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Pentagon silent on US transgender policy

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Nearly a week after President Donald Trump signed a memorandum banning some transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, Pentagon officials on Thursday refused to answer questions about the policy except to say they would continue to follow court orders currently blocking the ban.

Last Friday, the White House announced Trump had signed the memorandum, but also had given the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security authority to implement policies as they see fit.

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Since then, the Pentagon has mostly declined to answer even basic questions, like who was on a panel that provided Defense Secretary Jim Mattis with recommendations.

“I know you have a lot of questions about this topic, so I want to be up front about what I can address today. We will continue to comply with four court orders assessing transgender applicants for military service and retaining current transgender service members,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters on Thursday.

“Because there is ongoing litigation and to safeguard the integrity of the court process, I am unable to provide any further details at this time,” White added.

 A number of federal judges have issued rulings blocking Trump’s ban, saying it would probably violate the U.S. Constitutional right to equal protection under the law.
Trump’s memorandum followed his pledge in July to ban transgender people from the military in a move that would reverse former President Barack Obama’s policy.

In a memo from Mattis to the White House, also released late last Friday, the Pentagon said transgender individuals with a history of gender dysphoria are disqualified from military service “except under certain limited circumstances.”

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Mattis added that transgender individuals who require or have undergone gender transition were also disqualified.

Lawmakers, former officials and LGBT advocates have criticized the policy.

“The government is in litigation about a lot of issues all the time, but that is not an excuse for declining to talk about them,” said Aaron Belkin, executive director of the Palm Center, an LGBT-rights think tank in California.

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“It is quite striking to take aim at your own troops and then refuse to talk about that,” Belkin added.

According to the Pentagon, 8,980 service members reportedly identify as transgender, but only 937 active duty service members were diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

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In an impromptu press briefing this week, Mattis declined to answer questions on the topic.

“I’m not going to discuss transgender. I’ve already said that two times now. I’m not going to discuss it,” Mattis said.

 Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by David Gregorio

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‘Delete your account traitor’: GOPer Marsha Blackburn slammed for ugly smear of Lt. Col. Vindman

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In a tweet fired off today, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) took a jab at one of the witnesses who testified at this week's hearings in the House impeachment inquiry, and she immediately was on the receiving end of a wave of backlash due to the way she characterized a career military officer.

"Vindictive Vindman is the 'whistleblower’s' handler," Blackburn early Friday morning referring to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified this Wednesday.

https://twitter.com/MarshaBlackburn/status/1197875810256007170

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Coal knew: Explosive report shows industry was aware of climate crisis as far back as 1966

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"It wasn't just big oil that knew about climate change decades ago."

A new report shows conclusively that the coal industry was aware of the climate impacts of burning fossil fuels as far back as 1966—and, like other sectors of the fossil fuel industry with knowledge of the consequences of their business model, did next to nothing about it.

The revelation was published in an article by Élan Young at HuffPost Friday.

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Devin Nunes’ hometown paper flooded with letters from disgusted out-of-towners

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The Frenso Bee, which hails from the San Joaquin Valley where California GOP Congressman Devin Nunes is from, published a series of letters from people around the country who watched his performance in this week's impeachment hearings. The letters all had one thing in common: a notable "absence of pro-Nunes sentiment," which the Fresno Bee's Marek Warszawski said was not intentional on his part.

"Angry people tend to send letters, not those who are pleased," he writes.

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