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12:10 PM ET, December 17, 2014


 Top Items: 
Peter Baker / New York Times:
U.S. and Cuba, in Breakthough, 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 … Held for five years in Cuba, 65-year-old American contractor Alan Gross has been released from prison and is en route to U.S. soil, ABC News has learned.  —  In a landmark humanitarian prisoner exchange to be announced …
Dylan Scott / Talking Points Memo:
Obama And Castro To Give Public Statements On US-Cuba Relations
Philip Elliott / Associated Press:   Secretive groups ran $25M in ads for state races
Associated Press:   After 5 Years, Cuba Releases American Alan Gross In Prisoner Swap
Jill Colvin / Associated Press:   Clinton denounces torture, says black lives matter
Andrew Taylor / Associated Press:   GOP Sen. Coburn blocks terrorism insurance measure
Associated Press:   Obama offers help to Australia post-hostage crisis
Steve Peoples / Associated Press:   No doubt now: Jeb Bush eyeing 2016 race
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 …
Associated Press:   Obama: As a black man he's been mistaken for valet
Devin Dwyer / ABC News:
Obamas on Race: We've Been Treated Like the Help
Discussion: Riehl World View
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
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 …
Nate Silver / FiveThirtyEight:
Is Jeb Bush Too Liberal To Win The Republican Nomination In 2016?  —  On Tuesday, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced that he will “actively explore” a bid for the White House.  While Bush has not yet formed a presidential exploratory committee, he's “running” for president by any practical definition of the term.
John Podhoretz / New York Post:
Jeb's killer flaw — the name, not the ideology
Discussion: Washington Post and The Federalist
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.
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
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
Sarah Ferris / The Hill:
Blacks falling behind under ObamaCare  —  African-Americans are less likely to see benefits under ObamaCare compared to other racial groups, according to research released Tuesday.  —  While Hispanics, American Indians and Alaska natives have seen “dramatic” increases in healthcare coverage …
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 More Items: 
Gary Langer / ABC News:
Democratic Allegiance Hits a Low; Can the GOP Seize the Opportunity?
Fox News:
Federal judge: Obama immigration actions ‘unconstitutional’
Discussion: National Review
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
Bruce Weber / New York Times:
Norman Bridwell, Creator of ‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ Books, Dies at 86
Discussion: Outside the Beltway
Alan Fram / Associated Press:
SC GOP Senator Thinking About Presidential Run
Discussion: The Federalist and Political Wire
 Earlier Items: 
Cameron Joseph / The Hill:
Unshakeable Sestak  —  Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) …
Discussion: Political Wire
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?