Review Category : Poltics

Senate to Hold Keystone XL Vote

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Senate will vote Tuesday evening on the Keystone XL pipeline. There will be only one referendum on final passage, which requires 60 votes.

As of Monday’s whip count, supporters only had 59 votes, but Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., insists she has 60 — maybe even more.

Monday night, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., the lead Republican co-sponsor of the Keystone pipeline bill, was a bit more cautious, saying there are a few maybes they hope to switch to “yes.”

Two senators to keep an eye on will be Angus King of Maine and Chris Coons of Delaware, who told ABC he currently thinks it should be the president’s decision, but he is listening to the arguments of members of his caucus and his home state.

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President Obama Orders Full Review of Hostage Negotiation Policy

White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama has ordered a comprehensive review of policy dictating how the U.S. government tries to secure the freedom of Americans held hostage by terrorists abroad, a senior Pentagon official revealed in a recent letter to a member of Congress.

“As a result of the increased frequency of hostage-taking of Americans overseas, and the recognition of the dynamic threat posed by specific terrorist groups, the President recently directed a comprehensive review of the U.S. Government policy on overseas terrorist-related hostage cases, with specific emphasis on examining family engagement, intelligence collection, and diplomatic engagement policies,” Christine Wormuth, the undersecretary of defense for policy, wrote in a Nov. 11 letter to Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., obtained by ABC News Monday.

Wormuth, the No. 3-ranked civilian at the Pentagon, writes that the review will seek “to integrate innovative and non-traditional solutions” that the administration hopes will improve inter-agency coordination and “strengthen the whole-of-government approach” led by the FBI and State Department during hostage negotiations.

The letter does not explicitly address whether ransom payments will be part of the assessment. The U.S. has a strict policy against paying ransoms to terrorist organizations, though many other countries permit direct payment.

In a speech Monday defending the U.S. war against the Islamic State, Secretary of State John Kerry warned that paying ransoms could endanger more Americans.

“And as for kidnapping, the United States has set a heart-rending but absolutely necessary example by refusing to pay ransom for captured Americans. Last year the U.N. Security Council and the G8 firmly endorsed an identical policy, and all of the evidence shows that where and if a country is paid a ransom, there are many more people who are taken hostage,” Kerry said.

Hunter wrote the president on Aug. 20, a day after American journalist James Foley was reported murdered by the Islamic State, urging Obama “to guarantee we are maximizing our recovery efforts.”

Since Hunter sent the letter, at least two more Americans have been murdered by the Islamic State, including Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig, whose death was reported over the weekend. Kassig had adopted the name Abdul-Rahman after he converted to Islam in captivity. At least one more American is believed to be currently held by the Islamic State.

National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the White House has no comment at this time.

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FBI Warns Ferguson Decision ‘Will Likely’ Lead to Violence by Extremist Protesters

Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — As the nation waits to hear whether a Missouri police officer will face charges for killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the FBI is warning law enforcement agencies across the country that the decision “will likely” lead some extremist protesters to threaten and even attack police officers or federal agents.

Peaceful protesters could be caught in the middle, and electrical facilities or water treatment plants could also become targets. In addition, so-called “hacktivists” like the group “Anonymous” could try to launch cyber-attacks against authorities.

“The announcement of the grand jury’s decision…will likely be exploited by some individuals to justify threats and attacks against law enforcement and critical infrastructure,” the FBI says in an intelligence bulletin issued in recent days. “This also poses a threat to those civilians engaged in lawful or otherwise constitutionally protected activities.”

The FBI bulletin expresses concern only over those who would exploit peaceful protests, not the masses of demonstrators who will want to legitimately, lawfully and collectively express their views on the grand jury’s decision.

The bulletin “stresses the importance of remaining aware of the protections afforded to all U.S. persons exercising their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.”

Within hours of the FBI issuing its bulletin, some police departments across the country issued their own internal memos urging officers to review procedures and protocols for responding to mass demonstrations.

Still, the bulletin’s conclusions were blunt: “The FBI assesses those infiltrating and exploiting otherwise legitimate public demonstrations with the intent to incite and engage in violence could be armed with bladed weapons or firearms, equipped with tactical gear/gas masks, or bulletproof vests to mitigate law enforcement measures.”

The bulletin cites a series of recent messages threatening law enforcement, including a message posted online last week by a black separatist group that offered “a $5,000 bounty for the location” of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who fired the shots that killed Brown on Aug. 9.

In interviews with ABC News, police officials said their departments have identified a number of agitators who routinely appear at mass demonstrations.

“How many of those sympathizers are actually sympathizers?” Rick Hite, the chief of the Indianapolis Metropolitan police department, wondered. Many of them see the protests as a way to “chime in with their own personal agenda,” he said.

In its new intelligence bulletin, obtained by ABC News, the FBI says “exploitation” of mass demonstrations “could occur both in the Ferguson area and nationwide.”

Overall, though, law enforcement officials contacted by ABC News – stretching from Los Angeles to the Atlanta area – remained confident that any protests in their cities would not be tainted by violence.

“We are not expecting any issues in our city,” said Billy Grogan, the chief of police in Dunwoody, Ga., outside Atlanta. “However, we are preparing just in case. I believe most departments are watching the situation closely and are prepared to respond if needed.”

A law enforcement official in Pennsylvania agreed, saying that while authorities there are not enacting any significant new measures, they are “monitoring” developments out of Ferguson.

In addition, police officials emphasized that efforts to address a big decision like the one pending in Ferguson actually begin well before that decision.

In Indianapolis, police have held two town-hall meetings in the past two months to discuss the Ferguson issue with concerned residents, and meetings like that help build a “bank of trust,” Hite said.

But it’s sometimes hard to build such trust between a community and the law enforcement officers working its streets.

With several recent cases involving allegations of excessive force by police officers, many in African-American communities can’t help but wonder why seemingly routine encounters escalate so dramatically.

In a recent interview with ABC News, Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey said people in “communities of color” often “don’t view us as people who really have the right to enforce laws or tell them what to do,” and sometimes it’s because of “the way they’ve seen us conduct ourselves in the past.”

“Not all cops, but all it takes it one,” Ramsey said. “As human beings, we tend to remember the one bad incident, not the 10 good ones that we may have experienced.”

On the other side of the spectrum, there are some uncomfortable facts that may be influencing how some police respond to African-Americans they encounter on routine patrols.

In particular, African-Americans are disproportionally represented in crime. According to the FBI, 4,379 blacks were arrested for murder last year, while 3,799 whites were arrested for murder – even though census numbers show there are six times more whites than blacks in the United States.

But as Ramsey said, crime statistics are no excuse for police bias.

And now a grand jury in Ferguson and federal prosecutors are separately looking into whether that type of bias led to Brown’s death.

It’s unclear whether the facts of the case will lead to any prosecution. Indeed, it seems few pieces of evidence are without dispute.

The day after the encounter that resulted in Brown’s death, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters that Brown “physically assaulted” Wilson inside his police car and that “there was a struggle over the officer’s weapon.” At least one shot was fired inside the car, but the fatal shot was fired when both Wilson and Brown were outside the car, according to Belmar. At least one witness said Brown was shot “with his arms up in the air,” while the police claim Wilson fired because Brown was advancing towards him.

Pressed in September to acknowledge that the Justice Department’s own civil rights investigation may not result in charges, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder would only say that “at the end of the day, it’s most important that we get it right.”

As for what’s ahead in Ferguson and communities across the country, Ramsey offered this piece of advice: “Protest. But protest peacefully. Have your voices be heard.”

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Iran Nuclear Deal ‘Difficult but Possible’

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A senior administration official said on Monday that while an agreement in the Iran nuclear talks is “difficult but possible,” it remains unclear whether a deal will be accomplished by next week’s deadline.

Talks are scheduled in Vienna this week, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry making the trip. Despite the concern that a deal may not come easily, the official said on a Monday conference call that an “extension is not and has not been a subject of negotiations at this point.”

“I think we will not know how far we’re going to get and whether we can get to a comprehensive agreement, a joint comprehensive plan of action, until we get to the 24th of November,” the official added.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed deep concerns about Iran’s nuclear capabilities. The official, however, said that any deal President Obama signs off on will be “a good one.” He added that the president will act in the interests of the U.S., Israel, and partners around the world.

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Kerry: US Not Intimidated by ISIS

State Dept Photo(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at a foreign policy forum on Monday, speaking to the reasons behind the United States’ decision to confront the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and the examples of progress seen in the fight thus far.

“We are confronting [ISIS] not because it’s easy, but because it’s necessary,” Kerry said. “[ISIS’] leaders assume that the world would be too intimidated to oppose them,” Kerry added, noting that the group is “very, very wrong.”

Referring to ISIS as “morally and intellectually bankrupt,” he said that as the U.S.-led coalition continues to deprive the group of finances, they will also be “just plain bankrupt.”

ISIS itself has helped the U.S. government build its coalition of nations. “[ISIS] is a coalition multiplier,” Kerry said, “governments that can’t agree on almost anything else agree on the imperative of confronting and defeating these terrorists.”

He also noted the death of American aid worker Peter Kassig on Sunday. He called the American policy to refuse to pay ransom difficult “but absolutely necessary,” noting that paying ransoms would likely lead to more kidnappings.

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Obama ‘Would Order’ US Troops into Combat If ISIS Got Nuclear Weapon

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Obama has been unwavering and definitive in declaring he will not deploy U.S. ground troops into combat to fight ISIS militants. But for the first time since the start of the anti-ISIS offensive dubbed Operation Inherent Resolve, the president volunteered a scenario which he said would change his mind.

“If we discovered that [ISIS] had gotten possession of a nuclear weapon, and we had to run an operation to get it out of their hands, then, yes,” the president told reporters at a news conference in Brisbane, Australia, on Sunday. “I would order it.”

There is no indication that ISIS currently possesses or could easily obtain a nuclear weapon, officials say.

Still, Obama’s declaration of a potential nuclear weapon in the hands of ISIS is a noteworthy new “red line” – and a very high bar for a U.S. offensive role on the ground.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs and Obama’s top military adviser, has consistently kept the door open to deployment of U.S. ground troops in combat situations ever since anti-ISIS military operations began, but has yet to formally recommend it.

Last week, Dempsey testified on Capitol Hill that the Pentagon is “certainly considering” whether to embed U.S. military advisers with Iraqi combat units deployed to the front lines. Obama has also maintained openness to the idea, but already rejected one recommendation to do so.

“Yes, there are circumstances in which [Dempsey] could envision the deployment of U.S. troops. That’s true everywhere, by the way,” Obama said Sunday. “That’s his job, is to think about various contingencies. And, yes, there are always circumstances in which the United States might need to deploy U.S. ground troops.”

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Government Pension Agency Reports Large Deficit

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation released its annual report on Monday, showing that the nation’s pension system is running a higher deficit than the year before.

According to the report, the PBGC’s deficit hit $62 billion in the 2014 fiscal year. This increase, the PBGC says, is consistent with estimates from the fiscal year 2013 projections.

The deficit for the government’s single-employer program dropped to $19.3 billion — down from $27.4 billion in 2013, while the multi-employer program saw its deficit jump from $8.3 billion in 2013 to $42.4 billion in 2014.

The large jump is attributed to “the fact that several additional large multi-employer plans are expected to become insolvent within the next decade.”

In all, about 41 million workers are covered by the two programs.

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Positive Conversation About Sen. Ted Cruz Drops Sharply on Facebook After Net Neutrality Comments

US Senate(WASHINGTON) — The percentage of conversation about Sen. Ted Cruz that was positive on Facebook fell after the Texas Republican criticized President Obama for his support of net neutrality.

Positive interactions related to Cruz on Facebook dropped from 52 percent over the period of Oct. 29 to Nov. 4 to 34 percent from Nov. 5 to Nov. 11, following the firebrand Texas senator’s reaction to Obama’s embrace of net neutrality, according to data supplied by Facebook.

The percentage of negative interactions for the first week examined was 44 percent, with 4 percent of the interactions being neutral. For the later time period, the percentage of negative interactions was 61 percent, with 5 percent of the interactions being neutral.

Facebook — which supplied the data about the interactions to ABC News as part of a partnership — defines interactions as “posts, comments, likes and shares” on the social network.

On Monday, a message shared on Cruz’s Faceboook page read, in part, the “biggest regulatory threat to the Internet is ‘net neutrality.’ In short, net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet.”

A large spike of conversation related to Cruz — a possible 2016 contender for president — occurred from Nov. 10 through Nov. 12. The positive interactions for the senator on those dates was just 26 percent.

The president released a video earlier that day explaining why he was in support of net neutrality.

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Positive Conversation About Sen. Ted Cruz Drops Sharply on Facebook After Net Neutrality Comments

US Senate(WASHINGTON) — The percentage of conversation about Sen. Ted Cruz that was positive on Facebook fell after the Texas Republican criticized President Obama for his support of net neutrality.

Positive interactions related to Cruz on Facebook dropped from 52 percent over the period of Oct. 29 to Nov. 4 to 34 percent from Nov. 5 to Nov. 11, following the firebrand Texas senator’s reaction to Obama’s embrace of net neutrality, according to data supplied by Facebook.

The percentage of negative interactions for the first week examined was 44 percent, with 4 percent of the interactions being neutral. For the later time period, the percentage of negative interactions was 61 percent, with 5 percent of the interactions being neutral.

Facebook — which supplied the data about the interactions to ABC News as part of a partnership — defines interactions as “posts, comments, likes and shares” on the social network.

On Monday, a message shared on Cruz’s Faceboook page read, in part, the “biggest regulatory threat to the Internet is ‘net neutrality.’ In short, net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet.”

A large spike of conversation related to Cruz — a possible 2016 contender for president — occurred from Nov. 10 through Nov. 12. The positive interactions for the senator on those dates was just 26 percent.

The president released a video earlier that day explaining why he was in support of net neutrality.

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Positive Conversation About Sen. Ted Cruz Drops Sharply on Facebook After Net Neutrality Comments

US Senate(WASHINGTON) — The percentage of conversation about Sen. Ted Cruz that was positive on Facebook fell after the Texas Republican criticized President Obama for his support of net neutrality.

Positive interactions related to Cruz on Facebook dropped from 52 percent over the period of Oct. 29 to Nov. 4 to 34 percent from Nov. 5 to Nov. 11, following the firebrand Texas senator’s reaction to Obama’s embrace of net neutrality, according to data supplied by Facebook.

The percentage of negative interactions for the first week examined was 44 percent, with 4 percent of the interactions being neutral. For the later time period, the percentage of negative interactions was 61 percent, with 5 percent of the interactions being neutral.

Facebook — which supplied the data about the interactions to ABC News as part of a partnership — defines interactions as “posts, comments, likes and shares” on the social network.

On Monday, a message shared on Cruz’s Faceboook page read, in part, the “biggest regulatory threat to the Internet is ‘net neutrality.’ In short, net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet.”

A large spike of conversation related to Cruz — a possible 2016 contender for president — occurred from Nov. 10 through Nov. 12. The positive interactions for the senator on those dates was just 26 percent.

The president released a video earlier that day explaining why he was in support of net neutrality.

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Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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