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Dan McDermott
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White House releases special guest list for Tuesday speech before Joint Session of Congress

Megan Crowley: At 15 months old, Megan was diagnosed with Pompe Disease and not expected to live more than a few short years. To look for a cure, her father founded Novazyme Pharmaceuticals, a five-person startup that he built into a 100-person company. Megan, age 20, is now a sophomore at Notre Dame.

Jessica Davis & Susan Oliver: Jessica and Susan are the widows of Detective Michael Davis and Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver, who were California police officers killed in the line of duty in 2014 by an illegal immigrant. Their names are memorialized in the Davis-Oliver bill, which is aimed to increase cooperation between Federal and local officials to enforce our Nation’s immigration laws.

Denisha Merriweather: After struggling with coursework as a child and switching schools often, Denisha moved in with her godmother and enrolled in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. She began going to a private school, Esprit de Corps Center for Learning, and would go on to be the first member of her family to graduate from high school and college.

Maureen McCarthy Scalia: Maureen is the widow of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and the mother of their nine children. This month, President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to succeed Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court.

Jamiel Shaw, Sr.: Mr. Shaw’s son, Jamiel Jr., was a high school football star before he was tragically shot by an illegal immigrant, who was also a gang member, in 2008.

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Virginia Republican congressman introduces bipartisan bill to federally decriminalize marijuana

Today 5th District Congressman Tom Garrett introduced legislation aimed at federally decriminalizing marijuana.

The short title for this legislation is cited as the "Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017." If passed, this bill would take marijuana off the federal controlled substances list - joining other industries such as alcohol and tobacco.

Originally introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders in 2015, this bill fulfills a responsibility to create a level playing field across the country.

Upon introduction of this legislation, Rep. Garrett released the following statement:

"I have long believed justice that isn't blind, isn't justice. Statistics indicate that minor narcotics crimes disproportionately hurt areas of lower socio-economic status and what I find most troubling is that we continue to keep laws on the books that we do not enforce. Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California."

Garrett went on to say, "this step allows states to determine appropriate medicinal use and allows for industrial hemp growth, something that will provide a major economic boost to agricultural development in Southside Virginia. In the coming weeks, I anticipate introducing legislation aimed at growing the hemp industry in Virginia, something that is long overdue."

In recent weeks, the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised to crack down on federal marijuana crimes. During his confirmation, then-Senator Sessions pointed out that if legislators did not like this approach, they should change the laws accordingly. Garrett anticipates bipartisan support as his legislation makes its way to the appropriate committees of jurisdiction.

Democratic Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving as the lead original cosponsor on this bipartisan legislation.
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Former Labor Sec. Tom Perez defeats Rep. Keith Ellison for Democratic National Committee Chairman 235 to 200

Perez received 213.5 votes on the first ballot, one shy of the required 214.5. Ellison received 200 votes in the first round. Ellison got no additional votes in the second round.

Thomas Edward "Tom" Perez (born October 7, 1961) is an American politician, consumer advocate, and civil rights lawyer who was the United States Secretary of Labor from 2013 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, Perez has also served as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice.

Born in Buffalo, New York, Perez is a graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School. He worked as a law clerk for the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado before serving in the Department of Justice from 1989 to 1995, where he worked as a federal prosecutor, and as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights under Attorney General Janet Reno. He worked as a Special Counselor for Senator Ted Kennedy until 1998 when he served as the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the final years of the Clinton administration.

Perez was then elected to the Montgomery County (Maryland) Council in 2002, serving as the council's president from 2005, until the end of his tenure in 2006. He attempted to run for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General of Maryland, but was disqualified for not having 10 years of legal experience in Maryland (he was admitted to the Maryland bar in 2001). Perez was appointed by Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley to serve as Secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation in January 2007, until his October 2009 confirmation by the United States Senate as Assistant Attorney General.

March 2013, Perez was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the United States Secretary of Labor, replacing outgoing Secretary Hilda Solis. He was confirmed by the Senate on July 18 and sworn in on July 23, 2013.

Perez announced his candidacy for Chair of the Democratic National Committee in the 2017 election on December 15, 2016.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Perez

Keith Maurice Ellison (born August 4, 1963) has been the U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 5th congressional district since 2007. He is a member of the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL), the Minnesota state Democratic Party affiliate. The district centers on Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs. Ellison is a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a Chief Deputy Whip, and also serves on the House Committee on Financial Services.

Ellison was the first Muslim to be elected to the U.S. Congress, and along with André Carson of Indiana, is one of two Muslims now serving in Congress. He is also the first African American to have been elected to the U.S. House from Minnesota.

In November 2016, progressive groups and United States senators, including Bernie Sanders of Vermont, supported Ellison for chair of the Democratic National Committee.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Ellison
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This live town hall w/ Sen. Tom Cotton is just wild!

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NASA Reveals Batch of Earth-Size, Habitable-Zone Planets Around Single Star; Could Have Liquid Water, Life

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.

The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water – key to life as we know it – under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone.

“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.”

At about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth, the system of planets is relatively close to us, in the constellation Aquarius. Because they are located outside of our solar system, these planets are scientifically known as exoplanets.

This exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1, named for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. In May 2016, researchers using TRAPPIST announced they had discovered three planets in the system. Assisted by several ground-based telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, Spitzer confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones, increasing the number of known planets in the system to seven.

The new results were published Wednesday in the journal Nature, and announced at a news briefing at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Using Spitzer data, the team precisely measured the sizes of the seven planets and developed first estimates of the masses of six of them, allowing their density to be estimated.

Based on their densities, all of the TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely to be rocky. Further observations will not only help determine whether they are rich in water, but also possibly reveal whether any could have liquid water on their surfaces. The mass of the seventh and farthest exoplanet has not yet been estimated – scientists believe it could be an icy, "snowball-like" world, but further observations are needed.

"The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star," said Michael Gillon, lead author of the paper and the principal investigator of the TRAPPIST exoplanet survey at the University of Liege, Belgium. "It is also the best target yet for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable, Earth-size worlds."

In contrast to our sun, the TRAPPIST-1 star – classified as an ultra-cool dwarf – is so cool that liquid water could survive on planets orbiting very close to it, closer than is possible on planets in our solar system. All seven of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary orbits are closer to their host star than Mercury is to our sun. The planets also are very close to each other. If a person was standing on one of the planet’s surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighboring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth's sky.

The planets may also be tidally locked to their star, which means the same side of the planet is always facing the star, therefore each side is either perpetual day or night. This could mean they have weather patterns totally unlike those on Earth, such as strong winds blowing from the day side to the night side, and extreme temperature changes.

Spitzer, an infrared telescope that trails Earth as it orbits the sun, was well-suited for studying TRAPPIST-1 because the star glows brightest in infrared light, whose wavelengths are longer than the eye can see. In the fall of 2016, Spitzer observed TRAPPIST-1 nearly continuously for 500 hours. Spitzer is uniquely positioned in its orbit to observe enough crossing – transits – of the planets in front of the host star to reveal the complex architecture of the system. Engineers optimized Spitzer’s ability to observe transiting planets during Spitzer’s “warm mission,” which began after the spacecraft’s coolant ran out as planned after the first five years of operations.

"This is the most exciting result I have seen in the 14 years of Spitzer operations," said Sean Carey, manager of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California. "Spitzer will follow up in the fall to further refine our understanding of these planets so that the James Webb Space Telescope can follow up. More observations of the system are sure to reveal more secrets.”

Following up on the Spitzer discovery, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has initiated the screening of four of the planets, including the three inside the habitable zone. These observations aim at assessing the presence of puffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres, typical for gaseous worlds like Neptune, around these planets.

In May 2016, the Hubble team observed the two innermost planets, and found no evidence for such puffy atmospheres. This strengthened the case that the planets closest to the star are rocky in nature.

"The TRAPPIST-1 system provides one of the best opportunities in the next decade to study the atmospheres around Earth-size planets," said Nikole Lewis, co-leader of the Hubble study and astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope also is studying the TRAPPIST-1 system, making measurements of the star's minuscule changes in brightness due to transiting planets. Operating as the K2 mission, the spacecraft's observations will allow astronomers to refine the properties of the known planets, as well as search for additional planets in the system. The K2 observations conclude in early March and will be made available on the public archive.

Spitzer, Hubble, and Kepler will help astronomers plan for follow-up studies using NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, launching in 2018. With much greater sensitivity, Webb will be able to detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen, ozone, and other components of a planet's atmosphere. Webb also will analyze planets' temperatures and surface pressures – key factors in assessing their habitability.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center, at Caltech, in Pasadena, California. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at Caltech/IPAC. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

For more information about Spitzer, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/spitzer

For more information on the TRAPPIST-1 system, visit:

https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/trappist1

For more information on exoplanets, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/exoplanets
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This is amazing. Be sure to watch Ben Konop!


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Another cow is loose in Queens


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via my dad
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Late February 2017 Warren and Frederick County Report
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