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1:00 PM ET, December 17, 2014


 Top Items: 
Peter Baker / New York Times:
U.S. and Cuba, in Breakthrough, Will Resume Diplomatic Relations  —  WASHINGTON — The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years, American officials said Wednesday.
Associated Press:
AP sources: US, Cuba seek to normalize relations  —  1 photo  —  WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and Cuba will start talks on normalizing full diplomatic relations, marking the most significant shift in U.S. policy toward the communist island in decades, American officials said Wednesday.
Elise Labott / CNN:
Historic deal to ease Cuba sanctions  —  Washington (CNN) — U.S. contractor Alan Gross, held by the Cuban government since 2009, was freed Wednesday as part of a landmark deal with Cuba that paves the way for a major overhaul in U.S. policy toward the island, senior administration officials tell CNN.
ABC News:
Alan Gross: Cuba Releases American After Five Years in Prison … American contractor Alan Gross has landed in the U.S. after being released earlier today from a Cuban prison where he had been held for five years.  —  In a landmark humanitarian prisoner exchange announced this afternoon …
Katie Glueck / Politico:
Republicans livid over Cuba talks, call it appeasement
Discussion: ABC News and Hot Air
Philip Elliott / Associated Press:   Secretive groups ran $25M in ads for state races
Jill Colvin / Associated Press:   Clinton denounces torture, says black lives matter
Associated Press:
After 5 Years, Cuba Releases American Alan Gross In Prisoner Swap
Discussion: Talking Points Memo
Andrew Taylor / Associated Press:   GOP Sen. Coburn blocks terrorism insurance measure
Sandra Sobieraj Westfall /
The Obamas: How We Deal with Our Own Racist Experiences  —  The Obamas open up about raising their daughters, the impact of stereotypes, and what's on the POTUS dance party playlist.  Subscribe now for instant access to the exclusive PEOPLE interview!  —  The protective bubble that comes …
Devin Dwyer / ABC News:
Obamas on Race: We've Been Treated Like the Help … President and Michelle Obama personally identify with everyday experiences of racial bias in America that have underpinned recent protests across the country, they told People magazine in an interview to be released Friday.
Discussion: Eater and Riehl World View
Associated Press:   Obama: As a black man he's been mistaken for valet
Lynette Rice /
Stephen Collins Confesses Sexual Abuse of Underage Girls to PEOPLE: ‘I Did Something Terribly Wrong’  —  Embattled actor Stephen Collins has released a lengthy statement to PEOPLE in which he admits to inappropriate sexual contact with three female minors.  —  The 67-year-old …
The Huffington Post:
Kevin Yoder MIA After Tucking Wall Street Bailout Into Government Spending Bill  —  WASHINGTON — For all the anger among progressives about a Wall Street bailout provision that made its way into the just-passed $1.1 trillion government spending bill, there's been little attention on the person who put it in there.
Discussion: Daily Kos, Salon and Medium
Robert C. Hockett / The Hill:
No author, no law  —  Something very odd has occurred in connection with the atrociously named “cromnibus” bill passed by Congress this weekend — a bill that the president, if only he might repent of the position he has taken to now, still both can and ought to veto.
Discussion: Instapundit
Peter Schroeder / The Hill:
Emboldened Wall Street ready to dismantle Dodd-Frank financial law
Josh Israel / ThinkProgress:
Terri Schiavo's Husband Speaks Out On Jeb Bush's Presidential Bid  —  Then-Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) discussing the Terri Schiavo case in March 2005  —  In his announcement Tuesday that he would explore a 2016 presidential bid, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) promised to focus on …
John Podhoretz / New York Post:
Jeb's killer flaw — the name, not the ideology
Discussion: Washington Post and The Federalist
Tim Alberta / National Journal:
Marco Rubio Won't Back Down to Jeb Bush
Discussion: Power Line
Nate Silver / FiveThirtyEight:
Is Jeb Bush Too Liberal To Win The Republican Nomination In 2016?
William Boot / The Daily Beast:
Exclusive: Sony Emails Say State Department Blessed Kim Jong-Un Assassination in ‘The Interview’  —  CEO Michael Lynton showed a rough cut of the movie to U.S. officials before moving ahead.  Now hackers are threatening to bomb any theater that shows it.  —  The Daily Beast has unearthed …
Jen Yamato / Deadline:
Bow Tie Cinemas Says 'The Interview" Pulled Over “Safety” Concerns From Hacker Threats - Update
James Carville / The Hill:
Why do people vote against their interests?  —  During my time as a political strategist, one of the most vexing problems was figuring out why so many people vote against their perceived interests.  Commentators like myself have spent countless hours speculating on why so many people vote …
Frances Robles / New York Times:
Ecuador Family Wins Favors After Donations to Democrats  —  MIAMI — The Obama administration overturned a ban preventing a wealthy, politically connected Ecuadorean woman from entering the United States after her family gave tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic campaigns, according to finance records and government officials.
James Cook / Business Insider:
Reddit Bans User Accounts After Receiving Takedown Requests From Sony Over Leaked Documents  —  Reddit has banned individual user accounts, deleted posts, and banned a subreddit after receiving “less than a handful” of takedown requests for data leaked as part of the massive Sony Pictures hack.
Discussion: Guardian and The Verge
Gregory Korte / Associated Press:
Obama issues ‘executive orders by another name’  —  By issuing his directives as “memoranda” rather than executive orders, Obama has downplayed the extent of his executive actions.  —  WASHINGTON — President Obama has issued a form of executive action known as the presidential memorandum …
Mark Murray / NBC News:
Hillary Clinton Early Leader in Presidential Race: Poll  —  Still, Clinton has a substantial lead among Democratic voters - 82 percent say they could see themselves supporting if she runs, versus 15 percent who can't.  —  By contrast, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., (37 percent support …
Discussion: Yahoo! News and Politico
Pew Research Center:
America's wealth gap between middle-income and upper-income families is widest on record  —  The wealth gap between America's high income group and everyone else has reached record high levels since the economic recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-09, with a clear trajectory …
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 More Items: 
Anna Lee / Greenville News:
Mother thought gun that killed son wasn't loaded, authorities say
Discussion: Addicting Info and Raw Story
Gary Langer / ABC News:
Democratic Allegiance Hits a Low; Can the GOP Seize the Opportunity?
Bill Carter / New York Times:
Stephen Colbert Prepares Final ‘Colbert Report’
Discussion: Hullabaloo
USA Today:
Survey: Teen marijuana use declines even as states legalize
Discussion: VodkaPundit and Tech Times
Sarah Ferris / The Hill:
Blacks falling behind under ObamaCare
Alan Fram / Associated Press:
SC GOP Senator Thinking About Presidential Run
Discussion: The Federalist
 Earlier Items: 
Cameron Joseph / The Hill:
Unshakeable Sestak  —  Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) …
Associated Press:
Obama signs $1.1 trillion spending bill into law
Discussion: The PJ Tatler
Stephen Ohlemacher / Associated Press:
In final 2014 push, Congress renews tax breaks
William Desmond / National Law Journal:
Op-Ed: Delaying Exams Is Not a Request from ‘Coddled Millennials’
Dominic Kelly /
Irate Passenger Throws Cup Of Boiling Noodles At Flight Attendant (Video)
Discussion: FOX News Radio
Brian Krebs / Politico:
Ever Wondered Who's Behind Those Viagra Emails?