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Transgender personnel will no longer be barred from serving openly in the US military, the Pentagon announced Thursday -- a major milestone that immediately drew fire from Republican lawmakers. Lifting the ban on transgender service members is "the right thing to do, and it's another step in ensuring that we continue to recruit and retain the most qualified people," Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters. The move is the latest in a series of Pentagon personnel reforms under Carter, who has repeatedly stressed the need for the military to modernize to draw from as deep a talent pool as possible.
The United States on Thursday blacklisted eight more countries for failing to combat human trafficking, including fledgling democracy Myanmar, but was criticized for taking an easier line on Thailand. Announcing the release of the State Department's annual human trafficking report, Secretary of State John Kerry insisted the rankings were based on objective criteria, and not political favor.