Sam's Top 5 Things to Know for Thursday

posted by Justice & Drew - 

1. The Trump administration has lifted transgender bathroom guidance

The administration came down on the side of states' rights, lifting Obama-era federal guidelines that had been characterized by Republicans as an example of overreach.

Without the Obama directive, it will be up to states and school districts to interpret federal anti-discrimination law and determine whether students should have access to restrooms in accordance with their expressed gender identity and not just their biological sex.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said, "this is an issue best solved at the state and local level. Schools, communities and families can find — and in many cases have found — solutions that protect all students."

In a letter to the nation's schools, the Justice and Education departments said the earlier guidance "has given rise to significant litigation regarding school restrooms and locker rooms."

2. Astronomers have discovered seven Earth-sized planets that could hold life.

For the first time, astronomers have discovered seven Earth-size planets orbiting a single nearby star — and these new worlds could hold life.

The planets circle tightly around a dim dwarf star called Trappist-1, barely the size of Jupiter. Three are in the so-called habitable zone, the area around a star where water and, possibly life, might exist. The others are right on the doorstep.

Scientists said they need to study the atmospheres before determining whether these rocky, terrestrial planets could support some sort of life. But it already shows just how many Earth-size planets could be out there — especially in a star's sweet spot, ripe for extraterrestrial life. The more planets like this, the greater the potential of finding one that's truly habitable. Until now, only two or three Earth-size planets had been spotted around a star. A rocky Earth-sized world inside a star's habitable zone is considered the best candidate for finding evidence of life.

"We've made a crucial step toward finding if there is life out there," said the University of Cambridge's Amaury Triaud, one of the researchers.

3. The Washington Post is featuring a new motto on its website: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” But they’re denying that it was inspired by Trump.

The words now appear underneath the masthead on the website on Tuesday. They were not, however, in a similar place in the paper’s print edition Wednesday. The paper denied that it was a response to President Trump’s recent criticism of the press.

Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos used the phrase in an interview last year when asked to explain why he purchased the paper in 2013.

“I think a lot of us believe this, that democracy dies in darkness, that certain institutions have a very important role in making sure that there is light. And I think The Washington Post has a seat, an important seat, to do that because we happen to be located here in the capital city of the United States of America,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the paper, Kris Coratti, said in an email that the paper began using the slogan last week with the launch of its new channel on Snapchat Discover. She said it went online Tuesday.

4. The House Public Safety Committee passed 2 bills increasing penalties for protestors who block highways, airports and mass transit, and those bills will now be going to the house floor.

Our very own Representative Nick Zerwas from Elk River said at a news conference yesterday, “If you block a freeway, if you close an airport or if you interfere with mass transit, you should go to jail.” Nick was joined by House Speaker Kurt Daudt, state representative Kathy Lohmer from Stillwater.

Governor Mark Dayton has condemned of protests that block airports or highways and said he will need to read the bills that increase penalties. Dayton, however, has questioned other measures to curtail protests.

Zerwas, who has sponsored measures to increase penalties for highway protests, has also offered a bill that would allow local governments to charge demonstrators for the cost of policing their protests. Yesterday he acknowledged that measure is more controversial than the highway protest bill and said he was looking for common ground on the issue.

5. A Minnesota Senate panel has moved the state one step closer to legalizing Sunday liquor sales.

The House overwhelmingly passed a bill earlier this week that would repeal the ban. It's a historic turn in lawmakers' long struggle to change the decades-old law.

But the Senate has long been regarded as a tougher hurdle in advocates' push to repeal the Sunday sales ban. The Senate Commerce Committee approved a bill on a 7-4 vote yesterday but the bill still must pass the full Senate floor. It's unclear when that may come up for a final vote.

Governor Mark Dayton has said he'll sign a bill legalizing Sunday sales. Minnesota is one of just 12 states that prevents liquor stores from opening on Sundays.

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