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5 things for Thursday, February 23, 2017: Transgender bathrooms, DNC debate, new planets
The bathroom wars rage on. The Trump administration threw out an Obama-era directive that let transgender students in public schools use the bathroom that matched their gender identity. With this move, the Trump administration basically says let the states decide this. Opponents of Obama's directive never liked the feds getting involved in this one. But civil rights groups say the new rules will put transgender children at risk. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was initially opposed to the change, but Team Trump made the move anyway.
To say that the Democrats are in the wilderness is an understatement. They (shockingly) lost the presidency. Republicans are in full control of Congress. The election exposed deep divisions. And now that Barack Obama is spending his time kitesurfing with buddies, the Dems need a new leader. Eight people who want to be that leader got together in Atlanta to talk about it. So what did we learn? Ex-Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison are the frontrunners. But the party is conflicted on how to tangle with Trump. Obstruct him at every opportunity? Find ways to work with him? Or go straight for impeachment? Democrats will vote for the new DNC chair on Saturday.
Is the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine already over? It sure seems like it. This latest attempt at peace started Monday. Both sides -- Ukrainian troops and Russian-affiliated separatists -- were supposed to withdraw heavy weapons. There's no sign that's happening. As a matter of fact, ceasefire monitors said there were about 200 violations Tuesday night alone. Most of those violations were explosions from tanks and mortars, so the big guns are still in place.
A big clue has emerged in the case of two murdered teen girls: the possible killer's voice. One of the girls, Liberty German, took cell phone video of a man that police say is a suspect. Last week police released a photo of the man from the video. Now they've released audio from it. A male voice says the words "down the hill;" police hope someone will ID the voice. German and the other victim, Abigail Williams, disappeared after taking a hike on a trail.
Maybe we all can find a new place to live after all. NASA announced the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets. They all orbit the same star, and they check off a lot of boxes needed to support life. Rocky planets? Check. Water? Some of them may have oceans on the surface, so check. And three of the seven planets are in the so-called habitable zone, meaning they're just in the right spot -- not too hot, not too cold -- in relation to their sun for life to have a chance. And the planets are (relatively) close. Just a short 40 light-years away.
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