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Islamic State no longer holds territory in Syria: White House

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Islamic State no longer holds any territory in Syria, a White House spokeswoman said on Friday after Washington’s local ally in Syria reported that fighting with the jihadists continued at the site of their last enclave.

U.S. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan briefed President Donald Trump as he was traveling to Florida on Air Force One, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has yet to announce a final territorial defeat of Islamic State in its last enclave in Baghouz and said on Friday that though it has captured most of the area, there are still pockets of jihadist fighters.

A Reuters journalist at Baghouz heard air strikes there on Friday afternoon and saw smoke rising.

The SDF has been battling for weeks to defeat Islamic State in Baghouz in southeastern Syria at the Iraqi border, all that remained of the territory the militants ruled, which once spanned a third of Syria and Iraq.

Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, told Reuters SDF fighters had captured most of the Baghouz area and clashed overnight with IS militants in more than two positions where they were refusing to surrender.

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The jihadists were holed up in what appeared to be caves in a rocky shelf overlooking Baghouz, and in trenches by the nearby Euphrates River, he said. “Our forces are trying to force them to surrender, but so far the clashes are continuing.”

Though the defeat of Islamic State at Baghouz ends its grip over populated territory, the group remains a threat, with fighters operating in remote territory elsewhere and capable of mounting insurgent attacks.

(Reporting by Rodi Said in Qamishli, a Reuters journalist in Baghouz and Roberta Rampton aboard Air Force One; Writing by Tom Perry and Angus McDowall; Editing by Robert Birsel/Mark Heinrich)

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Sailing among the stars: Here’s how photons could revolutionize space flight

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A few days from now, a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will lift off from Florida, carrying a satellite the size of a loaf of bread with nothing to power it but a huge polyester "solar sail."

It's been the stuff of scientists' dreams for decades but has only very recently become a reality.

The idea might sounds crazy: propelling a craft through the vacuum of space with no engine, no fuel, and no solar panels, but instead harnessing the momentum of packets of light energy known as photons -- in this case from our Sun.

The spacecraft to be launched on Monday, called LightSail 2, was developed by the Planetary Society, a US organization that promotes space exploration which was co-founded by the legendary astronomer Carl Sagan in 1980.

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Russians to prod Putin on poverty and his personal life as his ratings tank

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Russians are set to ask President Vladimir Putin about growing poverty at home and tensions abroad during an annual televised phone-in Thursday, which comes following a fall in his approval ratings.

The leader is also likely to face a degree of grilling on his personal life, according to questions submitted by the public online ahead of the live show.

Set to be held for the 17th time since Putin came to power in 1999, the show starts at 0900 GMT and usually lasts several hours.

Ahead of the carefully choreographed show, more than one million questions had been submitted, organisers told Russian news agencies.

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Trump could turn on Hope Hicks just like Michael Cohen: Trump family biographer warns

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Trump family biographer Emily Jane Fox explained that she didn't think that the president would turn on long-time aide Hope Hicks, but then again, it was the same thought about Michael Cohen as well.

In a panel discussion about Hicks' testimony during MSNBC's Brian Williams' Wednesday show, Fox recalled that Micahel Cohen once said that he would take a bullet for the president. Once it appeared that Trump would throw him under the bus, Cohen began looking for a way out.

The same scenario seems to be happening with Hicks now.

"She works at new Fox, which is a company run by a Murdoch son," Fox said. "It's a company that's brand new. She's the head of communications there. And there are shareholders who would take issue with the fact that a senior member of this company is being put in this situation and being thrust on the world stage."

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