Like Iran, secret diplomacy leads to US-Cuba thaw WASHINGTON (AP) - Fresh off his 2012 re-election victory, President Barack Obama summoned senior advisers to a series of meetings, asking them to "think big" about a second-term agenda, including the possibilities of new starts with long-standing U.S. foes such as Iran and Cuba. Two years later, after painstaking secret diplomacy on separate but surprisingly similar tracks, efforts with Tehran and Havana are in full swing. The nuclear negotiations with Iran continue and are far from a guaranteed success. But Wednesday's announcement that the U.S. and Cuba will normalize relations after more than 50 years of hostility suggests one of the last chapters of the Cold War may be closing.
US, Cuba patch torn relations in historic accord WASHINGTON (AP) - After a half-century of Cold War acrimony, the United States and Cuba moved on Wednesday to restore diplomatic relations - a historic shift that could revitalize the flow of money and people across the narrow waters that separate the two nations. President Barack Obama's dramatic announcement in Washington - seconded by Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana - was accompanied by a quiet exchange of imprisoned spies and the celebratory release of American Alan Gross, a government contract worker who had been held in Cuba for five years.
10 Things to Know for Thursday Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday: 1. WASHINGTON TIES SONY HACK TO NORTH KOREA
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A look at 'Cuban 5' agents who were jailed in US HAVANA (AP) - The "Cuban Five" refers to intelligence agents whose so-called "Wasp Network" operated in Florida in the 1990s. They were arrested in 1998 and later convicted on charges including conspiracy and failing to register as foreign agents. Cuba insists they were not acting against U.S. sovereignty, only keeping tabs on militant exile groups that Havana blames for terror attacks on the island, including a string of hotel bombings. However, prosecutors argued they also tried to penetrate military bases, including the U.S. Southern Command and facilities in the Florida Keys.
Cubans cheer historic renewal of US relations HAVANA (AP) - Bells tolled in celebration and teachers halted lessons midday as President Raul Castro told his country Wednesday that Cuba was restoring relations with the United States after more than a half-century of hostility. Wearing his military uniform with its five-star insignia, the 83-year-old leader said the two countries would work to resolve their differences "without renouncing a single one of our principles."
N Korea-linked Sony hack may be costliest ever NEW YORK (AP) - A U.S. official says North Korea has been linked to the unprecedented act of cyberwarfare against Sony Pictures that exposed tens of thousands of sensitive documents and escalated to threats of terrorist attacks that ultimately drove the studio to cancel all release plans for the film at the heart of the hack, "The Interview." The attack is possibly the costliest for a U.S. company ever, said Avivah Litan, a cybersecurity analyst at research firm Gartner. "This attack went to the heart and core of Sony's business - and succeeded," she said. "We haven't seen any attack like this in the annals of U.S. breach history."
Fed to be 'patient' about a rate hike; stocks soar WASHINGTON (AP) - The Federal Reserve is edging closer to raising interest rates from record lows given a strengthening U.S. economy. But it will be "patient" in deciding when to do so. That was the message sent Wednesday as the Fed ended a meeting amid heightened expectation about a forthcoming rate increase. At a news conference afterward, Chair Janet Yellen said she foresaw no rate hike in the first quarter of 2015.
AP source: US probe links NKorea to Sony hacking WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal investigators have now connected the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. to North Korea, a U.S. official said Wednesday, though it remained unclear how the federal government would respond to a break-in that exposed sensitive documents and ultimately led to terrorist threats against moviegoers. The official, who said a more formal statement might come soon, spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to openly discuss an ongoing criminal case. A security professional with knowledge of the breach also said investigators had strong circumstantial evidence and technical commonalities pointing to North Korea.
New York to ban fracking; environmentalists cheer ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Handing environmentalists a breakthrough victory, New York plans to prohibit fracking for natural gas because of what regulators say are its unexplored health risks and dubious economic benefits. New York, which overlies part of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation that has led to a drilling boom in Pennsylvania and other nearby states, has banned shale gas development since 2008, when the state began an environmental review of the drilling technique also known as hydraulic fracturing.
Colombian rebels announce unilateral cease-fire HAVANA (AP) - Colombia's largest rebel group announced an indefinite, unilateral cease-fire Wednesday, saying guerrillas will refrain from staging attacks so long as they aren't targeted by the U.S.-backed military. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia made the announcement in Cuba at the end of another round of peace talks aimed at ending Latin America's oldest insurgency.