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In Italian Town Torn By Quake, A Mayor Keeps Taxes At Bay

Rubble in Amatrice
Rubble in Amatrice
Giacomo Tognini

AMATRICE — Seven months after a powerful earthquake in central Italy reduced Amatrice to rubble and killed almost 300 people, mayor Sergio Pirozzi has declared the town a free trade area, Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore reports.

Amatrice's town council approved a motion to establish an Amatrice County Free Trade Zone (ZFCA), under which the local government would contribute to a fund that will cover all tax payments and fiscal contributions of Amatrice residents, media reports say.

Mayor Sergio Pirozzi in his makeshit office on Feb. 2017 — Photo: Lena Klimkeit/DPA/ZUMA

"The ZFCA is the only thing I can do to give people some hope," Pirozzi told Rome-based newspaper La Repubblica. "85% of Amatrice is uninhabitable. We can't live on disaster tourism, we need a long-term vision for our economy."

After the earthquake in August last year, further shocks in October and then January, four regions of central Italy were ravaged and tens of thousands of people were displaced.

The Italian government has also passed legislation to suspend all taxes until 2020 in the towns affected by the string of earthquakes in an effort to help local businesses return.

A measure to establish a special economic zone in the areas devastated by the quake is supported by only 32 MPs in the lower house but Il Sole 24 Ore reports that Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni may include the measure in the government's next reconstruction plan.

While the Italian government works out such a proposal, mayor Pirozzi is forging ahead with his own free trade zone. The ZFCA is slated to come into effect within weeks.

Pirozzi wrote in a council declaration that, "It will help rebuild the social and economic fabric of our town."

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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