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2018-04-25T20:20:14.687Z
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Fire consumed part of the 50th floor of Trump Tower late Saturday, claiming the life of a 67-year old man who lived there. Donald Trump used the tragedy to boast about the fine construction of his flagship Manhattan skyscraper.

“Fire at Trump Tower is out. Very confined (well built building). Firemen (and women) did a great job. THANK YOU!” the president tweeted.

ABC News reported that the victim, Todd Brassner, was pulled unconscious from his apartment at the luxury Fifth Avenue sky scraper and died later at the hospital. Six firefighters were also injured in the fire, ABC reported. The cause of the blaze was not immediately reported.

Saturday evening, flames and smoke billowed from the building during the four-alarm fire, raining debris on the Mahattan streets below.

The president who famously owns the glitzy Fifth Avenue residential-and-retail skyscraper that bears his name, tweeted his thanks to New York’s firefighters.

ABC reported that it was the second fire this year at Trump tower. A roof top fire affecting a heating and cooling unit...

President Donald Trump issued a vague threat on Twitter on Sunday, after reports of a chemical attack in Syria.

“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria,” Trump wrote. “Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia, and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big Price…”

The tweet uncharacteristically named Putin by name, but it’s still unclear whether the “big price to pay” was directed at Russia, Iran, or Syria.

At least 70 Syrians died after a reported chemical attack on Saturday in Douma, a rebel-held area near the capital of Damascus.

“Seventy people suffocated to death and hundreds are still suffocating,” Raed al-Saleh, head of the volunteer-run rescue group White Helmets, told Al Jazeera, adding that the death toll was expected to increase.

At a meeting with constituents on Friday, U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) pulled out a loaded gun and placed it on a table for several minutes. He argued after the fact that the firearm’s presence had made the attendees safer.

But that’s not what people who went to the event had to say about Norman’s bewildering action.

“Rep. Norman’s behavior today was a far cry from what responsible gun ownership looks like,” said Lori Freeman, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, who attended the event and spoke with Norman, according to the Washington Post.

Another attendee, Lori Carter, said, “I felt it was highly inappropriate for an elected official, honestly, and it almost felt like an intimidation tactic.”

There is a statute that makes it illegal to “present or point at another person a loaded or unloaded firearm,” and the South Carolina Democratic Party is calling for an investigation.

Asked later about the incident, Norman told the Post and Courier newspaper: “I’m not going to be a Gabby Giffords. I don’t mind dying, but whoever shoots me better shoot well, or I’m shooting back.”

Mark Kelly, Giffords’ husband, countered that Norman indeed is “no Gabby,” adding that “you pull out a gun when you are prepared and need to use it — not for a stunt.”

Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head — and miraculously survived — at a constituent event at a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Arizona in 2011. Norman’s argument is that if armed,...

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is looking to compile a database of journalists, bloggers and social media “influencers” here and overseas, Bloomberg reported.

A request filed on April 3 sought a contractor to gather information on people posting across all platforms — radio, print, digital, and television — in 100 languages. Bids are expected on April 13.

According to Bloomberg, the request came amid “heightened concern” about accuracy in media and the potential for foreigners to influence U.S. elections and government policy through “fake news.”

Several lawmakers sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking that Qatar-based Al Jazeera register as a foreign agent because its reporting “often directly undermines” U.S. interests in countries such as Syria and Israel.

Late last year, Russia’s RT was forced to register as a foreign agent in the United States and responded by designating several U.S. outlets as foreign agents in Russia.

Although press freedoms declined under the Obama administration, President Donald Trump has had an openly hostile relationship with the media — notably toward those who do not report favorably on his administration.

Trump has called totally accurate reporting by outlets such as CNN and the New York Times “fake news.” The president also has gone after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, over the newspaper’s coverage of his administration.

The government’s plan to monitor journalists has prompted concern among those who report critically on President Trump or share such views on social media.

On Saturday, Palestinians buried the 29th person killed by Israeli border forces in about a week. Journalist Yaser Murtaja, a cameraman for Palestinian Ain Media, was wearing a blue flak jacket marked with “PRESS” in capital letters when he was shot, Reuters reports.

The “Great March of Return” protests, which started on March 30, aim to draw attention to what Palestinians say is their right of return to territories taken from them decades ago when Israel was formed.

But things turned bloody almost immediately last week, when Israeli sharpshooters took aim at anyone approaching the border fence.

Israel maintains that many of those killed and wounded are members of Hamas, an armed, political group designated as a terrorist organization by the West. Hamas denies this claim.

Massacre in Gaza leaves at least 15 dead, more than 700 wounded It marks the single deadliest day in the...

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is having a bad week, and it didn’t let up on Saturday.

Pruitt, famous for his profligate taxpayer-funded first-class travel, actually flew coach when the taxpayers weren’t footing the bill, according to an Associated Press report on Saturday.

The rationale Pruitt’s defenders gave for spending thousands of dollars on first-class travel was an increased volume in security threats. When asked about the nature of these threats, EPA told Politico that someone approached Pruitt in an airport yelling “Scott Pruitt, you’re f—ing up the environment.” It remains unclear how flying first class would prevent people from approaching Pruitt in airports with or without expletive-laden environmental critiques. The AP report from Saturday noted that there is no record of anyone being charged with or arrested for threatening the EPA administrator.

Pruitt’s decision to fly coach when the cost of his travel is not covered with public money pokes a giant hole in the argument that he needed to fly first class for his own protection. Anyone threatening harm to the EPA administrator would not be able to distinguish between Pruitt’s personal and business travel. Taxpayers, however, still covered the cost of security detail that accompanied him on personal travel.

Pruitt’s predecessor, Gina McCarthy, flew coach, and was not accompanied by security during her personal trips.

The AP also reported that Pruitt spent millions on a full-time security detail with 20 members, which is three times the size of the part-time detail McCarthy used.

EPA staff who spoke up about Pruitt’s...

Things have moved rapidly in the week since President Donald Trump dropped a series of heated tweets about the “caravan” of Central American migrants heading to the U.S. border. By Saturday, Texas had moved to send 250 National Guard troops to the border and Arizona is poised to send 150, both in response to the president’s call to send the troops to secure the border.

Defense Secretary James Mattis signed a memo approving the deployment of up to 4,000 National Guard troops.

Apparently angry that he is not getting the funding for the wall he wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border, President Trump is looking to highlight a threat to national security at the southern border:

But he has also acknowledged that border crossings are at a 46-year-low and that Mexican authorities had succeeded in dispersing the group headed to the U.S. — many fleeing extreme violence in countries such as Honduras:

When a deadly shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida claimed the lives of 49 people, Massachusetts began ramping up its enforcement of the state’s decades old ban on assault weapons.

On Friday, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed against the state challenging the ban.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge William Young said that the firearms and large magazines banned by the state in 1998 are “not within the scope of the personal right to ‘bear Arms’ under the Second Amendment.”

“Other states are equally free to leave them unregulated and available to their law-abiding citizens,” Young added. “These policy matters are simply not of constitutional moment. Americans are not afraid of bumptious, raucous, and robust debate about these matters. We call it democracy.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) was sued by the Gun Owners’ Action League of Massachusetts, an affiliate of the National Rifle Association, after Healey broadened the definition of which guns would be included in the assault weapons ban first instituted in 1998.

Healey responded to the judge’s decision via Facebook on Friday writing, “strong gun laws save lives, and we will not be intimidated by the gun lobby in our efforts to end the sale of assault weapons and protect our communities and schools.”

The steel and aluminum industries in China will soon be slapped with tariffs up to $50 billion by President Donald Trump. On Thursday, after China announced their intentions to retaliate against the United States with $50 billion in tariffs of their own against U.S. goods, Trump warned that his administration would respond with another set of tariffs, this time targeting $100 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Exempt from the proposed tariffs against China, however, is the clothing manufacturing industry.

U.S. officials say they used an algorithm to determine which goods to exclude from new tariffs. According to the Washington Post, the list was drafted to achieve “the lowest consumer impact,” ensuring goods like clothing and toys were excluded so as not to raise the cost on domestic consumer goods.

Exempting clothing from the tariffs provides a big break to American clothing companies that hold trademarks in China. One of those clothing companies belongs to the First Daughter of the United States, Ivanka Trump.

A recent report by the Huffington Post found that the president’s daughter and closest adviser rakes in a total of $1.5 million a year from the Trump Organization while still working at the White House.

Her dual role as adviser to the president and private business executive has continuously raised ethical red flags. No one can be entirely sure that public policy by this administration isn’t being driven by business motives, or whether countries may pursue business deals with the Trump family as a means to curry political favor with the administration.

The...

Facebook announced Friday that it would support a bipartisan piece of legislation that regulates political ads on the internet, less than a week before CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to testify in front of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The Honest Ads Act, introduced last October by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MI), Mark Warner (D-VA) and John McCain (R-AZ), calls for internet political ads to be transparent, and disclose who paid for them. Currently that mandate only applies to political ads that run on television, radio, and print media.

“The content and purchaser(s) of those online advertisements are a mystery to the public because of outdated laws that have failed to keep up with evolving technology,” Warner’s proposal read. “The Honest Ads Act would prevent foreign actors from influencing our elections by ensuring that political ads sold online are covered by the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite.”

Between Mirai Nagasu’s triple axel, Chloe Kim and Shaun White’s snowboarding halfpipe triumphs, the U.S. women’s hockey team’s historic gold medal, and absolutely everything about Canadian ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the Pyeongchang Olympic Games will not soon be forgotten.

But, now that the medals have been awarded and the delightful K-pop infused closing ceremony has finished, it’s time to step back and look at the big picture. Could you call the Pyeongchang Games a success? Sure, if you want to. (It’s hard to consider any event that bestows upon us an Adam Rippon-Gus Kenworthy bromance a failure.)

But that doesn’t mean the legacy of these Olympics is going to be a positive one. Pyeongchang, its surrounding province, and many of the Olympic athletes that competed there, are soon to be forgotten by most of the world, and left on economically precarious footing. And, ultimately, the 2018 Winter Games did absolutely nothing to change the trajectory of the overall Olympic movement, which is facing an uncertain future.

So, while it was wonderful to see the legend of Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjorgen grow, and as much as I enjoy the fact that the United States is now a curling country, the lasting impression from Pyeongchang is more one of desperation than celebration.

Pyeongchang faces massive debt

Minus the norovirus outbreak, by all accounts Pyeongchang was a model Olympic host. But after the Paralympics next month finish, and all the athletes and tourists depart,...

As more and more cities are filing lawsuits against fossil fuel companies for their role in perpetuating climate change, the fossil fuel industry and its allies are responding with counterattacks in the courtroom and in the court of public opinion.

And while some legal experts characterize the industry’s actions as an attempt to delay litigation and dissuade other cities from taking similar action, public officials from the cities that have filed the lawsuits have a different perspective — to them, the fact that industry has pushed back against the litigation with such ferocity means that it’s working.

When we filed these lawsuits against these companies that are represented by major law firms, we figured they would try to do whatever they could to draw out the litigation,” Kate Sears, a county supervisor in Marin County, California, which filed a lawsuit against fossil fuel companies last summer, told ThinkProgress. “What they are doing now is so ridiculous that it really makes me think that they are quite concerned about the strength of these lawsuits.”

Since July 2017, eight cities and counties in California, as well as New York City, have filed lawsuits against major fossil fuel companies for their role in climate-fueled consequences like sea level rise and, in some cases, more frequent wildfires and droughts.

In each case, the plaintiffs allege that the fossil fuel companies created a public nuisance when they extracted and sold their product despite internal knowledge that burning fossil fuels contributed to dangerous climate change....

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s major indictment of the people and organizations behind Russia’s social media interference operations brought a wave of revelations. Its reference to a “real U.S. person affiliated with a Texas-based grassroots organization” who was in communication with the Russians, however, prompts a whole new set of questions.

The person mentioned by Mueller has not been named — even while the identities of other Americans are revealed — but one group seems to be feeling the heat. The Texas Nationalist Movement (TNM), dedicated to breaking the state off from the rest of the U.S., issued a statement immediately following the indictment claiming they “had no knowledge of nor any involvement with the Russian-led efforts to influence the 2016 General Election.”

TNM is largely unknown outside Texas, but it is the foremost group advocating secession in the U.S. and one of the American groups with the most notable ties to Kremlin-funded actors in Russia. It was also one of the few American organizations that communicated directly with the Russian operatives behind the fake Facebook pages — and one of the only groups that the Russian operatives specifically advertised as partners.

The relationship shows how Russian operatives behind the fake Facebook accounts identified American counterparts and, in the case of secession movements in both Texas and California, how parallel interests in fracturing the U.S. created unlikely bedfellows. By elevating the Texas and California secession causes, Russian operatives hoped to help foment the type of secession crisis the U.S. hasn’t seen since the...

West Virginia teachers continued their strike for a third day on Monday. Teachers and school staff first began their walkout on Thursday to demand better salaries and health insurance, resulting in public school closures across the state.

Teachers said rising health care premiums coupled with low salaries make it difficult for them to afford school supplies and sometimes require them to take on second jobs. According to the National Education Association, the average salary for a West Virginia teacher was $45,622 in 2016, which ranked 48th among all states. Although the governor signed legislation last week that would give teachers a 2 percent pay raise beginning in July and 1 percent over the next two years, teachers say it’s not good enough.

State education officials are now considering whether or not to take legal action. State School Superintendent Steve Paine said in a statement on Saturday that officials will decide whether to put a discussion of legal action on the State Board of Education meeting agenda.

Teachers were already aware that the walkout is illegal. Last week, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said, “State law and court rulings give specific parties avenues to remedy such illegal conduct, including the option to seek an injunction to end an unlawful strike.” When the last statewide teacher strike happened 30...

During an interview on CNN on Monday, Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA) was asked 11 times by host Chris Cuomo to cite a single reason he’s opposed to universal background checks for gun purchases or transfers.

Taylor struggled do it, but insisted he’s opposed to them anyway.

“What I am in favor of is a stronger background check, one that takes into account social media, other things potentially,” Taylor said. “I don’t know exactly how that looks like, but I’m willing to listen to all sides to figure out how we make it stronger to make sure folks that should not get guns don’t get them.”

Cuomo pressed Taylor on the point.

“But what about all sales? All sales is a pretty simple way to put it,” he said.

Taylor responded by alluding to vague concerns he has that mandating background checks for all sales or transfers would pose problems for fathers who want to give guns to their sons. When Cuomo pointed out that nobody complains about having to do paperwork if they want to transfer ownership of a boat to their children, Taylor — who received $3,500 from the National Rifle Association during the 2016 election cycle — resorted to insisting that enforcement of a new background check law would be impossible.

“You find ways to enforce laws, lots of laws are difficult to enforce, you find a way,” Cuomo replied. “Why would you only have certain sales affected by background checks? I don’t get why that’s a good thing. You said, ‘well, it’s...

Federal immigration agents reportedly detained multiple people in the Bay Area in Northern California, according to immigrant advocates, one day after the Oakland mayor announced imminent raids would take place.

Bay Area-based immigrant rights groups like Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN) said they had seen the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents “around movie theaters and taco trucks,” according to reporting from a NBC local affiliate.

One of the individuals reportedly taken into custody over the weekend included an immigrant father from Napa, who was detained Sunday morning in his backyard. Family members told a local immigrant advocacy group that federal agents arrived in six unmarked patrol cars.

The day before on Saturday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf sent a press release warning residents that ICE could conduct enforcement operations “starting as soon as within the next 24 hours” citing information from “multiple credible sources.”

“As Mayor of Oakland, I am sharing this information publicly not to panic our residents but to protect them,” Schaff wrote in her news release. She went on to provide information for “interested residents” to know more about their legal rights and options “in the event they face detention or know someone who needs legal representation.”

Schaaf noted that Oakland public schools have protocols that prohibit the city’s police officers to participate in ICE activities. She also said that California state law — in a policy that went into effect on January 1, 2018 — requires federal agents to have a judicial warrant or...

President Donald Trump longs for the power to put drug dealers to death, according to a report from Axios citing unnamed sources close to the president.

“According to five sources who’ve spoken with Trump about the subject, he often leaps into a passionate speech about how drug dealers are as bad as serial killers and should all get the death penalty,” the site reported Sunday night. Trump also frequently invokes the violent treatment of drug offenders in Singapore, China, and the Philippines, according to the report, and thinks the United States should emulate the approach.

Trump has fostered warm relations with Phillipines President Rodrigo Duterte despite — or perhaps because of — the latter man’s bloody campaign of street executions of both dealers and users of narcotics. Duterte’s soldiers and police have killed about 10,000 people in the past two years.

But while Trump reportedly acknowledges it would be all but impossible to get legal authority for mass executions of drug traffickers in the United States, other tidbits from the Axios report carry a whiff of plausibility. He believes “the government has got to teach children that they’ll die if they take drugs” and “tells confidants a softer approach to drug reform — the kind where you show sympathy to the offenders and give them more lenient sentences — will never work,” the site said.

After a year of back and forth between educators, scientists, and lawmakers, climate science might once again be part of the statewide curriculum for public schools in Idaho.

Last year, lawmakers in Idaho voted to approve new science standards for the statewide curriculum for the first time since 2001, with one glaring omission: they chose to delete all five paragraphs of the standard that referenced human-caused climate change.

This year, when lawmakers went to re-approve those standards, the issue of whether or not to include references to climate science set off a debate that pitted Republicans in the state legislature against teachers, students, and scientists.

In February, despite hours of public testimony overwhelmingly in favor of including climate science, the House Education Committee voted to adopt science standards without key references to climate change. This included all of the standard’s supporting content that was meant to help teachers convey a deeper understanding of the issue to their students.

The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it will not hear — at least for the time being — a case challenging the legality of Donald Trump’s decision to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program.

DACA is an Obama era initiative allowing hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to work and to remain in the country. The case in question is United States Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California.

The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to bypass the court of appeals and hear an appeal directly from a trial court decision reinstating DACA. Such requests to circumvent the intermediate appeals court — known as a “petition for writ of certiorari before judgment” — are almost never granted, and Monday’s order is no exception.

Nevertheless, it is also very uncommon for the Justice Department to make such a request of the Court. Monday’s order is an indication that there are limits to the Court’s willingness to bend its rules for the current administration.

In the long run, however, this legal challenge to DACA is unlikely to end well for the immigrants who benefit from the program.

During an interview with the Today show, White House staffer Ivanka Trump said she thinks each of the 14 women who have accused her father of sexual assault are lying.

But Ivanka — who sat down for an interview in Pyeongchang, where she was leading the U.S. delegation during the closing ceremony of the Olympics — didn’t say so directly.

Instead, Ivanka took umbrage at NBC reporter Peter Alexander’s straightforward question — “Do you believe your father’s accusers?” — and suggested it somehow violated her privacy as a daughter.

“I think it’s a pretty inappropriate question to ask a daughter, if she believes the accusers of the father when he’s affirmatively stated that there’s no truth to it,” Ivanka said. “I don’t think that’s a question you would ask many other daughters.”

Most “other daughters” don’t work for their father as a top political and policy adviser in the White House, however.

Ivanka went on to say that she believes her father when he says that all of his accusers are lying, because all daughters have the “right” to believe their dads.

“I believe my father, I know my father,” she said. “So, I think I have that right as a daughter to believe my father.”

Ivanka recently paid lip service to believing sexual misconduct accusers. Following Oprah’s rousing speech about sexual violence and women’s empowerment at the Golden Globes last month, Ivanka posted a tweet calling her comments “empowering and inspiring,” and used the #TimesUp hashtag, which is...