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Top Eight

Top eight stories for today including congressional Democrats formalized their immigration-reform plans with a new bill; NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down in Mars’ Jezero Crater; Defense attorneys argued at the International Criminal Court on behalf of two former Christian militia leaders charged with war crimes in Africa, and more.

Your Thursday night briefing from the staff of Courthouse News

Top eight stories for today including congressional Democrats formalized their immigration-reform plans with a new bill; NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down in Mars’ Jezero Crater; Defense attorneys argued at the International Criminal Court on behalf of two former Christian militia leaders charged with war crimes in Africa, and more.

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National

1.) Congressional Democrats formalized their immigration-reform plans Thursday with the introduction of a measure that could put some 11 million immigrants on an eight-year track to U.S. citizenship.

A child plays at a camp for asylum seekers stuck at America's doorstep in Matamoros, Mexico, in November 2020. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

2.) After a tense, seven-minute descent through the Martian atmosphere Thursday, NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down in the red planet’s Jezero Crater, where it will collect sediment samples to bring back to Earth and search for evidence of ancient microbial life.

This illustration provided by NASA shows the Perseverance rover, bottom, landing on Mars. Hundreds of critical events must execute perfectly and exactly on time for the rover to land safely on Feb. 18, 2021. Entry, Descent, and Landing, or "EDL," begins when the spacecraft reaches the top of the Martian atmosphere, traveling nearly 12,500 mph (20,000 kph). EDL ends about seven minutes after atmospheric entry, with Perseverance stationary on the Martian surface. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

3.) American life expectancy decreased by a full year in the first half of 2020, hitting its lowest point since 2006, as the Covid-19 pandemic burned through the country.

The overall drop in life expectancy hit hardest in Black and Latino populations. (Graph courtesy of CDC via Courthouse News)

4.) The federal government uses flawed, outdated data on the populations of polar bears, walruses and other marine mammals to make decisions on projects that could threaten the survival of those species, environmental groups claim in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

A manatee resting at Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, Fla., while shading over a school of mangrove snappers. (Keith Ramos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Regional

5.) Only used a handful of times so far, the Tennessee statute designed to reign in lawsuits intended to chill free speech faces a constitutional challenge in a defamation case related to the TV show “Tiny House Nation.”

Tiny houses on display in Portland, Ore., in 2017. (Photo by DanDavidCook from Wikipedia Commons via Courthouse News)

6.) Illinois political icon Michael Madigan announced his resignation from the state House on Thursday morning, effective at the end of this month, after being implicated in a utility bribery scheme last summer.

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan appears on the floor as the Illinois House of Representatives convenes at the Bank of Springfield Center in Springfield, Illinois, on Jan. 8, 2021. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune via AP)

International

7.) Globally, the number of new coronavirus infections has fallen for the fifth week in a row and the death toll is also subsiding, but the World Health Organization on Thursday said people should not let down their guard as warmer weather approaches in Europe and North America, the hardest hit regions.

Over eighty-year-olds wait to be administered a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, in a tent set up at the Baggio military hospital in Milan, Italy, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

8.) The defense had the last word Thursday at the International Criminal Court on behalf of two former Christian militia leaders who together have been charged with more than 50 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona, a former Central African Republic militia leader, enters the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, for the start of his war-crimes trial. (Photo by ICC-CPI)

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