Sam's Top 5 Things to Know for February 24th, 2017

posted by Justice & Drew - 

1. The end of the transgender bathroom rule is getting conservative praise

Conservatives say the move corrects a legal overreach by the Obama administration that is best left for states to decide. Transgender rights advocates, meanwhile, are vowing to overcome a major setback.

The Justice and Education departments said yesterday that public schools no longer need to abide by the Obama-era directive instructing them to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of their chosen gender. That guidance, issued in May, led to many of lawsuits over how it should be applied.

The agencies said they withdrew the guidance to "in order to further and more completely consider the legal issues involved."

Anti-bullying safeguards for students will not be affected by the change, according to the letter. But advocates of protections for transgender teens said the overall rollback sends "a message that something is wrong with them, which is harmful," according to Nancy Haque, co-executive director of Basic Rights Oregon.

2. Resentment over the proposed border wall and immigration crackdown in the U.S. threatens to sour a meeting between Mexico's president and Trump's chiefs of diplomacy and homeland security.

Seeking to tamp down growing unease in Latin America, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly pledged Thursday that the United States won't enlist its military to enforce immigration laws and that there will be "no mass deportations."

Only hours earlier, President Donald Trump suggested the opposite. He told CEOs at the White House the deportation push was a "military operation."

John Kelly said, "There will be no use of military forces in immigration. There will be no — repeat, no — mass deportations."

Yet while Kelly and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to alleviate Mexico's concerns, Trump was fanning them further, with tough talk about "getting really bad dudes out of this country at a rate nobody has ever seen before."

"It's a military operation," Trump said yesterday while his envoys were in Mexico City. "Because what has been allowed to come into our country, when you see gang violence that you've read about like never before and all of the things, much of that is people who are here illegally."

It was an altogether different message from Kelly and Tillerson, who traveled here to meet with top Mexican officials at a time of intense turbulence for U.S.-Mexico relations. Indeed, Trump acknowledged he had sent his top diplomat south of the border on a "tough trip."

In contrast to Trump, Tillerson and Kelly emphasized a U.S. commitment to work closely with Mexico on border security, illegal immigration and trafficking of drugs and weapons — issues Trump has made a central focus of his young presidency, much to Mexico's dismay. Both Tillerson and Kelly appeared to downplay any major rift between the U.S. and Mexico.

3. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said yesterday that the Justice Department will step up enforcement of federal law against recreational marijuana.

This is the Trump administration's strongest indication to date of a looming crackdown on the drug, even as a solid majority of Americans believe it should be legal.

Spicer said in a news conference, "I do believe you'll see greater enforcement of it," But he offered no details about what such enforcement would entail. President Donald Trump does not oppose medical marijuana, he added, but "that's very different than recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into."

A renewed focus on recreational marijuana in states that have legalized pot would present a departure from the Trump administration's statements in favor of states' rights. A day earlier, the administration announced that the issue of transgender student bathroom access was best left to states and local communities to decide.

Enforcement would also shift away from marijuana policy under the Obama administration, which said in a 2013 memo that it would not intervene in state's marijuana laws as long as they keep the drug from crossing state lines and away from children and drug cartels.

But the memo carried no force of law and could be rewritten by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has consistently said he opposes legal marijuana but has not indicated what he might do.

4. Rochester school board officials unanimously voted Tuesday to remove students from school on March 1 if they don't submit the necessary vaccination documents.

More than 180 public school students in Rochester will be removed if they are not vaccinated or officially exempted from the state law that requires them to be immunized. School officials said this week that they have worked “diligently” since January to inform families that students must be vaccinated to attend school or provide documentation for an exemption.

School officials said, “We sent multiple letters, worked with our bilinguals if necessary, and each school made additional efforts to connect with the families impacted to assist them with submitting the proper documentation.”

As a “last resort,” school board officials unanimously voted Tuesday to remove the affected students from school March 1 if they don’t submit the necessary vaccination documents. They will be allowed to return to school once they do. A state attorney general’s opinion says students “must be afforded some level of due process” before being excluded from school for not complying with vaccination requirements.

5. So you know all that snow we were supposed to get? Yeah… Meteorologists say “nevermind”

The band of winter weather moving across the Midwest Friday will likely miss the Twin Cities after all. The metro is expected to get about an inch of snow by Friday afternoon — if that — with areas to the southeast seeing a couple more, says meteorologist Bill Borghoff with the National Weather Service. That’s down a bit from previous estimates. On Wednesday, forecasters were warning that we could see a foot or more of snow.

“Some (forecasting) models were calling for over 20 (inches),” Borghoff said. “That kind of highlights how poorly the models did with this system.”

The snow will fall, he added, but it will be well south of the Twin Cities. Areas along the Iowa border might see about a foot of total accumulation.

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