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story.lead_photo.caption Highway crews inspect the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge near Richmond, Calif., on Thursday after chunks of concrete fell from its upper deck, in this photo provided by the California Highway Patrol. The bridge was closed for a few hours Thursday.

Bill would reverse transgender ruling

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday that would allow transgender people to serve openly in the military in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision last month allowing President Donald Trump's transgender troop ban to go into effect.

The legislation was introduced by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; and Jack Reed, D-R.I., in the Senate and by Reps. Jackie Speier, D-Calif.; Joseph Kennedy, D-Mass.; John Katko, R-N.Y.; Susan Davis, D-Calif.; and Anthony Brown, D-Md., in the House.

It would prohibit the Department of Defense from denying the enlistment or continued service of transgender people solely on the basis of their gender identity.

Transgender rights advocates hailed the legislation as a step toward ensuring the equal treatment of transgender service members.

In July 2017, Trump abruptly announced in a tweet that he would ban transgender people from serving in the military, a move that reversed an Obama administration rule allowing transgender troops to serve openly.

Several lower courts have blocked the Trump administration's policy. Last month, the Supreme Court allowed Trump's restrictions to go into effect, even as the legal battle makes its way through the courts.

LA police told to curb black driver stops

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has ordered the city's police officers to scale back vehicle stops after a newspaper reported that a special unit is pulling over a disproportionate number of black drivers.

On Thursday, Police Chief Michel Moore said he hopes the Los Angeles Times report sparks a broader conversation about how best to interpret the data.

Garcetti in a statement Wednesday said he wants the department to prioritize other elements of the city's crime-reduction strategy, something Moore said has already happened.

A Times investigation found that the police force's Metropolitan Division officers who are deployed for crime-suppression in areas known for gun violence pull over black drivers at a rate well above their share of the population. The data analyzed by the newspaper did not show why an officer pulled over a driver.

Moore said if an officer pulls someone over only because the person is black, that would warrant an investigation and possible discipline.

The mayor has called for an audit of the unit's traffic stops. A similar audit by the department's inspector general is already underway.

2 spaceflight pilots receive their wings

Two pilots received "commercial astronaut wings" Thursday in a Washington ceremony that highlighted a leap in the road toward for-profit spaceflight.

Mark "Forger" Stucky and Frederick "C.J." Sturckow were aboard Virgin Galactic's spacecraft Dec. 13 when it breached the Earth's atmosphere, reaching an altitude of 51.4 miles on a test flight. The two are now members of a small clique of astronauts who have reached space in a commercial vehicle.

The venture was founded by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group Ltd.

"We are finally at the door of a new age of space exploration," Branson said Thursday at the ceremony overseen by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

The venture got off to a slow start amid challenges after a fatal crash in 2014 of another Virgin Galactic spaceship.

Branson said private space launches will "transform lives in ways which we, I think, have yet to fully comprehend."

Two commercial astronauts on SpaceShipOne in 2004 reached higher altitudes than Virgin Galactic in separate flights on that test vehicle, making them the first pilots to receive the government's commercial space wings.

Alabama executes Muslim denied imam

ATMORE, Ala. -- A Muslim inmate who complained in a legal challenge that Alabama wouldn't let his Islamic spiritual adviser be present in the execution chamber has been put to death after the nation's highest court cleared the way.

Authorities say 42-year-old Dominique Ray was pronounced dead Thursday night of a lethal injection at the state prison in Atmore.

Ray's attorneys had challenged Alabama's execution procedure, saying it favors Christian inmates because a Christian chaplain employed by the prison typically is in the chamber during an execution. Ray requested an imam instead, but that was denied. The state said it refuses to let a non-prison employee into the execution room, but it agreed not to have the chaplain present.

Ray's spiritual adviser watched from an adjoining witness room.

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled a lower court decision Wednesday staying the execution plans.

Other states generally allow spiritual advisers to accompany condemned inmates up to the execution chamber but not into it, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which studies capital punishment in the United States.

Ray was convicted of the 1995 murder of 15-year-old Tiffany Harville.

-- Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports

Photo by AP/CARLOS OSORIO
A wolf bites into a heart-decorated box seeking treats Thursday during the Detroit Zoo’s valentine-themed Heart Fest in Royal Oak, Mich.

A Section on 02/08/2019

Print Headline: Bill would reverse transgender ruling LA police told to curb black driver stops 2 spaceflight pilots receive their wings School bus shots lead to guard's arrest

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