NEWS

All hell broke loose after a Russian pilot died in Syria

Syrian rebels shot down a Russian jet on Feb. 3 and then killed the pilot on the ground, Russia's Defense Ministry said, triggering a furious barrage of dozens of airstrikes that observers say hit hospitals and killed civilians.


Adding to a chaotic weekend in the country, Turkish forces poured into Syria on Feb. 4 to fight U.S.-backed Kurdish militias there, suffering their heaviest day of losses so far with a tank being destroyed and troops coming under attack.

Now in Idlib — a stronghold of rebel forces considered terrorists by Russia and Syria — reports of yet another episode of chlorine gas attacks have surfaced. Children are said to be among the victims.

In neighboring Afrin, Turkey targeted Kurdish forces that the U.S. had worked with to counter the Islamic State terrorist group.

Also Read: Mattis wants to punish Syria for using chemical weapons

Caught in the crossfire are civilians, who are likely to pay the price of a furious Russia, which looks to have picked up its bombing runs to levels unseen since the fall of 2016.

Babies on stretchers, hospitals on fire

On the morning of Feb. 5, social media was replete with horrific footage believed to be taken from the ground in Syria.

The White Helmets, a volunteer organization whose members regularly pull civilians out of the rubble from bombings, posted pictures of babies in stretchers being taken from a burning hospital.

Several videos show men being treated for attacks apparently from chemical weapons, which Syria and Russia have vigorously denied using.

Russia vowed to find out who shot down its plane and where they got the weapon, which is said to be a man-portable air-defense, or Manpad, missile. Russian lawmakers went as far as saying they had information that "Western countries" had provided the system.

Other Russian officials threatened to punish countries that may have provided the weapons to the Syrians who shot down their jet, a Su-25 attack plane.

Throughout the first six years of Syria's bloody civil war, the U.S. considered providing Manpads to Syrian rebels as a means of defending themselves against Syria's air force, which has been accused of bombing and gassing civilians.

But as the war progressed and more and more hardline Islamist elements became entwined with the more moderate Syrian rebels, the U.S. publicly declined to provide the rebels with such weapons, which can also be used to take out commercial aircraft. Over the weekend, the Pentagon denied providing Manpads to Syrian rebels.

A new phase in the Syrian war?

But now Manpads are believed to have made their mark in Syria, possibly provided by powers that wish to erode Syria's or Russia's airpower or possibly plundered from Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces themselves.

A soldier from the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group that Turkey backs, was seen on video with a Russian-made Manpad in late January. In response to the highlighted threat from Manpads, Russia has ordered its jets to fly higher to avoid ground fire.

Also Read: The 'Hell Cannon' is the Free Syrian Army's homemade howitzer

On top of the brewing conflict over the fate of the Kurds in Afrin, the U.S. has increasingly been discussing unverified reports of chemical-weapons attacks in Syria.

U.S. policy on the matter has dictated that if Syria uses chemical weapons on its own people, the U.S. will retaliate with force, as it did in April. So far, the Trump administration hasn't shied away from implicating Russia in its prosecution of chemical-weapons violators in Syria. But any response now would come with Russia on edge and violence escalating between Turkish and Kurdish forces.

Trump vows to keep the US leading in all things space

U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to maintain U.S. dominance in space as China, Russia, and other countries make advances in the race to explore the moon, Mars, and other planets.

"America will always be the first in space," Trump said in a speech at the White House on June 18, 2018, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and the National Space Council advisory body he created in 2017.

"My administration is reclaiming America's heritage as the world's greatest space-faring nation," Trump said. "We don't want China and Russia and other countries leading us. We've always led."

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Articles

This Microsoft training fast tracks veterans into sweet tech careers

Solaire Brown (formerly Sanderson) was a happy, gung-ho Marine sergeant deployed in Afghanistan when she realized her military career was about to change. She was tasked with finding the right fit for her post-military life – and she knew she wanted to be prepared.

Injuries sustained during mine-resistant vehicle training had led to surgeries and functional recovery and it became clear Brown would no longer be able to operate at the level she expected of herself as a Marine.

Like many of the 200,000 service members exiting the military each year, Brown knew her military training could make her a valuable asset as an employee, but she was unsure of how her skills might specifically translate to employment in the civilian world.

Enter Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), a program Microsoft started in 2013 to provide transitioning service members and veterans with critical career skills required for today's growing technology industry.

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Why 'grunt graffiti' should be considered an art movement

Art comes in all forms. You can look at a Rembrandt painting and say his mastery of shadows was the antithesis of the Baroque movement that characterized much of 17th-century Europe. You might scoff at a contemporary art piece that, to you, looks like a coffee spill on some printer paper but, according to the artist, "like, totally captures the spirit of America and stuff."

While we can all objectively say that the coffee-stained paper isn't going to be studied by scholars hundreds of years from now, both of these examples are, technically, art. That's because art isn't defined by its quality but rather by the expression of the artist. To quote the American poet Muriel Rukeyser,

"a work of art is one through which the consciousness of the artist is able to give its emotion to anyone who is prepared to receive them. There is no such thing as bad art."

In some senses, Leonardo da Vinci's anatomically correct Vitruvian Man and that giant wang that some infantryman drew in the porta-john in Iraq are more similar than you realize. Not only is a penis central to content of both works — both also fall in line with a given art movement.

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Articles

This band hires vets — especially when they go on tour

As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.

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5 important rules to remember while handling a detainee

When allied forces man the front lines, it's fairly common to come in contact with local nationals that live in the area. Although the majority of the people you'll encounter out there want nothing to do with international politics, those who are fighting against you will find it easy to blend into their surroundings, remaining undetected. Our nation's enemies don't wear a standardized uniform, making them incredibly tough to safely identify and detain.

For the most part, all residents are treated as innocent bystanders — until they give troops a reason suspect otherwise. When ground forces encounter a threat among the local population, troops must take every precaution in order to maintain safety for all — the threat of explosive attack is constant.

These are the five critical rules to detaining an enemy that just might save the lives of troops and bystanders alike.

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History
Allison Wild

This is the battle behind 'the Star-Spangled Banner'

The Star-Spangled Banner" is known from sea to shining sea, but few know the circumstances under which Francis Scott Key wrote America's national anthem. Oddly enough, it was penned just after the short but bloody Battle of Baltimore.

In September of 1814—two years into the war between the U.K. and the U.S.—the British navy turned its attention towards Baltimore, Maryland. As a busy port, the city would either prove a devastating American loss, or a crucial victory if they managed to thwart the attack on Baltimore Harbor's Fort McHenry.

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GEAR & TECH

This is Russia's airborne combat armored vehicle

Paratroopers are a force to be reckoned with. They can slip far behind enemy lines and wreak havoc against an enemy's support units, making life easier for those in the main assault and striking fear into those who assumed they were safely behind defenses. What's worse (for the enemy), after the initial airborne assault, you're left with the famous "little groups of paratroopers" — small pockets of young men brave enough to jump out of an airplane, all armed to the teeth, ready to defend themselves, and devoid of supervision.

But for as daring and lethal as paratroopers are, they're still, essentially, light infantry once they hit the ground. Light infantry can do a lot of things, but when they're tasked with hitting prepared positions or facing off against enemy tanks, they tend to take heavy casualties.

So, how do you reinforce troops that drop from the sky? You drop armor out of the sky, too.

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3 gifts you get from having military parents

Who knew that folding clothes the "navy way" and putting on sheets so tight that you could bounce a quarter off of them would have such a profound affect on my life.

I grew up in Virginia Beach, where most students came from military families and knew what it was like to have military parents. They knew the struggle of parents who had to leave for months at a time, the amount of discipline that was applied to daily chores and homework, and of course the expectation to succeed at anything you do.

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