10 things you need to know today: February 23, 2017
Trump rolls back Obama's protections for transgender students, Iraqi forces battle ISIS for Mosul's airport, and more
Trump rescinds protections for transgender students
The Trump administration on Wednesday rescinded Obama-era anti-discrimination protections for transgender students. President Trump overruled Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' concerns about the move. The Obama administration had ordered schools to let transgender students use public school restrooms corresponding to their gender identity, and Democrats immediately criticized Trump for rolling back the policy. "No student should face discrimination at school because of who they are," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. "Transgender students have the same right to a safe environment at school and in their community as everyone else."
Iraqi forces attack ISIS at Mosul's airport
Iraqi federal police stormed the Mosul airport on Thursday, taking over the runway but facing fire from Islamic State fighters in airport buildings. Iraqi special forces also entered the Ghazlani military base next to the airport, on the southern edge of the city. The assaults marked a critical phase in the offensive to drive ISIS out of the western part of Mosul, which is Iraq's second largest city and ISIS' last major urban stronghold in the country. Mosul's eastern half was declared liberated in January.
Pence makes surprise visit to vandalized Missouri Jewish cemetery
Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday made an unannounced visit to a Missouri Jewish cemetery that was damaged by vandals over the weekend, reiterating President Trump's condemnation of what Pence called a "vile act" of anti-Semitic vandalism. Pence also condemned a string of recent bomb threats against Jewish community centers. A group of Muslims launched an online fundraising campaign that by Wednesday afternoon had raised more than $90,000 for repairs at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, where nearly 200 tombstones were toppled by vandals.
Tillerson and Kelly arrive in Mexico for tense meeting
A day after the Trump administration announced new rules for enforcing immigration laws, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said Wednesday that his country's government would fight mass deportations of undocumented immigrants to Mexico from the U.S. Videgaray said Mexico would refuse entry to anyone who is not a citizen of Mexico. "I want to make clear, in the most emphatic way, that the government of Mexico and the Mexican people do not have to accept measures that, in a unilateral way, one government wants to impose on another," he said. The comments came as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly arrived in Mexico to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Most Dakota Access Pipeline protesters leave camps
Most of the remaining protesters left the Dakota Access oil pipeline protest camp on Wednesday as a government deadline to clear out the federal land arrived. Police detained 10 people for failing to obey orders to leave. About 150 people marched out of the camp, arm in arm, but a few dozen holdouts stayed behind overnight. A camp leader said protests would continue elsewhere against construction of the last stretch of the pipeline next to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Members of the tribe and other protesters said the pipeline would threaten the local water supply and sacred Native American sites. The Obama administration called for a review in search of an alternative route, but President Trump ordered permits to be issued so construction could be completed.
Conway returns to TV after reportedly being sidelined for a week
The White House barred counselor Kellyanne Conway from making TV appearances for a week after she made a string of "off message" statements contradicting official Trump administration positions, CNN reported Wednesday, citing White House sources. Conway, long a visible spokesperson for President Trump, made no TV appearances for a week after she claimed that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn still had Trump's "full confidence," hours before Flynn was fired over his misrepresentation to Vice President Mike Pence of his pre-inauguration conversations with Russia's U.S. ambassador. The White House said Conway had not been sidelined, and Conway returned to the air on conservative commentator Sean Hannity's show on Fox News on Wednesday, saying she had simply been busy caring for her four children and "looking at houses and schools."
Emails suggest close ties between new EPA chief and energy executives
Thousands of emails made public on Wednesday confirmed that the Environmental Protection Agency's new administrator, Scott Pruitt, had extensive ties to the oil and gas industry in his previous job as Oklahoma's attorney general. Pruitt had extensive communications with industry executives about how to fight what they saw as "overreach" in federal environmental regulations, a cause he has vowed to make a priority in his new position. The emails include exchanges between Pruitt's office and Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy, which helped draft and edit letters that Pruitt sent to federal officials to argue against new environmental regulations.
Republicans face anger in town hall meetings
Republican lawmakers faced a fresh wave of angry questions and protests from constituents in town hall meetings on Wednesday. Rep. David Brat (R-Va.) was heckled and booed as he defended President Trump's immigration and health care policies, although he also got some applause for supporting gun rights and reducing federal regulations. Trump, via Twitter, dismissed the protests as political theater. "The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!" he tweeted. Constituents accused some GOP lawmakers of avoiding their districts. People in Wisconsin placed a Craigslist Lost and Found ad seeking House Speaker Paul Ryan, and someone posted a billboard telling Ryan to "stop running from us."
Former Olympic gymnastics team doctor faces sexual abuse charges
Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics team doctor, has been charged wth 22 felony counts of sexually abusing female athletes, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said Wednesday. Two of the alleged victims were under age 13, and seven were between 13 and 16. "This guy is disgusting. This guy is despicable. He is a monster," Schuette said. Two former gymnasts went public with the first allegations against Nassar last September. Then more alleged victims came forward to police at Michigan State University, where Nassar had served as team physician for women's gymnastics and crew teams. Nasser's attorney, Matt Newburg, had no comment.
NASA discovers another solar system that might support life
NASA scientists have found seven Earth-sized planets in a nearby solar system that could potentially support life, the U.S. space agency said Wednesday. The planets, all with the potential to hold life-sustaining liquid water, are orbiting a single dwarf star about 40 light-years away. Scientists initially reported the system last year, but at that point they thought only three planets were orbiting the star. The latest discovery, uncovered by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, sets a record for the star with the greatest number of potentially life-supporting planets around it.