De Blasio: We’ll Ban ‘Classic’ Skyscrapers with NYC’s Green New Deal

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D.) warned President Donald Trump will win in 2020 unless Democrats are “bold” and “progressive” by embracing ideas such as the Green New Deal, the details of which includes banning “classic” skyscrapers for being environmentally inefficient.

De Blasio told Morning Joe New York City had its “own Green New Deal” with three basic ideas, which included banning glass and steel skyscrapers, getting energy from renewable sources in the next five years, and demanding all existing building owners retrofit their properties or face seven-figure fines.

“We’re putting clear, strong mandates, the first of any major city on the earth to say to building owners, you’ve got to clean up your act, you’ve got to retrofit … If you don’t do it by 2030, there’s serious fines, as high as $1 million or more for the biggest buildings,” de Blasio said. “This mandate is going to guarantee that we reduce emissions. We’re going to ban the classic glass and steel skyscrapers, which are incredibly inefficient. If someone wants to build one of those things, they can take a whole lot of steps to make it energy efficient, but we’re not going to allow what we used to see in the past.”

De Blasio said he would decide “soon” whether to join the 2020 Democratic presidential field, which already has 19 candidates and could soon grow to 20; The Atlantic reported former Vice President Joe Biden will officially announce his candidacy this week.

“The important point here in this whole discussion is Democrats are going to have to come to grips with the fact that there’s an election in 2020,” he said. “It’s an election we are not definitely going to win at this point. Donald Trump actually can win. Democrats have to be strong and clear and bold and progressive in our messages, or we’re not going to make it. I actually think more attention needs to be on that fact.

“We’re not speaking enough to people’s lives and the frustrations they’re feeling, and there’s an open opportunity for Democrats to do that. Part of why we announced the big, bold ideas that actually reach people like the New York City Green New Deal. It’s important for people to understand, if you’re not talking to people’s everyday lives, if you’re not talking about things they’re actually feeling like global warming, don’t be surprised if Donald Trump’s back in the White House.”

De Blasio also defended himself against accusations of environmental hypocrisy, given he travels daily in an SUV to a gym in Brooklyn, despite living on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

“Wherever I go in New York City, whether I take a subway … I have a security detail that follows me in their cars either way,” he said. “So let’s be clear, this is just part of my life. I come from that neighborhood in Brooklyn. That’s my home. I go there on a regular basis to stay connected to where I come from and not be in the bubble that, I think for a lot of politicians, is a huge problem. the fact is, those cars and that security detail are part of the life of being mayor of New York City.”

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Pompeo: Duration of Sanctions ‘Depends Solely on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Senior Leaders’

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday the United States will no longer grant any exemptions for countries to buy oil from Iran, strengthening sanctions that have already weakened the regime’s position in its most critical market.

“We’ll no longer grant any exemptions,” Pompeo said. “We are going to zero across the board. We’ll continue to enforce sanctions and monitor compliance and any nation or entity interacting with Iran should do its diligence and err on the side of caution; the risks are simply not going to be worth the benefits.”

“How long we’ll remain there at zero depends solely on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s senior leaders,” he added.

Pompeo celebrated the pressure campaign waged by the Trump administration against the Iranian regime since President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal. Noting that the regime’s top source of cash is oil, Pompeo said sanctions have “denied the regime well north of $10 billion.”

“The goal remains simple: to deprive the outlaw regime of the funds it has used to destabilize the Middle East for four decades and incentivize Iran to behave like a normal country,” he said.

Pompeo said U.S. goals aren’t just in line with allies but also with the Iranian people who live under oppression—and he took a shot at the Obama administration for “appeasing their oppressors.”

“These demands are not just coming from the United States government and many of our allies and partners, they are similar to what we hear from the Iranian people themselves,” he said. “I want the Iranian people to know we are listening to them and stand with them. We will not appease their oppressors, as the last administration did. Our hopes are for a better life for them, and all people afflicted by the regime’s violence and destruction.”

Pompeo said denying Iran oil money is critical to improving the situation in the Middle East, where Iran sponsors terrorism and funds rebels in Yemen.

“The regime would have used that money to support terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and continue its missile development, in defiance of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, and would have perpetuated the humanitarian crisis in Yemen,” Pompeo said.

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Parents of Murder Victims Launch Campaign Against Newsom’s Death Penalty Moratorium

A group of parents of Californians killed by those now on the state’s death row last week launched a campaign against Governor Gavin Newsom’s (D.) moratorium on the death penalty in his state.

The Victims of Murder Justice tour will travel to all 80 Assembly Seats and 40 Senate Districts in the state, NBC Los Angeles reported. They will speak out in protest of Newsom’s edict last month, which indefinitely stayed the death sentences of the more than 700 people on California’s death row, withdrew the state’s lethal injection protocol, and dismantled its execution chamber.

Now, parents of the people murdered by death row residents are speaking out. One was Phyllis Loya, the mother of murdered police officer Larry Lasater, Jr.

“[Newsom] was like a thief in the night that stole justice from us,” Loya said.

Families criticized Newsom for his blanket reprieve, arguing that he should have opted to review each case for evidence of the unevenness and racial discrimination he claimed mars it.

“You turned the knife again in my heart,” Jeri Oliver, mother of murdered officer Danny Oliver, said. “I dare you to meet with me and I can give you some facts that you don’t want to hear. I challenge you Gov. Newsom—come meet with me.”

Officer Oliver’s murderer, Luis Bracamontes, was sentenced to death in 2018 in a fiery courtroom hearing in which he the killer said he wished he had killed more cops, and called another of his victims, who survived five bullet wounds, a racial slur.

During last week’s event, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer called on Newsom to review each case individually. He also indicated that the tour was meant to pressure lawmakers, in advance of yet another ballot measure aimed at death penalty repeal, which supporters aim to put before the public in the 2020 election. Californians have previously rejected death penalty repeal at the ballot box numerous times, most recently in 2016.

A spokesman for Newsom told NBC that he sends his “heartfelt condolences to survivor families.”

“The governor sought out and heard from many survivor families as he was making his decision on the death penalty,” the spokesman wrote in an email to NBC. “Some supported the death penalty while others strongly believed the state shouldn’t take another life in the name of their loved one.”

Newsom, meanwhile, spent last week—National Crime Victims’ Rights Week—traveling in El Salvador.

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Buttigieg Likens Bernie Bros to Trump Supporters

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg seemingly took shots at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) during a speaking event in New Hampshire this weekend, saying his supporters back him for similar reasons people voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

Buttigieg’s remarks came during a question about Buttigieg’s 2000 prize-winning “Profiles in Courage” essay, in which the then-high schooler praised Sanders for his bipartisan efforts in Congress. But now, Buttigieg says Sanders inspires in his supporters the same bitterness about economic stagnation which Buttigieg believes motivated the same voters to propel Trump to the presidency.

“I think the sense of anger and disaffection that comes from seeing that the numbers are fine, like, unemployment is low, like you said, GDP is growing,” Buttigieg told his crowd over the weekend, “and yet a lot of neighborhoods and families are living like this recovery never even happened. They are stuck.”

Buttigieg added that he believes both Sanders and Trump represent the radical ends of the left-wing and the right-wing factions of American politics.

“It just kind of turns you against the system in general, and then you’re more likely to want to vote to blow up the system,” he said. “Which could lead you to somebody like Bernie, and it could lead you to somebody like Trump. That’s how we got where we are.”

Buttigieg’s criticism of Sanders generated media attention, with CNN’s Inside Politics host John King playing it Sunday and saying “this race, so far, has been relatively polite,” before observing that Buttigieg was “kind of taking a shot at Bernie Sanders.”

Despite his criticism of Sanders’s tone, Buttigieg likened himself to the Democratic front runner, also saying that his own platform is only “slightly different” from that of Sanders, but also adding, “I’m obviously a very different messenger.”

Sanders has been consistently first among declared candidates in polls of the 2020 Democratic field, although he has also consistently trailed former Vice President Joe Biden, who is expected to announce his candidacy soon.

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Rep. Moulton Becomes 17th Major Dem Candidate for President

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Representative Seth Moulton entered the 2020 Democratic presidential race on Monday as a long-shot contender in a contest that now includes almost 20 candidates.

A 40-year-old Iraq War veteran who represents a district in Massachusetts, Moulton enters the race as an underdog, with little national name recognition and a shorter track record than some rivals who have spent years in the U.S. Senate or as state governors.

Moulton has built a political career by challenging the party’s establishment. He entered Congress in 2015 after winning a Democratic primary challenge against John Tierney, who had held the seat for 18 years.

After Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, Moulton helped organize opposition to Representative Nancy Pelosi’s bid to again become Speaker of the House.

He ended his opposition to Pelosi with a statement saying: “Tough conversations make us stronger, not weaker, and we need to keep having them if we’re going to deliver on the change that we’ve promised the American people.”

In a YouTube video announcing his presidential candidacy, he said: “Decades of division and corruption have broken our democracy and robbed Americans of their voice.”

“While our country marches forward, Washington is anchored in the past,” he said.

In the video, Moulton said he wants to tackle climate change and grow the U.S. economy by promoting green jobs as well as high tech and advanced manufacturing.

Moulton served in the Marines from 2001 to 2008. During his 2014 congressional bid, he became a vocal critic of the Iraq War in which he served, saying no more troops should be deployed to the country.

He has advocated stricter gun laws, saying military-style weapons should not be owned by civilians.

Moulton supports the legalization of marijuana and told Boston public radio station WGBH in 2016 that he had smoked pot while in college.

He graduated from Harvard University with an undergraduate degree in physics in 2001 and returned to receive a master’s degree in business and public policy in 2011.

Moulton’s announcement brings the number of major Democrats running for president to 17, according to FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver. FiveThirtyEight does not include author Marianne Williamson or Miramar mayor Wayne Messam as major candidates.

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NBC Correspondent Accosts Mueller Following Easter Church Service

NBC News correspondent Mike Viqueira accosted special counsel Robert Mueller Sunday as he was getting into his vehicle following an Easter service at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.

Mueller was walking towards his car with his wife, Ann, when Viqueira approached them and started peppering him with multiple questions, prompting Mueller to initially say, “No comment” and ignore the rest of his questions. MSNBC’s AM Joy host Joy Reid brought  Viqueira onto her show and played footage of the encounter

“Sir, can I ask you a couple of questions? Will you testify before Congress, sir?” Viqueira asked.

“No comment.” Mueller replied.

“Are you sure about that, sir? If he were anybody, but the president, would Mr. Trump be indicted?” Viqueira asked.

Mueller ignored both questions and appeared to signal to his wife, who was walking towards him and Viqueira, to get into their vehicle.

“Sir, why didn’t you make a recommendation to Congress one way or the other? Did the attorney general accurately characterize your positions on conspiracy and obstruction, sir?” Viqueira asked as Mueller got into his vehicle and closed the door.

After the clip, Viqueira joked about how “tight-lipped” Mueller was, prompting Reid to laugh. He went on to call his encounter an “opportunity” and that Mueller’s role with the Russia investigation was “history in the making.”

Later during the interview, Reid asked Viqueira whether Mueller has been more forthcoming when approached by media about his investigations or whether he is tight-lipped and not open. Viqueir said he wanted to make a distinction between this encounter and other encounters, saying his encounter earlier Sunday morning could be “characterized as an ambush interview” by some people, noting it occurred as he was leaving an Easter church service.

He concluded the interview by saying he believed Mueller would be more forthcoming during a hearing, adding Mueller has a reputation of being a “straight up-and-down kind of guy” in a constitutional setting.

House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.) sent a letter to Mueller a few days ago requesting he testify before the committee “as soon as possible” or “no later than May 23.”

“It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings. We are now requesting Mueller to appear before @HouseJudiciary as soon as possible,” Nadler tweeted.

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Dem Candidate in PA Special Election Called for Middle-Class Tax Increase

The Democratic nominee in a Pennsylvania special election for a U.S. House seat called for a tax increase on the middle class in a video posted online.

Marc Friedenberg, a college professor who lost the election for Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District last November, is now hoping to be elected after Republican Representative Tom Marino resigned in January. Marino beat Friedenberg by 32 points in a district that went heavily for President Trump in 2016.

“We should be raising taxes on the middle class so that they’re paying their fair share,” he said in an online video that was posted on his Facebook account in December of 2017.

In numerous instances during the video that runs just under three-and-a-half minutes, Friedenberg appears to read off a script.

“This is an outrageously unfair hit piece that blatantly takes a slip of the tongue in an old video out-of-context to hide the fact that our opponent supports destroying Social Security,” said Gregory Minchak with the Friedenberg campaign. “The entire video discusses that to pay for massive tax cuts for billionaires and international conglomerates, Republicans like Fred Keller want to end Social Security as we know it. Unlike his opponent, Marc has consistently called for middle class tax cuts, affordable health insurance, and the saving of Social Security.”

Many Democratic congressional candidates in 2018 ran on a narrative of trying to reframe the Republican tax cuts as a tax increase on the middle class.

The race is drawing extra attention now that California billionaire Tom Steyer, best known for his efforts to impeach the president, has announced he and his political action committee NextGen America will be dedicating resources to the special election that concludes in one month.

The Friedenberg campaign has welcomed the support, which is mainly believed to be in the form of voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts.

“While we have zero engagement with NextGen, we believe it demonstrates how important this race is to the state,” Minchak said to “This race will decide if Pennsylvania is to be a leader in alternative energy development, creating new infrastructure that will support good paying jobs, and stopping the brain drain plaguing the district. According to the media report, NextGen is focused on getting students politically engaged, which should be welcomed by both candidates.”

If Democrats have welcomed the news of Steyer’s involvement, so have Republicans.

“Tom Steyer has found new ways to light his money on fire, this time by backing socialist Marc Friedenberg in a district President Trump won by 36 points,” said Michael McAdams, press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “Given the last thing PA-12 voters want is a California billionaire telling them how to vote, this is essentially an in-kind donation to Republicans.”

Of the small number of Facebook ads Friedenberg’s campaign is currently running, two support “Medicare for All.” The candidate has also spoken in general terms in support of the “Green New Deal,” but it is unclear if those comments represent a full-on endorsement of the controversial proposal by the most liberal wing of the new Democratic House majority.

The district is located in southwest Pennsylvania, and includes Pennsylvania State University, where Friedenberg is employed. Marino resigned to take a job in the private sector and to focus on health issues.

Friedenberg will face off against Republican Fred Keller on May 21.

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Nadler: Obstruction Is an Impeachable Offense, If Proven

Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.) said Sunday that if President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice, that would be an impeachable offense.

“Obstruction of justice, if proven, would be impeachable,” Nadler told NBC’s Meet the Press host Chuck Todd.

The report from special counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year long investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was released to the public last week. Mueller concluded no one from the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to affect the election. Although there was no collusion, Mueller chose not to make a determination about obstruction of justice and outlined ten instances of Trump attempting to interfere with the investigation.

Democrats have been split on whether to move forward with an impeachment inquiry. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said Congress should move forward with the impeachment process, while House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) cautioned against it.

“Some might ask…why haven’t you opened an impeachment inquiry or, in fairness, is that what you’re doing now?” Todd asked Nadler.

“I don’t think we’re doing that. We may get to that, we may not. As I said before, it is our job to go through all the evidence, all the information we can get,” Nadler responded.

Nadler added the judiciary committee will investigate and make a determination whether Trump obstructed justice.

“Do you think this is impeachable?” Todd asked.

“Yeah, I do. I do think—if proven, if proven, which hasn’t been proven yet, some of this would be impeachable,” Nadler said. “Obstruction of justice, if proven, would be impeachable.”

If Democrats were to go forward with impeachment, they would be able to impeach Trump in a party-line vote in the House. However, it is unlikely the Senate would vote to convict because a two-thirds majority is needed. Republicans are in the majority in the Senate and none of them have said Trump ought to be removed from office.

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Bombs Kill 138, Wound Hundreds in Easter Attacks on Sri Lanka Churches, Hotels

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Easter Day bomb blasts at three Sri Lankan churches and four hotels killed 138 people and wounded more than 400, hospital and police officials said, following a lull in major attacks since the end of the civil war 10 years ago.

The explosions, some of which officials said were suicide bomb attacks, led to an immediate clampdown, with the government declaring a curfew and blocking access to most major social media and messaging sites.

It was unclear when the curfew would be lifted.

More than 50 people were killed in St. Sebastian’s gothic-style Catholic church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo, a police official told Reuters, with pictures showing bodies on the ground, blood on the pews and a destroyed roof.

Media reported 25 people were also killed in an attack on an evangelical church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province.

The three hotels hit were the Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo and the Cinnamon Grand Colombo. It was unclear whether there were any casualties in the hotels.

The first six explosions were all reported within a short period in the morning just as church services were starting.

Nine foreigners were among the dead, the officials said.

Early in the afternoon, police reported there had been two more explosions. One was at a hotel near the national zoo in the Dehiwela area near Colombo.

A witness told local TV he saw some body parts, including a severed head, lying on the ground near the hotel.

The other explosion was in a house in Colombo, authorities said.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks in a country which was at war for decades with Tamil separatists until 2009 during which bomb blasts in the capital were common.

Christian groups say they have faced increasing intimidation from some extremist Buddhist monks in recent years. And last year, there were clashes between the majority Sinhalese Buddhist community and minority Muslims, with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called a national security council meeting at his home for later in the day.

“I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today. I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong,” he said in a Tweet.

“Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation.”

President Maithripala Sirisena said he had ordered the police special task force and military to investigate who was behind the attacks and their agenda.

The military had been deployed, according to a military spokesman, and security stepped up at Colombo’s international airport.


One of the explosions was at St. Anthony’s Shrine, a Catholic Church in Kochcikade, Colombo, a tourist landmark.

St. Sebastian’s posted pictures of destruction inside the church on its Facebook page, showing blood on pews and the floor, and requested help from the public.

Last year, there were 86 verified incidents of discrimination, threats and violence against Christians, according to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), which represents more than 200 churches and other Christian organizations.

This year, the NCEASL recorded 26 such incidents, including one in which Buddhist monks allegedly attempted to disrupt a Sunday worship service, with the last one reported on March 25.

Out of Sri Lanka’s total population of around 22 million, 70 percent are Buddhist, 12.6 percent Hindu, 9.7 percent Muslim and 7.6 percent Christian, according to the country’s 2012 census.

In its 2018 report on Sri Lanka’s human rights, the U.S. State Department noted that some Christian groups and churches reported they had been pressured to end worship meetings after authorities classified them as “unauthorized gatherings”.

The report also said Buddhist monks regularly tried to close down Christian and Muslim places of worship, citing unidentified sources.

Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, told local TV that the public should remain calm and asked authorities to bring those responsible for the attacks before the law. He also requested the public donate blood for the injured.

Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam announced that all schools would be closed on Monday and Tuesday.

The heads of major governments condemned the attacks. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “there is no place for such barbarism in our region”. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said in a tweet that “this is an assault on all of humanity”.

Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Day after his death on the cross.

(Edited by Martin Howell and Nick Macfie)

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Louisiana Senate Committee Rejects Bill to Let Schools Opt Out of State Standards

In an echo of the contentious Common Core debates of past years, the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday rejected a bill that would have allowed local school districts to opt out of state standards and testing.

Senate Bill 128 was deferred over the objection of its author, Shreveport Democratic Sen. John Milkovich, most likely killing the measure for the session. Milkovich said it was the fourth time he had tried to allow districts to opt out of the state standards.

Louisiana adopted the controversial Common Core standards under the leadership of current Education Superintendent John White and former Gov. Bobby Jindal, who later turned against the standards. The state adopted new standards in 2016, though Milkovich said the current standards are almost identical to Common Core.

His bill would have required school boards, after receiving a petition from 10 percent of the district’s registered voters, to hold an election to decide whether state standards will be used in district schools. Charter school governing authorities would hold a vote of parents with children enrolled in the school.

“The Common Core is an academic disaster,” Milkovich said.

Louisiana students were tied for last on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2017. Milkovich described Common Core as an effort funded by out-of-state millionaires and billionaires, particularly Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg, to undermine family values and promote abortion and atheism.

Kathy Edmonston, a member of the Board of Elementary Education who ran for the office promising to oppose Common Core, said the standards have led to excessive testing of Louisiana students. There is only one state-mandated test per year covering four subjects, lawmakers said, though many districts hold other tests to check students’ progress during the school year.

Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, pointed to a fiscal note created by legislative staff that warned allowing schools to deviate from state standards could lead to the loss of $600 million in annual federal grants.

“Do you agree that it’s traumatic to the structure of education in Louisiana to lose $600 million?” Appel asked.

“I think what’s more traumatic is trashing the values of Louisiana,” Milkovich said.

Detractors also said consistent standards across schools and districts are needed to ensure accountability.

Senators also rejected Milkovich’s Senate Bill 120, meant to fight against bullying. Milkovich said his bill might have protected children from his area who he said killed themselves after being bullied over time and the school system failed to protect them.

Among other aspects, the bill would require schools to keep records of bullying incidents and provide a copy to law enforcement if the bullying created an imminent risk of harm to a student. It would allow teachers to use “reasonable force” to remove offending students if necessary.

“This is for schools where the administration has fallen down and no one does anything,” Milkovich said. “This is an immunity bill that protects the right of teachers to protect students.”

But opponents noted the state and districts already have anti-bullying policies. They worried the bill’s scope was overly broad and subjective, and that teachers who attempt to physically remove a student might be subject to legal action.

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