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Big change in policy toward Cuba...Freed American's family celebrates...Gas prices keep inflation in check

By The Associated Press | Posted - Dec. 17, 2014 at 9:01 a.m.



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WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is making its most significant shift in U.S. policy toward Cuba in decades. According to U.S. officials, the two countries will be starting talks about normalizing diplomatic relations. The announcement comes amid a series of new confidence-building measures between the longtime foes. Those steps include the release of American Alan Gross, who has been jailed in Cuba for five years. As part of the secret negotiations to secure his release, the U.S. is freeing three Cubans who were jailed in Florida for spying.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A sister of Alan Gross says family members were "screaming and jumping up and down" after learning that Gross has been released from imprisonment in Cuba and that he is on a plane back to the United States. He was arrested in Cuba while he was working to set up Internet access there. It was his fifth trip to Cuba to work with Jewish communities on setting up Internet access that bypassed local censorship.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. move toward better relations with Cuba isn't sitting well with some American foes of the Cuban regime. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida says the two nations are moving toward normalized banking and trade ties, and that the U.S. is poised to open an embassy in Havana in the coming months. Rubio says, "This is going to do absolutely nothing to further human rights and democracy in Cuba." And he warns that it "potentially goes a long way in providing the economic lift that the Castro regime needs to become permanent fixtures in Cuba for generations to come."

ROCKWALL, Texas (AP) — A former North Texas justice of the peace has been sentenced to death for capital murder in what prosecutors described as a revenge plot that left three people dead. Eric Williams was convicted earlier this month in the March 2013 murder of Cynthia McLelland, who was slain along with her husband, District Attorney Mike McLelland, in their home near Dallas. Williams had lost his job as justice of the peace, along with his law license, after he was prosecuted for theft and burglary.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Plunging gasoline costs have been bringing down overall U.S. consumer prices. The Labor Department says the inflation reading fell 0.3 percent last month, after prices were flat in October. Gas costs plummeted 10.5 percent in November, the steepest decline in nearly six years. Core inflation, which excludes energy and food prices, registered 0.1 percent in November. For the past 12 months, overall inflation stands at 1.3 percent while core inflation is 1.7 percent.

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The Associated Press

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