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Tom Kludt

Tom Kludt is a reporter for Talking Points Memo based in New York City, covering media and national affairs. Originally from South Dakota, Tom joined TPM as an intern in late-2011 and became a staff member during the 2012 election. He can be reached at tom@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Tom

Americans are almost evenly split on the likelihood of President Obama and Congressional leaders to strike a deal before Jan. 1 to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, according to data gathered in Gallup's daily tracking poll released on Wednesday.

Fifty percent of Americans believe it is "very" or "somewhat" likely that leaders will reach a solution that avoids the punitive measures associated with the year-end deadline, which include a raft of tax hikes and spending cuts, while 48 percent believe it is "not too likely" or "not at all likely." 

But according to Gallup, Americans' optimism on fiscal cliff negotiations has declined throughout the month of December. For example, 58 percent of Americans at the beginning of the month said that a deal was likely, compared with 39 percent who said it was unlikely.

 

A deadly storm system led to tornadoes in the southern United States and wintry conditions throughout the middle part of the country on Tuesday, leaving three people dead. The storm on Wednesday was making its way from the country's midsection toward the East Coast, bringing the risk of major delays to holiday travelers. 

From NBC News:

Snow was expected across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, with northern Ohio, northern Pennsylvania and southern New York set to bear the brunt, according to Weather Channel meteorologist Guy Walton.

Further south, driving rain and thunderstorms were expected throughout the southeast Atlantic, with the tornado threat highest in the eastern Carolinas, according to the national Storm Prediction Center.

Yet more snow is forecast for Thursday in the Northeast to the west and north of the I-95 corridor Thursday into northern New England, with upwards of one foot possible.

The storm claimed three lives on Tuesday: Wind-toppled trees killed a pickup truck driver near Houston, Texas, and a 53-year-old man in north Louisiana, while NBC affiliate KJRH reported that a 28-year-old woman was killed in a crash on a snowy highway near Fairview, Oklahoma.

An estimated 34 tornadoes battered southern states – a record number for Christmas Day, according to the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore. Some were captured on dramatic home videos.

 

(AP Photo/AL.com, Mike Kittrell) 

The sister of the 62-year-old ex-convict at the center of the murder of two firefighters early Monday in Webster, N.Y. remains unnacounted for, the Associated Press reports

William Spengler, who spent more than 17 years in prison for the 1980 murder of his 92-year-old grandmother, allegedly set fire to a car and a house in the Rochester, N.Y. suburb and then opened fire on the first responders. Two firefighters were killed on the scene and two more were hospitalized for wounds sustained by the gunshots. Spengler was found dead at the scene, the result of an apparent suicide. 

The fire engulfed seven houses, including the one Spengler shared with his 67-year-old sister, Cheryl Spengler. 

From the A.P.'s report:

Seven houses were destroyed in the blaze, Pickering said, and police have not been able to get inside the houses to determine if there are any more victims. They said Spengler's 67-year-old sister Cheryl Spengler was unaccounted for. He lived in the house with his sister and mother, Arline, who died in October.

The West Webster Fire District learned of the fire early Monday after a report of a car and house on fire on Lake Road, on a narrow peninsula where Irondequoit Bay meets Lake Ontario, Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn said.

The fire appeared from a distance as a pulsating ball of flame glowing against the early morning sky, flames licking into treetops and reflecting on the water, with huge bursts of smoke billowing away in a brisk wind.

 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Monday released a statement after two firefighters in Webster, N.Y. were killed by a gunman in an apparent ambush at the scene of a house fire. Two other firefighters were shot and are being treated for injuries. The suspected gunman, identified by local police as 62-year-old William Spengler, was found dead at the scene.

The statement:

“State Police and our State Office of Emergency Management are working in conjunction with local law enforcement to respond to the scene of the horrific shooting that occurred early this morning in Webster as firefighters and police responded to a car fire.

“All of our thoughts and prayers go to the families and friends of those who were killed in this senseless act of violence.

“New York's first responders are true heroes as they time and again selflessly rush toward danger in order to keep our families and communities safe. Volunteer firefighters and police officers were injured and two were taken from us as they once again answered the call of duty. We as the community of New York mourn their loss as now two more families must spend the holidays without their loved ones.

 “On behalf of my family and all New Yorkers, I offer my deepest condolences to the families and friends of those killed today and pray for the recovery of the injured.”

 

 

The following audio, courtesy of the website PhillyFireNews.com, captures the exchange between an emergency dispatcher and a firefighter who was shot during Monday morning's shooting at the scene of a house fire in Webster, N.Y.

Two firefighters were killed and two others were wounded after the gunman ambushed the responders upon their arrival on the scene. The gunman was later found dead. 

Listen:

 

The Associated Press reports:

A U.S. drone airstrike killed two al-Qaida militants Monday in a southern town, Yemeni security officials said, the latest in a years long U.S. offensive against the branch the U.S. considers the violent extremists' most dangerous.

One of the dead was a midlevel al-Qaida Yemeni operative who escaped a U.S. drone attack 10 years ago, the officials said. The other was said to be a Jordanian.

They said the airstrike on Radda in Bayda province also critically injured three militants.

 

Mitt Romney was set to place a concession call to President Barack Obama on Election Night, but Karl Rove's now-viral on-air meltdown caused the former Republican presidential nominee to hesitate, the Boston Globe reported on Saturday:

As Romney’s campaign plane landed at Logan International Airport at around 6 p.m. on Election Day, he turned on his iPad and opened the Drudge Report. “Uh oh,” someone said upon seeing reports of early exit polls. But Romney still had hope.

Arriving at his suite in the Westin Boston Waterfront ­hotel, Romney received regular updates from his staff. He made small talk about the Patriots and the Celtics and played with his grandchildren. He was about to concede around 11:15 p.m when Republican strategist Karl Rove made his now-infamous appearance on Fox News Channel, insisting that his own network was wrong in calling Ohio for the president.

The concession call was canceled, followed by an hour of uncertainty. Then, after Fox ­executives dismissed Rove’s concerns and stood by the network’s projection, Romney said: Call the president.

After reports surfaced Sautrday suggesting that he may run for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts if Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is confirmed as Secretary of State, Ted Kennedy Jr. will reportedly take a pass on a bid in the special election, a source told the Boston Globe:

Kennedy decided against a run for three reasons, the source said. He does not want to uproot his family; he doesn’t feel right about moving from Connecticut to Massachusetts to run; and officials in Connecticut have urged him to stay there and run there eventually.

The person familiar with his decision said that the 51-year-old Kennedy was in no way ruling out a future run for public office. In fact, he hopes to run for office in Connecticut someday, the source said.

Kennedy, president of a financial firm and a leading advocate for disability rights, is the son of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the liberal lion of the Senate who served for more than four decades before dying in 2009.

(Photo: SJD/ZOJ WENN Photos/Newscom)

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