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Magnitude 3.9 tremor jolts central Italy




Rome, June 10:  A magnitude 3.9 earthquake shook Italy’s central Aquila province on Friday at 2.15 pm local time, Italy’s national geophysics and vulcanology institute said.

The moderate tremor was registered at a depth of 13 kilometres and the closest towns to its epicentre were Pizzoli, Barete and Capitignano, the institute said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage to buildings.

Five strong earthquakes have hit central Italy’s mountainous spine since last August, killing 300 people, leaving several thousand homeless and causing more than 23 billion euros of damage to homes and other buildings including medieval churches as well as to agriculture.

The region has been rocked by thousands of aftershocks over the past nine months, fraying the nerves of residents.



NASA budget jumps $1.6 bn above White House request




Washington, March 24: NASA’s will get $20.7 billion — $1.1 billion more than 2017 funding and $1.6 billion above the White House request — under a spending bill that cleared Congress this week and was signed by President Trump on Friday.

A big beneficiary will be the planned rocket to take astronauts into deep space and onto Mars, the Space Launch System (SLS), which will get $2.15 billion, and the Orion crew capsule, which will launch on top of the SLS, will get $1.35 billion, reported.

According to a report, the NASA funding was part of a $1.3 trillion federal spending package that keeps the government running through the end of fiscal year 2018 — September 30 — after multiple stopgap budgets in recent months.

The budget provides $350 million for construction of a second SLS mobile launch platform, a project which, NASA believes, could shorten the gap between the first and second Space Launch System flights.

Funding for a second SLS launch platform was not included in the White House’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal.

Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s outgoing acting administrator set to retire at the end of April, told a House subcommittee on March 7 that there was insufficient money in the agency’s budget to build a second SLS platform without delaying or canceling other projects.

While responding to a question during the hearing, Lightfoot said that a second SLS mobile launch platform would be better for the program in an “ideal world.”

“I could fly humans quicker, probably in the 2022 timeframe,” with a second mobile launch platform, Lightfoot said.


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Trump moves to ban most transgenders from serving in military



Donald Trump

Washington, March 24: US President Donald Trump has moved to formally ban most transgender persons from serving in the military with limited exceptions, according to a White House memorandum.

The memorandum was issued on Friday night on policies determined by Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, stating that transgender persons were “disqualified from military service except under limited circumstances”, reports The Hill magazine.

The memorandum, filed in the US District Court in Seattle, states that “transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery — are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances”.

Mattis will have some leeway in implementing the policy, the memo states, as will Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen when it comes to the Coast Guard.

The two top officials “may exercise their authority to implement any appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals”, the memo stated.

However, LGBT advocates quickly denounced the move, The Hill reported.

“There is simply no way to spin it, the Trump-Pence Administration is going all in on its discriminatory, unconstitutional and despicable ban on transgender troops,” Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said in a statement.

“The Trump-Pence administration’s continued insistence on targeting our military families for discrimination is appalling, reckless, and unpatriotic,” added American Military Partner Association president Ashley Broadway-Mack.

The Palm Centre, a group that promotes the study of LGBT people in the military, accused the Pentagon of having “distorted the science on transgender health to prop up irrational and legally untenable discrimination that will erode military readiness”.

Trump first called for a ban on transgender troops in a series of tweets last year, and followed up in August by issuing a memo banning transgender people from enlisting.

The ban has since been battled over in court, with Mattis in February giving Trump a final recommendation. It was expected that he would recommend Trump allow transgender troops to remain in the military.

Several federal courts blocked Trump’s initial ban, with one ruling in November that the military would be forced to resume accepting transgender recruits starting this year.

In February, the Pentagon confirmed that one transgender recruit had joined a branch of the military after the ban was lifted due to the court order. That individual passed all tests including medical, officials said.

It was unclear what Trump’s decision will mean for that unnamed recruit and the estimated thousands of other transgender Americans currently serving active duty in the military.

While the exact number of transgender individuals in active duty service is unknown, a 2016 Rand Corporation study commissioned by the Pentagon estimated the number to be anywhere from 1,320 and 6,630, with 830 to 4,160 others serving in the reserves.


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Afghanistan: 15 killed, 50 wounded in car bomb explosion in Lashkargah City

At least 15 killed and 50 were wounded in car bomb explosion in Afghanistan’s Lashkargah City.



Car Bomb

15 killed, 50 wounded in car bomb explosion in Lashkargah City, provincial governor’s spokesman Omar Zwak says. The explosion took place in front of a stadium.

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