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Vox Sentences: “A high-tech game of Frogger”

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Jeff Sessions doesn't think federal anti-discrimination law should protect transgender employees; three Green Berets were killed in Niger; two senators are urging the government to put a stop to space pollution.

Jeff Sessions doesn’t think civil rights law covers trans people

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  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said federal civil rights law doesn’t extend protections to transgender employees. [BuzzFeed News / Dominic Holden]
  • A new memo issued by Sessions and obtained by BuzzFeed News shows that Sessions believes federal anti-discrimination law does not apply to people who are transgender or are discriminated against based on their gender identity, although he does think it applies to discrimination based on biological sex. [BuzzFeed News / Dominic Holden]
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars workplace discrimination based on sex, which is a broad definition. The Obama administration interpreted this to include discrimination against transgender people. [The Hill / Max Greenwood]
  • Federal courts and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which reviews complaints of workplace discrimination, have both taken the position that transgender people should be protected. [Vox / German Lopez]
  • Sessions’s tenure as attorney general has been marked by aggressive positions against LGBTQ rights, including rolling back federal guidance protecting transgender students and backing the position of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple on the basis of his religious beliefs, citing freedom of expression. [GQ / Jack Moore]
  • The Justice Department is also asking a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit against Trump’s ban of military service members, saying the policy has not been drafted yet. [Washington Post / Spencer Hsu]

3 Green Berets are dead after an ambush in Niger

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  • Three US Special Forces soldiers were killed on a routine patrol in Niger yesterday, along with five Nigerien soldiers. [BBC]
  • Two more US soldiers were wounded in the attack. All American casualties were member of the Green Berets, an elite Army Special Forces unit. [Associated Press]
  • American troops have been in Niger assisting with counterterrorism efforts, according to military officials. These are the first American deaths in the country. [ / Richard Sisk]
  • The attack occurred near the border of Mali, where Islamist fighters affiliated with al-Qaeda have been known to carry out raids and ambushes in the past. [NYT / Eric Schmitt]
  • Niger has been trying to bolster its counterterrorism efforts for years. It's a target due to its location; it borders unstable countries like Libya, Mali, and Nigeria, and extremists often cross the border. [BBC]
  • The US has a fairly limited presence in the country, in part reflected by a drawdown of troops after the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” helicopter incident in Somalia, where 18 soldiers were killed. US military forces mostly train African soldiers, rather than getting involved in combat operations. [Council on Foreign Relations / John Campbell]
  • France has a far more robust counterterrorism operation in Niger and Mali, with thousands of French troops, as well as ones from Germany. [CNN / Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne and Brad Lendon]

Cosmic junk

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  • Two US senators want the government to clean up its act – in space. [Ars Technica / Jon Brodkin]
  • Concerned about the sheer number of satellites being launched into space, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) recently wrote a letter to the Federal Communications Commission asking the agency to work with NASA to keep the number of satellites manageable. [Sen. Cory Booker]
  • That’s because there are thousands of satellites, some working, some not, orbiting Earth. It’s already a challenge to the International Space Station, which has to maneuver around space junk to avoid collisions in what’s been referred to as a “high-tech game of Frogger.” [The Verge / Dann Berg]
  • Avoiding the debris is especially difficult given that just a tiny fleck of paint from an old satellite can cause a lot of damage. [WSJ / Robert Lee Hotz]
  • The letter from Booker and Sullivan comes as the FCC is considering applications from private companies including SpaceX and Boeing to fill an already cluttered cosmos with even more satellites. [Ars Technica / Jon Brodkin]
  • There are more than 4,000 satellites orbiting Earth, about 1,400 of which are working. SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company, wants to launch 4,425 more by 2024 to build out a broadband network in space. [Ars Technica / Jon Brodkin]
  • The amount of refuse we’ve left behind in space equals about 5,000 metric tons of garbage, leaving scientists and now policymakers urging the government to come up with a solution. [Quartz / Akshat Rathi]


  • Still recovering from Hurricane Maria, some hospitals in Puerto Rico are running with temperatures well above 100 degrees, which is difficult for doctors and deadly for patients. [NPR / John Burnett]
  • A completely unscientific but totally delightful study of couples’ big spoon/little spoon preferences. (Spoiler alert: A lot of dudes like being cuddled.) [Man Repeller / Haley Nahman]
  • Back in the mid-2000s, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. narrowly avoided a criminal indictment for allegedly misleading potential buyers of a Trump hotel in SoHo. The charges from the Manhattan district attorney's office reportedly disappeared after Trump’s personal lawyer made some key donation to the DA. [New Yorker / Andrea Bernstein, Jesse Eisinger, Justin Elliott, and Ilya Marritz]
  • Career officials in the US Department of Education say they are not being asked to weigh in on policy decisions under Betsy DeVos’s tenure as education secretary, and the department is still badly understaffed. [The Chronicle / Adam Harris]
  • One of the scientists who won a Nobel Prize for his research into circadian rhythms gave an interview in 2008 where he said he left science because he was dismayed with what he characterized as the star power needed in academia in order to get research grants. [Quartz / Akshat Rathi]


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