US agriculture has big appetite for Cuba trade

FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2014 file photo a farmer drives his tractor past a soybean field toward grain storage bins near Ladora, Iowa. U.S. agriculture has a big appetite for freer trade with Cuba, and soybeans are one of the main products Cuba now buys from the United States. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — U.S. agriculture has a big appetite for freer trade with Cuba. From wheat to rice to beans, the industry stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of President Barack Obama's plan to ease economic and travel restrictions imposed against the communist-ruled island.



White House releases snapshot of plan to rate U.S. colleges

A woman lies in the grass at Columbia University in New YorkBy Elvina Nawaguna WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Friday released a draft of its plan to rate U.S. colleges and tie federal aid to performance as a way to coax institutions to pull up their socks. The U.S. Education Department will rate institutions on their performance, intake of low-income students, completion rates, affordability, employment prospects and student loan repayment rates. ...



Ed Dept. releases 'framework' to rate colleges
WASHINGTON (AP) — Colleges and universities have fretted over how they will be judged under a new college ratings system President Barack Obama announced last year would be developed to encourage transparency and affordability.

Today in History
Today is Friday, Dec. 19, the 353rd day of 2014. There are 12 days left in the year.

As U.S. eases hostilities, Cuba faces new challenge

Members of the Cuban Revolutionary Army hold Cuban national flags during a march "For the Five and Against the Terrorism" in HavanaBy Daniel Trotta HAVANA (Reuters) - For decades, it was Cuba's first response to criticism. Poor economic performance? An obvious effect of a U.S. trade embargo that amounted to a blockade of the island nation by a bullying superpower. Arrests of dissidents? A legitimate act of self-defense against mercenaries working for the world's richest nation, which backed the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and plots to assassinate revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. ...



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 says, citing "limited" results in Afghanistan in particularThe 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 in Afghanistan. "The Taliban has a high overall ability to replace lost leaders," it said.



China to set up satellite, radar network to strengthen maritime power

The Chinese PLA Navy replenishment ship Qiandaohu arrives for RIMPAC 2014, in HonoluluBEIJING (Reuters) - China will set up an offshore observation network, including satellite and radar stations, to strengthen the country's maritime power, the official China Daily reported on Friday, in a move that could exacerbate tensions in the region. Many of China's neighbors, including Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam, have expressed concern at China's military build-up and increasingly assertive posture in the region. ...



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

Cubans celebrate in Camaguey as Washington and Havana brought their bitter Cold War stand-off towards a historic close by agreeing to revive diplomatic ties on December 17, 2014A 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.



With Cuba decision, Obama hands Hillary Clinton a gift

U.S. Secretary of State Clinton listens to U.S. President Obama speak during a meeting with members of his cabinet in WashingtonBy 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, the action has the power to solidify support for Democrats among increasingly influential Latino voters and appeal to voters in farm states like Iowa eager to do business in Havana. ...



Young immigrants allowed to get driver's licenses

Erika Andiola gets her portrait taken at the Arizona State Capitol on Dec 17, 2014, in Phoenix, Ariz. Thousands of young immigrants moved a step closer to getting driver's licenses in Arizona when the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday rebuffed the governor's latest attempt to deny them the privilege. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Nick Oza) MARICOPA COUNTY OUT; MAGS OUT; NO SALESPHOENIX (AP) — A judge cleared the way Thursday for thousands of young immigrants in Arizona who are protected from deportation under an Obama administration policy to get driver's licenses.



Land, water rights needed for Nevada nuclear dump

FILE - In this April 13, 2006 file photo, Pete Vavricka conducts an underground train from the entrance of Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Federal nuclear regulators say the U.S. Energy Department will need to acquire water rights and a land buffer before it can entomb the nation's radioactive waste beneath a long-studied volcanic ridge in the Nevada desert. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a report Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, saying most administrative and program elements of the Yucca Mountain repository meet commission requirements. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken, File)LAS VEGAS (AP) — The federal Energy Department will need to acquire water and land rights before it gets approval to entomb the nation's most radioactive waste beneath a mountain in the Nevada desert, according to a report released Thursday by an the agency being asked to license the project.



Not known yet if Cuba deal might bring some U.S. fugitives home
By Mark Guarino CHICAGO (Reuters) - When he heard that United States and Cuba plan to restore diplomatic ties, retired New York City police detective Tom Nerney says he was struck with hope that a convicted killer he helped bring to justice but who escaped to the Caribbean island would finally be brought home after more than 30 years. "It's a ray of sunshine for us," he told Reuters. Nerney and other law enforcement officials say they want the Obama administration to push Cuba to extradite the nearly 80 fugitives from the U.S. justice system who the FBI says have sought and found asylum there. ...

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