Sam's Top 5 Things To Know for Thursday

1. White House lawyers have instructed the president's aides to preserve materials that could be connected to Russian interference in the 2016 election and other related investigations

The instructions, which were sent to White House staff on Tuesday, come after Senate Democrats last week asked the White House and law enforcement agencies to keep all materials involving contacts that Trump's administration, campaign and transition team — or anyone acting on their behalf — have had with Russian government officials or their associates.

The Senate intelligence committee, which is investigating Russia's role in the 2016 election, has also asked more than a dozen organizations, agencies and individuals to preserve relevant records.

2. North Dakota stands to gain more than $110 million annually in tax revenue after oil begins coursing through the Dakota Access pipeline

The calculation shows the potential payoff for a state whose officials have supported the pipeline despite concerns from Native American tribes and other opponents who fear it could harm drinking water and sacred sites. The money the state stands to make in just one year far outstrips the $33 million in costs to police a section of the pipeline that's been the subject of intense and sometimes violent protests over the last year.

Payu Harris, an American Indian activist and pipeline opponent, said "The amount of the windfall to the state doesn't surprise me at all. That's why the state of North Dakota expended the resources they did."

3. The president of the film academy says the two accountants responsible for the best-picture flub at Sunday's Academy Awards will never work the Oscars again. 

She also laments that the error overshadowed a show that celebrated a rich diversity of talent and storytelling.

Breaking her silence four days after the biggest blunder in the 89-year history of the Academy Awards, Cheryl Boone Isaacs praised the show's producers and host yesterday  for "a most beautiful, beautiful, wonderful evening."

She said, "Then, of course, there was the last 90 seconds. And what angered me, I would say, in these last couple days is (the focus on) this 90 seconds and moving to the side the brilliance of the day."

Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, the PwC accountants who handled the winners' envelopes at Sunday's show, have been permanently removed from all film academy dealings.

4. A record number of gun carry permits were issued in Minnesota in 2016

Law enforcement issued more than 71,000 permits to Minnesotans allowing them to carry a firearm in public, a record one-year total and a sharp increase from 2015.

As of yesterday, the total number of valid permits in Minnesota was 265,728, the highest total ever reported in the annual release from the Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Roughly one year ago, that total was 217,909.

Andrew Rothman, president of Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, a Minnesota-based nonprofit that advocates for gun and self-defense rights, said the ever-increasing number of people with permits reflects the “continued normalization of getting a carry permit. It’s not a novelty anymore. It’s more accepted and normal.”

Rothman also said the sharp split among the 2016 presidential candidates about gun laws — and the prospect that a candidate with a harder line on gun possession would win — also created some urgency that made people “want to act immediately before the laws change. ... Whenever there is any sort of political [debate] around the topic of guns, it causes a surge in interest and applications for carry permits.”

5. The Minnesota transportation department wants robot buses in the streets next year

Jay Hietpas, MnDoT’s director of safety and technology, says the transportation department wants to get to a place where no one ever dies in a bus-related accident due to human error.

Where human drivers can be distracted, intoxicated, or tired, autonomous buses are designed to scan their surroundings to create a 3-D map, which computers then navigate with the single goal of getting passengers from point A to B in one piece.

Hietpas said, “So we’ve been kind of studying, monitoring, tracking autonomous vehicles for quite a long time, and what we’re learning is they’re doing some testing in maybe some southern environments. And we wanna make sure these vehicles are able to work within our infrastructure and under our weather conditions.”

MnDoT just started researching other driverless bus prototypes this February. Hietpas found that most models still employ human drivers as safety precautions, and that although the technology is progressing very rapidly, it’ll be a good while before fully autonomous vehicles rule the world’s roads.

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