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With Cuba decision, Obama hands Hillary Clinton a gift

By Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton knows a political gift when she sees one. She was quick to embrace the step this week when President Barack Obama, a fellow Democrat no longer having to face an electorate, relaxed U.S. policy toward Cuba. While assailed by Republicans opposed to restoring ties with the communist-led island,

U.S. Republicans look for ways to block normal ties with Cuba

By Roberta Rampton and Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in Congress searched on Thursday for a strategy to sink or at least slow President Barack Obama's plan to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba, drawing a shrug from the White House. They floated ideas to fight the Democrat Obama's moves to forge ties and expand commercial ties with the communist-led island after half a cen

Washington governor pushes capital gains tax in face of budget gap

By Eric M. Johnson SEATTLE (Reuters) - Washington state Governor Jay Inslee on Thursday proposed a new tax on capital gains to try to close a projected budget shortfall of more than $2 billion, rolling back on a no-new-taxes campaign pledge. The proposal, which Inslee said would provide much-needed funds for schools and other programs, is included in a $39 billion 2015-2017 budget he unveiled in

Louisville lawmakers approve minimum wage hike

By Steve Bittenbender LOUISVILLE, Ky (Reuters) - Louisville, Kentucky officials on Thursday approved an increase to the city's minimum wage, boosting it from the federal rate of $7.25 to $9 an hour by 2017, becoming the 12th city to approve a hike this year. The increase, which came after a series of contentious debates in the weeks leading up to and even during Thursday's Louisville Metro Council

Secret Service report: White House needs a taller fence and more, better-trained agents

After a prostitution scandal and consternation over how a fence-jumper at the White House got deep into the presidential mansion before he was stopped, the Secret Service needs to make sweeping changes like building a taller fence, hiring many more agents and stepping up their training, an independent commission says.

Hello, Columbus

The site a party chooses for its convention can say something about the kind of country it wants to build. And when Democrats select where they expect to host Hillary Clinton’s coronation in 2016, they should go to Columbus, Ohio, to show what American cities might yet become. In terms of jobs, urban renewal and a great location at the center of an urbanized state, Columbus has much to recommend

U.S. Cuba Timeline

President Obama announced that the United States will start to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba as American Alan Gross is returned to the US after five years as a Cuban prisoner.

The Cuban spy at the center of the Obama-Castro deal

On Wednesday, the ringleader of La Red Avispa — a group of Cuban undercover agents who sneaked into South Florida in the 1990s and were arrested by the FBI for spying for Fidel Castro’s government — and two of his associates were released from U.S. prisons and returned home as national heroes. The release is part of a deal between Cuba and the U.S. that is already provoking a storm of controversy.

After Alan Gross release, Obama seeks to resume full diplomatic ties with Cuba

In a move to wipe away one of the last vestiges of the Cold War, President Barack Obama launches negotiations with Cuba on resuming diplomatic ties five decades after they broke off. Obama's decision comes after Cuba freed US aid contractor Alan Gross.

Here's What Happened the Last Time a US President Visited Cuba

When President Obama told ABC News on Wednesday that he has not ruled out visiting Cuba in the future, it opened the doors for the first presidential visit to the island nation since 1928.The last and only American president to visit Cuba while in office was Calvin Coolidge, who traveled there in January 1928. (Former President Jimmy Carter visited in March 2011.)Cuba: How New Relationship Will

Obama: Jeb Bush Has 'Every Right' to Run for President in 2016

President Obama says he “loves” the Bush family personally and that former Florida governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush has “every right” to run in 2016.But he made sure to praise his former secretary of state as well, adding that Hillary Clinton would make an “excellent president.”“The Bush family, I love personally,” Obama told ABC “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir i

Cuban Embassy Easy to Set Up, Cigars Harder

So what does the United States have to do in order to officially establish an embassy somewhere?Not much more than change the sign on the door, even in Cuba.There are few legal requirements for a U.S. mission or other diplomatic building to become an embassy. Countries just have to exchange letters or notes saying they want to establish ties (the diplomatic equivalent of a Facebook friend reques

Protection sought for scenic California region

WASHINGTON (AP) — A contingent of California environmental groups, business representatives and politicians will use a visit Friday from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to push for permanent protection of some 350,000 acres of picturesque federal land near the state's famous wine country.

Sheriff to cede immigration-enforcement foothold

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona sheriff known for crackdowns on people living in the country illegally is giving up his last major foothold in immigration enforcement efforts that won him popularity among voters but gradually were reined in by Washington and the courts.

2 states challenge Colorado marijuana legalization

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska and Oklahoma on Thursday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to declare Colorado's legalization of marijuana unconstitutional, saying the drug is being brought from Colorado into the neighboring states.

US announces protections for transgender workers

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is now interpreting federal law to explicitly prohibit workplace discrimination against transgender people, according to a memo released Thursday by Attorney General Eric Holder.

EU leaders agree to fund for jumpstarting growth

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union leaders agreed Thursday to create a strategic investment fund that could generate up to 315 billion euros ($386 billion) in private- and public-sector money to upgrade infrastructure, jumpstart the EU's sluggish economies and ignite job growth.

FEC gets modest budget boost

The election watchdog's 2015 funding level reverses years of cuts.

Urban League parrots telecom donors' net-neutrality stance

Civil rights group calls for lighter Internet regulation that would benefit telecommunications donors.

Sex, drugs and political money

Center reporter Dave Levinthal goes one-on-one with the Democrats' former finance chief on C-SPAN2 show.

Leaked CIA document reveals setbacks of targeted killings

The US government's program to capture and kill insurgent leaders can backfire, a leaked CIA report said Thursday, citing "limited" results in Afghanistan in particular. The 18-page report was made under former CIA director Leon Panetta just months before President Barack Obama ordered a "surge" of troops in a bid to reverse the Taliban insurgency, defeat Al-Qaeda and quicken an end to the war i

Iraqi Kurds say Mount Sinjar siege broken

Nahyat al-Ayadhiya (Iraq) (AFP) - Iraqi Kurds claimed Thursday to have broken a siege on a mountain where Yazidi civilians and fighters have long been trapped as the US said air strikes killed several Islamic State leaders in recent weeks. The Kurdish advances came during a two-day blitz into the Sinjar region invol ing 8,000 peshmerga fighters and some of the heaviest air strikes since a US-led

US calls movie studio hack a national security breach

The White House called the cyber-attack on Sony Pictures a serious national security matter, threatening an "appropriate response" as others pointed the finger at Pyongyang. With the Hollywood scandal threatening to escalate into geopolitical crisis, Sony defended its decision to cancel the release of "The Interview," a movie about a fictional CIA plot to kill Kim Jong-Un. White House spokesman

US-Cuba ties thaw, White House open to Castro visit

A US visit by Cuban President Raul Castro is a possibility, the White House said, a day after he and US President Barack Obama announced a historic bilateral rapprochement. Obama, who said Washington will move to "end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests," on Wednesday raised the previously unthinkable possibility of his visiting the island.

EU needs years-long Russia strategy, new leader warns

The European Union must thrash out a strategy for Russia that lasts for many years, and looks past sanctions that have hammered Moscow's economy, the bloc's new leader Donald Tusk warned Thursday. Leaders at a summit in Brussels also called for the urgent launch of a huge 315-billion-euro ($380-billion) investment plan aimed at kick-starting Europe's economy, although there were no pledges of ha

EU leaders want US trade deal signed end-2015

EU leaders agreed at a summit Thursday to push for the signing of a huge but controversial free trade deal with the United States by the end of 2015. Talks on the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact), which would be the world's biggest trade deal, began 18 months ago and are still under way, with the next round due in February.

Putin says economy will rebound as sanctions stiffen

President Vladimir Putin vowed Thursday that Russia would soon recover from the worst financial crisis of his rule and said his grip on power was firm, even as new Western sanctions and a run on the ruble pile on the pressure. The Russian strongman showed no willingness to change tack on Ukraine -- despite the West toughened sanctions on Thursday -- and dismissed the possibility of the country's

Boston suspect makes rare court appearance

Shaggy-haired, bearded and attentive, accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev made his first public appearance in 17 months Thursday, at a brief court hearing before his trial next month. Tension was high at the US federal court in the northeastern city where the April 15, 2013 attack killed three people and wounded 264 -- the worst such incident in the United States since 9/11. On the

Colombia rebuffs FARC's 'thorny' ceasefire

Colombia's president on Thursday rebuffed a ceasefire by the FARC guerrillas, calling it a gift with "thorns," as an attack by rival rebel group ELN dashed hopes of a respite from the conflict. President Juan Manuel Santos welcomed Wednesday's declaration of an indefinite unilateral ceasefire by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), but stuck to his refusal to declare a bilateral tr

Easing embargo would boost Cuba's moribund economy

Easing the 54-year-old US trade embargo would be breath of fresh air for communist Cuba's moribund economy, giving greater life to recent reforms by the island's communist regime. The principal features of the economic sanctions imposed since 1960 will remain in place unless President Barack Obama persuades the US Congress to lift the embargo. Thus for the first time in decades, American visitor


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