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US to Award Contracts for Building Mexico Border Wall

Trump has said the wall will cost $12 billion, while Republican leaders in Congress have pegged its cost 20 percent higher than that. An internal Homeland Security report forecast the total cost could be as much as $21.6 billion.

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FILE - Workers continue work raising a taller fence on the Mexico-U.S. border separating the towns of Anapra, Mexico, and Sunland Park, New Mexico, Jan. 25, 2017.

The U.S. government plans to start awarding preliminary contracts by April for construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border, to fulfill one of President Donald Trump’s principal campaign promises.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it will accept “concept papers” for the wall’s design beginning next week and will choose the best ones by March 20. The agency will then ask vendors for construction cost estimates and, after reviewing their bids, begin granting contracts by mid-April — a remarkably quick schedule for a government construction project.

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Trump told the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday that the border-wall project was “way ahead of schedule.”

“We’re going to build a wall, don’t worry about it,” Trump told a cheering crowd of his supporters. “We’re building a wall. We’re building the wall. In fact, it’s going to start soon.”

Cost estimates vary

The Customs and Border Protection agency, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, did not indicate where the initial phase of construction will begin.

Trump has said the wall will cost $12 billion, while Republican leaders in Congress have pegged its cost 20 percent higher than that. An internal Homeland Security report forecast the total cost could be as much as $21.6 billion.

Since the earliest stages of his presidential campaign in 2015, Trump has vowed to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico as a way to stop illegal immigration and drug trafficking. He has assured Americans that Mexico would pay for the wall — a claim denied repeatedly by Mexico’s elected leaders — and the issue has soured relations between the two countries.

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Relations with Mexico sour

The White House has said Trump has a “buffet of options” to make Mexico to pay for the wall, including imposing a 20 percent tax on all imports from Mexico. Critics have said that scenario would mean American consumers actually would be paying for the wall.

The border barrier primarily would be aimed at stopping illegal immigrants from entering the United States. However, many Mexicans regard the idea of a wall as an insult, and authorities on both sides of the international border have predicted that rough terrain and large stretches of private property straddling the border could make building the wall a long, complicated project.(VOA)

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Americans Want NASA to Focus More on Asteroid Impacts, Less on Getting to Mars

Americans also want NASA to do more research to further our understanding of Earth

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Americans, NASA, Asteroid
An Alaska Airlines flight passes by the rising moon, Feb. 21, 2016, in Phoenix. VOA

Americans would rather have NASA closely monitor asteroids and comets that could crash into Earth than send an astronaut to the moon or Mars.

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, released Thursday, found two-thirds of respondents said monitoring asteroids, comets and “other events in space that could impact Earth” was “very or extremely important.”

Americans also want NASA to do more research to further our understanding of Earth, the solar system and the universe. But once again the respondents said they want NASA to conduct the research using robots, not human astronauts.

Toni Dewey, a 71-year-old retired clerical worker in Wilmington, N.C., told AP in an interview that machines, rather than humans, should be explorers.

Americans, NASA, Asteroid
Americans would rather have NASA closely monitor asteroids and comets that could crash into Earth. Pixabay

“It would cost a lot of money to send somebody to Mars,” she said, “and we have roads and bridges that need repaired here.”

Dewey is also not too eager to return to the moon, saying: “We’ve been there.”

In fact, only 23% of those surveyed thought we should return to the moon and only 27% favored a manned mission to Mars.

The poll comes as the White House renews its push for manned space landings.

Also Read- Migrant Children Describe Neglect at Texas Border Facility

During a rally to launch his re-election campaign this week, U.S. President Donald Trump promised that if he wins a second term, the country will “lay the foundation” for landing astronauts on Mars.

Even though he has given NASA a five-year deadline to return an astronaut to the moon, Trump recently changed his focus.

But either moon, or Mars, the good news for NASA is that 60% of Americans believe the benefits of space exploration have justified the cost. (VOA)