N.Y. Gov. Cuomo calls for legalizing recreational marijuana

NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday called for legalizing recreational marijuana as part of a 2019 legislative agenda that reflected a more leftward course now that Democrats control every lever of New York state government.

In an address to the New York City Bar Association, Cuomo completed a 180-degree turn on pot. A former opponent of not only recreational marijuana but also medical marijuana, the governor said: “Let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all.”

Cuomo, re-elected to a third term in November, called for more than a dozen major policy initiatives — all of which were long championed by Democrats in the State Legislature but blocked by a Republican-controlled State Senate. Democrats won a commanding Senate majority in this year’s elections.

Some of the initiatives include: Banning gun “bump stocks,” easing voter registration and making Election Day a state holiday, outlawing corporate campaign contributions, ending cash bail and enacting “congestion pricing” for vehicles traveling in parts of Manhattan. Cuomo also called for reorganizing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but didn’t give specifics.

The governor called for ending “vacancy decontrol,” the process whereby primarily New York City apartments can be removed from rent-control oversight when tenants move out.

The legislative session is set to begin Jan. 9.

— Newsday

13 middle school students hospitalized after school bus flips in North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Thirteen middle school students were taken to hospitals after a school bus flipped on its side at 7:30 a.m. Monday in Alexander County, reported the Alexander County Schools in a Facebook post.

There were 19 students on the bus at the time of the crash, which happened about 60 miles northwest of Charlotte. A second vehicle was involved, but school officials did not explain how the accident occurred.

WSOC reporter Dave Faherty tweeted that the two vehicles may have sideswiped each other before the crash.

The crash happened in the Bethlehem area, near the intersection of Icard Ridge Road and Bulldog Lane, said the school district.

The bus was headed to West Alexander Middle School when it crashed, said the school district’s Facebook post.

— Charlotte Observer

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith sworn in for second time this year

WASHINGTON — Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., was sworn into office for the second time in 2018, the result of having won a special election runoff for the seat she had been appointed to earlier this year.

On Monday afternoon, as the Senate started its workweek, Senate President Pro Tempore Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, administered the oath of office to Hyde-Smith. In March, Mississippi Republican Gov. Phil Bryant appointed her to replace Republican Thad Cochran, who resigned. She took the oath of office on April 9 and immediately went about the business of running in November’s special election to fill out the remainder of Cochran’s term.

That election was marred by comments she made that dredged up Mississippi’s history of lynchings, voter suppression and Confederate heritage. Chief among them was a video that showed her telling a supporter that she would “be on the front row” of a public hanging if he invited her.

She and former Democratic Rep. Mike Espy advanced to the special election runoff when no candidate garnered majority support. She then defeated Espy on Nov. 27 in the runoff, becoming the first woman from Mississippi to be elected to Congress.

And if Hyde-Smith wants to be sworn in a third time, she’s only got a little bit of time to prepare for a run for a full term. The election for that is in 2020.

— CQ-Roll Call

U.S. airstrikes in Somalia kill 62 al-Shabaab militants

JOHANNESBURG — Sixty-two al-Shabaab militants were killed in airstrikes carried out by the U.S. in Somalia on the weekend, the latest in a series of strikes the U.S. has carried out in the East African nation as part of its counterterrorism efforts.

The six strikes on Saturday and Sunday hit near Gandarshe, a town south-west of the capital Mogadishu. They targeted a known al-Shabaab encampment and were coordinated with the Somali government, the US said in a statement on Monday.

“Alongside our Somali and international partners, we are committed to preventing al-Shabaab from taking advantage of safe havens from which they can build capacity and attack the people of Somalia,” the statement read.

Al-Shabaab aims to establish a fundamentalist Islamist state in Somalia and routinely launches attacks on government buildings, hotels and restaurants.

— dpa