Review Category : Top Stories

Australia Looks for Lessons Following Sydney Siege

Jonathan Wood/Getty Images(SYDNEY) — Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced a joint review to identify lessons following a deadly siege inside a Sydney cafe.

The review, announced in a news conference, will involve the Australia Commonwealth and New South Wales governments. A full report is expected by the end of January.

“The review will examine and make recommendations about a wide range of issues including the circumstances surrounding hostage-taker Man Haron Monis’ arrival in Australia and subsequent granting of asylum and citizenship; what information agencies had about him and how it was shared; and whether relevant national security legislative powers could have been better used,” Abbott’s office said in a release. “We are determined to ensure that nothing stands in the way of ensuring the people who put their lives on the line to keep Australia safe can get their job done.”

Monis took control of the Lindt Chocolat Café in Sydney’s Martin Place business district, leading to a 16-hour standoff. Monis and two others — hostages identified as Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson — were killed during the siege.

While the location of the attack will remain closed, Lindt is preparing to re-open five other chocolate shops and cafes in Sydney Thursday, the company announced.

“All venues will have books of condolence for anyone who wishes to write a message,” the company wrote. “We thank you again for your ongoing support and hope to see you in store soon.”

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POLL: Obama and Immigration: What He Did vs. How He Did it

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(NEW YORK) — A slim majority of Americans support the immigration program created by Barack Obama’s executive action — but divisions on whether he exceeded his authority impede most of the political capital he might have gained.

Overall, 52 percent support Obama’s initiative, with 44 percent opposed. But 49 percent say he exceeded his authority, 51 percent say congressional inaction on the issue doesn’t justify his approach and the public also divides closely on whether or not Congress should try to block the program.

[See PDF with full results, charts and tables here.]

These sharp rifts in views of Obama’s method, combined with overall post-election advances for the GOP, are limiting the benefits the president may have hoped to glean. Fifty-five percent of Americans disapprove of his handling of the issue — down by 6 points since October, but still a majority. And more now trust Republicans in Congress over Obama to handle immigration issues, by 48-39 percent, reversing an 8-point Obama advantage a year and a half ago.

AUTHORITY –
Even among people who support Obama’s program, a third don’t approve of his handling of immigration generally, and as many don’t pick him over the Republicans to handle the issue. That’s particularly true of those who back his initiative, but only “somewhat.”

At least some of this reflects the view that Obama acted outside his authority. Even among people who favor his program, nearly one in four thinks he exceeded his authority in creating it. In that group, 62 percent disapprove of his handling of immigration overall, regardless of the initiative; and 53 percent better trust the GOP on this issue.

RACE – Not surprisingly, this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds there are very sharp racial and ethnic divisions on the issue. Obama’s executive action wins support from 72 percent of Hispanics, and an equal number of nonwhites overall, compared with 42 percent of whites.

Decidedly more Hispanics approve of the president’s handling of immigration now than in October, but that’s up from a low level — three in 10 then, 53 percent now. It was seven in 10 percent in May 2013, when congressional action on the issue seemed near.

Approval among whites, meanwhile, has held essentially even in the past six weeks, now just 26 percent, and also trails what it was a year and a half ago, by 11 points. Further, six in 10 whites think Obama went beyond his authority; as many say that congressional inaction is not a valid reason for him to have acted and that Congress should block the program.

Many fewer Hispanics feel the same — but that still means that even among Hispanics, three in 10 think that Obama overstepped his authority and that congressional gridlock was an insufficient rationale for acting. One in four Hispanics, moreover, feels that Congress should block the program from going forward. Views among nonwhites overall are similar.

Additionally, the number of Hispanics who trust the GOP over Obama to handle this issue has doubled, from 16 percent in May 2013 to 34 percent now, likely reflecting hesitation about the way immigration reform has been achieved. Whites’ preferences for the GOP over Obama also have grown — from a 45-36 percent split a year and a half ago to 59-27 percent now.

One takeaway is that even Hispanics are not monolithic in their attitudes on immigration. That should not be a surprise; while 46 percent of Hispanics are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, an additional 33 percent are Republicans, or lean that way.

GROUPS – There also are profound political and ideological differences in views of Obama’s immigration program. Eight in 10 Democrats and 73 percent of liberals support it, compared with a quarter of Republicans and a third of conservatives. Independents and moderates fall in between, with 51 and 58 percent supporting the initiative, respectively.

Eight in 10 Republicans think Obama exceeded his authority, while an equal number of Democrats think he did not; independents divide, 51-45 percent. Views of the president’s rationale for acting, and whether Congress should try to block the program, are similarly divided.

Further, approval of Obama’s handling of immigration issues has increased by 14 and 13 points since mid-October among independents and Democrats, respectively, while holding essentially steady among Republicans. But even with that gain Obama has just 34 percent approval on the issue from independents, and they prefer the GOP in trust to handle it, by 47-37 percent.

Among other groups, support for Obama’s executive action peaks at 64 percent among adults younger than 30, compared with 45 percent among seniors. And approval for Obama’s handling of immigration overall has increased disproportionately among young adults, from 27 percent six weeks ago to 46 percent now — better, but still less than half.

METHODOLOGY –
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Dec. 11-14, 2014, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,000 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including design effect.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York, N.Y.

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Barack the Deejay: Obamas Reveal Intimate White House Dance Party

Taylor Hill/WireImage(WASHINGTON) — It’s played host to royalty, presidential family Christmases, and first lady summits. At one time it served as FDR’s personal study. Now, President Obama says the Yellow Oval Room in the upstairs residence of the White House has also served as his personal dance floor.

In an interview with People magazine for release Friday, Obama reveals that he, the first lady and close friends spent a recent Friday evening grooving to soul tunes in the privacy of their official Washington home.

“Friday night. In the Yellow Oval. We had some guests over. It was a small group,” Obama told the magazine when asked about the last time he danced.

“Somebody wanted to dance. And Barack was the deejay,” Mrs. Obama explained.

Obama said his playlist included selections from rock legends.

“We started with Aretha’s ‘Rock Steady.’ Sly and the Family Stone,” he said. “Then we ended the night on Al Green, and everybody did a slow dance.”

The Obamas are known to love music and dancing, and have been seen singing and dancing in the front row of a regular performance series they host at the White House.

The president most recently showcased his dancing abilities on stage with Santa at the National Christmas Tree lighting. Earlier this year, Mrs. Obama released a Vine video of herself dancing with a turnip.

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Bo Pelini Takes Over at Youngstown State

Football Texture/iStockphoto(NEW YORK) — Former Nebraska head football coach Bo Pelini is taking the same job at Youngstown State.

Youngstown State University president James P. Tressel and executive director of intercollegiate athletics Ron Strollo made the announcement Tuesday.

Pelini, who was fired from Nebraska after serving as their head coach for seven years, went to high school in Youngstown, Ohio.

“It is with great passion and enthusiasm that I become the head football coach at Youngstown State University.” Pelini said in a statement. “This is an exciting time for my family and me as we return to the Mahoning Valley. Mary Pat and our children are anxious to get involved in the Youngstown State and local communities. I am looking forward to getting to know a tremendous group of football student-athletes who are currently part of the program. YSU football has a rich championship tradition and a standard of excellence which our staff and players will work to uphold both on and off of the field.”

Pelini takes over for Eric Wolford, who was fired after going 31-26 over the last five years.

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Kerry Offers Condolences, Denounces Attacks in Pakistan, Australia

EITAN ABRAMOVICH/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — On the heels of the school attack in Pakistan that left 141 people dead, Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the “horrific violence” represented both by that attack and the previous day’s hostage situation in Sydney, Australia.

“We know in a very personal way what our ally, Australia, is going through at this very moment,” Kerry said on Tuesday from London. “And we grieve with Australia, with the families of all those terrorized, injured and killed.”

In that attack, Man Haron Monis held 17 people hostage at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney. Twelve of the hostages escaped prior to police storming the cafe. When the scene was finally cleared, Monis and two hostages — Katrina Dawson, 38, and Tori Johnson, 34 — were dead.

On Tuesday, Taliban attackers opened fire at a military-run school in northwestern Pakistan, killing 132 children and nine staff members. Kerry called that attack “devastating,” noting that “this act of terror angers and shakes all people of conscience, and we condemn it in the strongest terms possible.”

State Department spokesperson Marie Harf tweeted Tuesday that Kerry spoke with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to express condolences about the attack and to reaffirm support for Pakistan.

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Kerry Offers Condolences, Denounces Attacks in Pakistan, Australia

EITAN ABRAMOVICH/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — On the heels of the school attack in Pakistan that left 141 people dead, Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the “horrific violence” represented both by that attack and the previous day’s hostage situation in Sydney, Australia.

“We know in a very personal way what our ally, Australia, is going through at this very moment,” Kerry said on Tuesday from London. “And we grieve with Australia, with the families of all those terrorized, injured and killed.”

In that attack, Man Haron Monis held 17 people hostage at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney. Twelve of the hostages escaped prior to police storming the cafe. When the scene was finally cleared, Monis and two hostages — Katrina Dawson, 38, and Tori Johnson, 34 — were dead.

On Tuesday, Taliban attackers opened fire at a military-run school in northwestern Pakistan, killing 132 children and nine staff members. Kerry called that attack “devastating,” noting that “this act of terror angers and shakes all people of conscience, and we condemn it in the strongest terms possible.”

State Department spokesperson Marie Harf tweeted Tuesday that Kerry spoke with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to express condolences about the attack and to reaffirm support for Pakistan.

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Obama Signs $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill into Law

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama signed the $1.1 trillion spending bill, known as the “Cromnibus,” into law on Tuesday night.

The bill, passed by both the House and Senate last week, would fund the government through September 2015, with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security. DHS is funded through late February.

Senators on both sides of the aisle saw problems with the bill, but the majority passed it in order to keep the government funded and avoid a shutdown situation similar to 2013.

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Obama Signs $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill into Law

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama signed the $1.1 trillion spending bill, known as the “Cromnibus,” into law on Tuesday night.

The bill, passed by both the House and Senate last week, would fund the government through September 2015, with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security. DHS is funded through late February.

Senators on both sides of the aisle saw problems with the bill, but the majority passed it in order to keep the government funded and avoid a shutdown situation similar to 2013.

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Obama Signs $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill into Law

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama signed the $1.1 trillion spending bill, known as the “Cromnibus,” into law on Tuesday night.

The bill, passed by both the House and Senate last week, would fund the government through September 2015, with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security. DHS is funded through late February.

Senators on both sides of the aisle saw problems with the bill, but the majority passed it in order to keep the government funded and avoid a shutdown situation similar to 2013.

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Senate Extends Tax Breaks Through End of Year

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — The Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that offers 55 temporary tax breaks for businesses and individuals, which had expired last year.

The so-called tax extenders bill enacts those tax breaks retroactively to January 1, 2014, and extends through the end of December. A larger debate about those tax breaks will likely be in store in 2015.

The Senate has been active Tuesday, confirming a pair of appointments in addition to approving the tax extenders bill. With Republicans set to take control of Congress in January, Democrats in the Senate hope to confirm 18 more nominees and pass the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act before the end of the year.

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