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Stocks surge...Fed promises patience...Obama to ease restrictions on Cuba, resume relations

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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are surging in afternoon trading on Wall Street, after the Federal Reserve promised a patient" approach to raising rates. The Dow Jones industrial average spiked 300 points after the announcement.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve is signaling that it's edging closer to raising interest rates from record lows because of a strengthening U.S. economy and job market. But it is promising to be "patient" in determining when to raise rates and says that is consistent with its previous guidance that it expected to keep the rate near zero for a "considerable time." The Fed also sharply cut its forecast for inflation next year, saying it will remain far below its 2 percent target through 2015.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and easing economic and travel restrictions. Licensed American travelers to Cuba will now be able to return to the U.S. with $400 in Cuban goods, including Cuban cigars and other tobacco products and alcohol worth less than $100 combined. The U.S. is also increasing the amount of money Americans can send to Cubans. However, Obama cannot unilaterally end the economic embargo on Cuba, which would require action from Congress.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A grand jury has indicted four former executives of a chemical company on pollution charges in a spill that prompted a drinking water ban for 300,000 West Virginia residents. An indictment unsealed today charges former Freedom Industries presidents Gary Southern and Dennis P. Farrell and two others with failing to ensure that Freedom operated the terminal that leaked in a reasonable and environmentally sound manner. Southern also faces fraud charges related to the company's bankruptcy case.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration will move to prohibit fracking in the state, citing unresolved health issues and dubious economic benefits of the widely used gas-drilling technique. The state's environmental and health commissioners say shale gas development using high-volume hydraulic fracturing carries unacceptable risks that haven't been sufficiently studied. New York has had a ban on shale gas development since an environmental review began in 2008.

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