the Spanish, British, and Americans — as well as by an array of native peoples and by runaway slaves seeking freedom.

Pox Americana by Elizabeth A. Fenn (Hill & Wang, $17).

By tracing the course and impact of a deadly epidemic that swept through the continent between 1775 and 1782, Fenn reveals the interplay of environment, health, and war. Because it halted the Continental Army’s invasion of Canada and aided the patriots’ defense of Virginia, smallpox shaped the course of revolution.

The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed (Norton, $22).

A consummate work of historical research and imagination, this National Book Award winner recovered the story of Thomas Jefferson’s dependence on an enslaved family who previously had served his father-in-law. The book sheds light on the tangled relationship of enslaved labor and the new nation’s political leadership.

Tom Paine’s Iron Bridge by Edward G. Gray (Norton, $27).

Thomas Paine was a polymath, it turns out, who designed innovative bridges as well as a radical politics. Vividly written and rich with insight, this book about his attempts to build an ideal America illuminates the nexus of politics, science, and art in the age of revolutions.

A Revolution in Color by Jane Kamensky (Norton, $35).

The greatest American artist of the 18th century, John Singleton Copley, preferred life in Britain, escaping to it from the bitter civil war that we call the American Revolution. In this lucidly written biography, out next month, Jane Kamensky renders the age in tones as complex and compelling as the interplay of light and shade in the finest Copley painting.

Ordinary Courage by Joseph Plumb Martin (Wiley-Blackwell, $27).

This memoir is the liveliest and most revealing account of the Revolution that we have from a common soldier. Martin, who joined the fight at 15 and bore every hardship short of death, blamed political leaders and selfish officers for the neglect suffered by enlisted men, whose endurance proved essential to victory.

— Historian Alan Taylor is the author of two Pulitzer Prize–winning works on early America, including 2013’s The Internal Enemy. His new book, American Revolutions, revisits the multiple conflicts that sparked our war for independence.

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Why your tax refund might be late this spring

Here are three of the week’s top pieces of financial advice, gathered from around the web:

IRS to stall some tax refunds
“Some people may wait a little longer for their tax refunds next spring,” said Darla Mercado at CNBC. Households that file early and claim the earned income tax credit or the additional child tax credit won’t receive their refunds until after Feb. 15 because of a new anti-fraud regulation that takes effect in 2017. The rule gives the IRS “more time to sniff out phony returns and prevent refunds from going to scammers.” But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep filing early. Thieves rush to submit fake returns before actual taxpayers file documents. The two popular tax credits are among the most attractive to scammers, because they often result in a sizable refund.

Help with at-home care
Dependent-care flexible spending accounts “aren’t just for children,” said Kimberly Lankford at Kiplinger. “You can also use the money tax-free to cover care for other dependents while you work,” such as an elderly parent. To qualify, the person must live with you and either be considered your dependent for tax purposes or receive more than 50 percent of his or her support from you during the year. They must also be mentally or physically incapable of self-care, “which the IRS defines as someone who cannot dress, clean, or feed themselves because of physical or mental impairments.” You and your spouse can contribute a total of up to $5,000 annually to a dependent-care FSA.

Employers and your credit history
Despite what you may have heard, a low credit score won’t cost you a job offer, said Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post. When employers request an applicant’s credit history, what they receive is actually a “dressed down” version of the record used by lenders. That report does not include your credit score. The employer report usually includes public-record information on bankruptcies, liens, and judgments, but excludes a person’s age and account numbers. Additionally, if an employment credit report contributes to any decision that negatively affects you, “federal law requires the company to give you a copy of the report along with a written description of your rights.”

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