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Report Names Most, Least Prepared States for Infectious Disease

Report Names Most, Least Prepared States for Infectious Disease

Spotmatik/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new report named the most and least prepared states in the country when it comes to infectious disease.The report, put out by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, used ten indicators of preparedness to judge the states. At the top of the list of best prepared states? Maryland, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia. On the other end of the spectrum, Arkansas finished at the bottom of the list.Among the indicators used in the report are preparation for emerging threats, vaccinations, healthcare-associated infections, sexually-transmitted infections, food safety, core capabilities, integration of health care and public health and leadership and accountability. A state successful in a given indicator would receive one point. The top five states, TFAH said, received just eight out of 10 possible points, while Arkansas received just two. Among the biggest problems, the report indicated, were that just 14 percent of states vaccinate at least half of their population and only 16 states performed better than the national standardized infection ratio for central-line-associated bloodstream infections.

The full report can be found here.

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Cosby Lawyer Says Comedian’s Comments ‘Continue to Be Misconstrued’

Cosby Lawyer Says Comedian’s Comments ‘Continue to Be Misconstrued’

Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC(NEW YORK) -- An attorney for Bill Cosby on Thursday criticized freelance journalist Stacy Brown on a Friday article in the New York Post in which Cosby's comments "continue to be misconstrued in a way that can only call into question the fair-mindedness of certain commentators."In that article, Brown quoted Cosby as saying, "I only expect our black media to uphold the standards of excellent journalism...and when you do that, you go in with a neutral mind." Cosby's attorney, John P. Schmitt, said that Cosby "did not ask for special treatment from the African-American media."Instead, Schmitt says, "he asked that they adhere to journalistic standards and approach the story in a neutral manner -- without a predisposition on either side of the story." That expectation applies to all media, he noted.Schmitt also noted the "mean-spirited and reckless rhetoric" spouted by MSNBC commentator and Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson. Dyson's comments called Cosby's request for neutrality the comedian's "rape [of the] entire black community."Cosby has been accused by several women in recent weeks of sexual abuse. Earlier this month, a woman named Judy Huth sued Cosby, alleging he molested her in the Playboy Mansion in 1974, when she was 15 years old.Last month, Cosby denied the allegations made against him through his attorney.

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Obama Signs Bill Containing Russia Sanctions, Won’t Implement Them Right Away

Obama Signs Bill Containing Russia Sanctions, Won’t Implement Them Right Away

Credit: The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has signed a bill that gives him the power to impose new sanctions against Russia should he decide to do so.A White House statement says that while Obama signed the legislation on Thursday, it "does not signal a change in the Administration's sanctions policy." That policy "has been carefully calibrated in accordance with developments on the ground and coordinated with our allies and partners," the statement continues."At this time," it concludes, "the Administration does not intend to impose sanctions under this law, but the Act gives the Administration additional authorities that could be utilized if circumstances warranted."Obama again called for Russia to "end its occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, cease support to separatists in eastern Ukraine, and implement the obligations it signed up to under the Minsk agreements."The U.S. hopes to foster a lasting, diplomatic solution, though the legislation authorizes both lethal and non-lethal assistance for Ukraine. President Obama would have the opportunity to decide what assistance would be sent.

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Companies Suspend Sales, Shipments Due to Falling Value of Russian Ruble

Companies Suspend Sales, Shipments Due to Falling Value of Russian Ruble

blinow61/iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Following this week's drop in the value of the ruble, numerous companies are taking action to avoid losing money in sales in Russia.IKEA Russia said Thursday that it would suspend sales of kitchen furniture and appliances until Saturday. The company cited a large number of orders and the need to update prices throughout the store.Meanwhile, automakers including Audi, General Motors and Jaguar/Land Rover have suspended shipments to Russia for the same reason. The ruble dropped violently earlier this week; at one point on Tuesday it had fallen about 20 percent, despite attempts from the Russian central bank to prop it up by raising interest rates.

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Mistrial Declared in Case Against Man Accused of Stalking R&B Singer Ashanti

Mistrial Declared in Case Against Man Accused of Stalking R&B Singer Ashanti

ABC/Lou Rocco(NEW YORK) -- A New York criminal court judge on Thursday declared a mistrial in the case against Devar Hurd, the man accused of stalking R&B singer Ashanti.The mistrial was declared because one of the jurors was too sick to come in for deliberation. Hurd, who represented himself while facing charges of stalking and aggravated harassment, will return to jail and be retried as soon as next month.Between September 2012 and July 2013, Hurd allegedly sent over 100 messages to the singer on Twitter. Some of the messages were sexual in nature, and prosecutors said those messages caused harm to her "mental and emotional health." Hurd also allegedly approached Ashanti's sister, a violation of an order of protection requiring him to stay away.

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Congressmen Write Letter to 18 Universities Urging Them to End Use of University Debit Cards for Student Tanning

Congressmen Write Letter to 18 Universities Urging Them to End Use of University Debit Cards for Student Tanning

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Five congressmen on Thursday wrote a letter to 18 universities urging them to disallow the use of university debit cards by students for indoor tanning.A recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that the 18 universities allow the use of student debit cards for tanning services, an agreement that the reps. say "constitute an endorsement and even encourage indoor tanning," which they note "has been designated a carcinogen by the World Health Organization."The letter was sent to Indiana University, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Southern New Hampshire University, the universities of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Pittsburgh, Texas at Austin, Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Vermont, Virginia Tech, Western Kentucky University, Clemson University and Georgia Southern University."We believe your university should not be offering incentives to students to engage in activities that put their health at risk," the congressmen wrote.

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Obama Surprised With ‘Cuban’ Cigar On Historic Day for U.S.-Cuba Relations

Obama Surprised With ‘Cuban’ Cigar On Historic Day for U.S.-Cuba Relations

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) --  Turns out President Obama capped off Wednesday, a day that marked the dawn of a new relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, with...what else: a cigar.And, according to the gift giver, it was a Cuban.When a guest at one of two White House Hanukkah receptions handed one to Obama, he gave it a sniff.“I had the unique distinction of gifting the president of the United States with one of Cuba’s finest cigars, a Montecristo Series at the White House…after a ceremony in which a Menorah was lit,” John Berzner, who offered the cigar to the president on Wednesday, told ABC News.Berzner said when he was preparing to leave his Colorado home Tuesday for the annual White House Hanukkah Party, he selected one cigar from the box to bring with him.Little did he know, of course, that Wednesday would be a landmark day in U.S.-Cuba relations with the freeing of American Alan Gross after five years of imprisonment in the country and the softening of long-hardened diplomatic relations with Cuba.On Wednesday, the president announced an increase in the amount of Cuban goods authorized U.S. travelers to Cuba can bring back to the States, including tobacco. However, those revised regulations have not yet gone into effect. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment.When Berzner handed the cigar to the president, he said: “Mr. President, a Cuban cigar for you!”“Oh, nice!” Obama replied as he lifted the cigar up from the crowd.“The finest,” Berzner said as Obama raised the cigar to his nose to sniff.The president approved, telling Berzner, “Pretty good!”Nigel Savage, who was also a guest at the event and shot the video, added, “The president definitely looked like he appreciated a good Cuban cigar.”There’s no telling what the president ultimately did with the gift.

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North Carolina Driver Gets Into Two Accidents, Caught on Video

North Carolina Driver Gets Into Two Accidents, Caught on Video

Evgueni Sinigalia/Hemera/Thinkstock(HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C.) -- A driver in Holly Springs, North Carolina, was hit by two cars in domino accidents both caught on his car cameras.Rear- and front-view cameras captured the first hit from behind on a two-lane road."I was rear-ended by this guy on my way home from school," the YouTube user wrote in the video description. "He claimed that his window was fogged up, so he did not see me. It doesn't show in the video, but I saw him coming in my rear view mirror. His windshield was NOT fogged up and I could see his eyes were pointed downward. Clearly, he was playing around on his phone."The impact pushed the car into oncoming traffic."The driver at fault was hauled off to the hospital complaining of back pain, and the lady who hit my car from the front said her finger was hurt."The air bag was deployed and the car was "considered a total loss by the insurance company," the YouTube user wrote.

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Five Changes Recommended for Secret Service After Fence Jumper Enters WH

Five Changes Recommended for Secret Service After Fence Jumper Enters WH

Vacclav/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A bipartisan, independent panel scrutinizing the U.S. Secret Service after a man with a small knife in his pocket jumped the perimeter fence and made it deep inside the White House earlier this year is recommending sweeping changes at the agency.The Secret Service's “paramount mission” of protecting the president and other high-ranking officials “allows no tolerance for error,” and a “single miscue, or even a split-second delay, could have disastrous consequences for the nation and the world,” warns the panel's final report, commissioned by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson after the September breach.

After speaking with 50 officials from the Secret Service and as many as 70 others from other federal agencies, state agencies, and the White House, the panel's report makes these “important” recommendations:1. A TALLER, “BETTER” FENCEA better fence can provide agents with “crucial” time needed to identify a threat and determine how to respond appropriately, the report concludes. “Every additional second of response time” counts, and those seconds would help agents “decide, in a split-second, whether to use lethal force on a person who may not actually pose a viable threat to the president or the White House.” The report says that “for sure, the fence must be taller.” In addition, horizontal bars on the fence that can be used like a ladder “should be eliminated,” and the top of the fence could be curved outward “to make scaling it much more difficult for most,” the report recommends. “Importantly, designers of the new fence must balance security concerns with the long and storied tradition of the White House being the ‘People’s House,’” the report says. The acting head of the Secret Service, Joe Clancy, said recently that changes to the fence, which currently stands at 7.5 feet, are already under serious consideration.2. A “STRONG” LEADER FROM OUTSIDE“The Panel found an organization starved for leadership that rewards innovation and excellence and demands accountability. From agents to officers to supervisors, we heard a common desire: More resources would help, but what we really need is leadership.” Consequently, the report concludes that “the right person” to become the next Secret Service director “should come from outside the Service.” The report says any benefits from appointing someone with “Service experience” are “outweighed” by the need for “dynamic leadership” that can “move the Service forward into a new era,” “drive change in the organization,” and “make difficult choices.” “Only a director from outside the Service, removed from organizational traditions and personal relationships, will be able to do the honest top-to-bottom reassessment this will require,” the report concludes.3. A NEW BUDGET“[N]o one has really looked at how much the mission, done right, actually costs.” So, the report says, a new director should “start with a zero-based budget,” determine what “is needed” to accomplish the Service’s mission, and then ask the White House and Congress for “this sum.” In the meantime, “to ensure adequate training and personnel for the White House,” the administration and Congress should find a way to let the Secret Service hire 85 more special agents and 200 more Uniformed Division officers, the report says.4. MORE TALENT AND MORE AGENTS“The Secret Service is stretched to and, in many cases, beyond its limits,” with those protecting the White House working “an unsustainable number of hours,” the report says. So the service needs to “increase significantly in size” by hiring more agents and uniformed officers, the report concludes. In addition, the service needs to recruit “more of the best and most innovative scientists and engineers dreaming up ways to defeat the next threat,” according to the report. All that means the Secret Service needs “an administrative department that can demonstrate with rigorous precision why additional resources are necessary and knows how to budget for it,” the report says.5. MORE ACCOUNTABILITY“The agency’s zero-failure mission requires that its high standards be met,” so agents and officers themselves “must see that the organization itself believes in its standards and enforces them in a consistent, evenhanded manner,” according to the report. “It’s not just about morale or fairness, but about creating a “culture of performance that the Secret Service needs to meet its zero-failure mission,” the report states.After the recommendations were released, Secretary Johnson called them "astute, thorough, and fair," saying, "Fundamental change is needed at the Secret Service." And the head of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, said it's “imperative that the Secret Service begin to review and implement the recommendations...as soon as possible."The four panelists – former top Justice Department officials Thomas Perelli and Mark Filip, and former White House officials Joseph Hagin and Danielle Gray – were directed to take a broad look at how to revamp an agency scarred by recent scandals. Two of the panelists served under the Obama administration, the other two served under the Bush administration.A separate internal DHS probe, led by Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, detailed the multiple failings and missed opportunities that led to the Sept. 19 incursion allegedly carried out by 42-year-old Omar Gonzalez. The results of that probe were released last month.

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WikiLeaks Releases CIA Report on High-Value Targeting

WikiLeaks Releases CIA Report on High-Value Targeting

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  WikiLeaks has released a CIA document from 2009 analyzing the positive and negative effects of strikes against high-value targets.The U.S. military has used high-value targeting of insurgent leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the CIA also uses drone strikes to target high-value al Qaeda targets in Pakistan and Yemen.The 18-page secret document is dated July 7, 2009, and is entitled “Best Practices in Counterinsurgency: Making High Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Tool.”WikiLeaks posted the report on its website Thursday. A press release accompanying the release said the report was compiled by the CIA’s Office of Transnational Issues and “weighs the pros and cons of killing 'insurgent' leaders in assassination plots."A CIA spokesperson declined to comment on WikiLeaks' posting of the report and its contents."High-value targets" is the term used to describe senior leaders in insurgent organizations. They can be targeted in airstrikes or operations where they are captured for their intelligence value.The report is a historical analysis that found both positive and negative effects from high-value targeting. One key finding from the review “suggests that HVT operations can play a useful role when they are part of a broader counterinsurgency strategy.” More to the point, the report said the targeting is most effective when a country decides on a strategic outcome before beginning the HVT track and also integrates it into other military and civilian counterinsurgency operations.However, the targeting can also have significant negative impacts. It could lead to more local support for the insurgency and it could also lead to other radical groups filling the power vacuum created when insurgent leaders are killed.The report includes brief reviews of successful and unsuccessful HVT efforts in other countries and how it fit into their counterinsurgency strategies -- for example, descriptions of the British fight against the IRA in Northern Ireland and the Colombian government against FARC rebels.In addition to using open-source reporting to recount the experiences to tackle insurgencies, the CIA also interviewed U.S. officials running HVT programs in Iraq and Afghanistan.In Afghanistan the report said that high-value targeting had a limited effect against the Taliban because of the logistical inability to integrate it into a broader counterinsurgency campaign by the U.S. military and Afghan government. Moreover, the Taliban had “good succession planning and bench strength, especially at the middle levels,” said the report.A few months after the report was written President Obama would approve a troop surge and counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan that would see U.S. troop levels rise to 100,000.In Iraq, the report says that early targeting against leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq “did little to slow AQI’s momentum.” But that began to change in 2007 as the HVT operations were complemented by “broader Coalition and Iraqi Sunni actions against AQI” that cut the terror group off from its support base and have contributed to its decline since that time.Years later, that group would push into Syria, where it would re-emerge as ISIS, which has taken over territory in both Syria and Iraq.Clandestine reports also indicated that “the Iraqi Government has chosen not to target Muqtada al-Sadr and many of his top aides because of political sensitivities.” The CIA report said “capture or refraining from lethal operations may be warranted if the government’s goal is to integrate an insurgent group into the political process."

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New York AG Sends Cease-and-Desist Letters to Companies Selling Realistic-Looking Toy Guns

New York AG Sends Cease-and-Desist Letters to Companies Selling Realistic-Looking Toy Guns

sunstock/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on Thursday that his office has sent cease-and-desist letters to retailers including Walmart, Amazon and Kmart, urging them to stop selling toy guns that break New York state law by lacking distinguishing designs from the real thing."When toy guns are mistaken for real guns," Schneiderman said, "there can be tragic consequences." The law prohibits the sale of toy guns in realistic colors -- such as black, blue, silver or aluminum -- unless it has a non-removable, one-inch-wide orange stripe running down the sides and front end of the barrel. "New York State law is clear," Schneiderman added, "retailers cannot put children and law enforcement at risk by selling toy guns that are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing."Schneiderman's office also sent cease-and-desist letters to ToyArsenal.com and Sears.At least four people have been killed and one child seriously injured since 1997 due to law enforcement officers mistaking toy guns for real guns.

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Takata Takes Out Open Letter, Won’t Expand Recall

Takata Takes Out Open Letter, Won’t Expand Recall

bizoo_n/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Takata Corporation placed an open letter in U.S. and German newspapers on Thursday, defending its products and explaining the steps it will take to replace the faulty air bags while declining to expand some recalls nationwide.The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had urged the company to expand its recall from only high-humidity regions to a full nationwide recall. The company, however, did not say that it would do so. Instead, Takata says it is working to "increase the production capacity for replacement airbags to support all safety campaigns or further recalls announced by the automakers." Additionally, it will continue "working with our customers and other airbag producers to produce more replacement units" and "exploring whether other producers' current airbags can be used in replacement kits."Finally, Takata said, it will work with the NHTSA and automakers to solve the problem expediently.That letter was published in papers including The Detroit News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Detroit Free Press, among others.NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman on Thursday announced that Ford has sent notice that they will comply with the request for an expanded recall of all vehicles in the U.S. containing the problematic front driver's side air bags. Ford joins Mazda and Honda as the three automakers to comply with NHTSA's request thus far. Chrysler and BMW, as well as Takata, "have failed to take the same action and, if necessary, we are prepared to force them to do so in the interest of public safety."

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Three Senior ISIS Leaders Killed in US Airstrikes in Iraq

Three Senior ISIS Leaders Killed in US Airstrikes in IraqStocktrek Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Three senior ISIS leaders have been killed in recent weeks by U.S. airstrikes inside Iraq, including the terror group’s right-hand man, the Pentagon confirmed. The news comes as the American commander le...

Thursday Close Marks Strongest Two-Day Run Since 2013 for Wall Street

Thursday Close Marks Strongest Two-Day Run Since 2013 for Wall Street

tarabird/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street recorded back-to-back days of gains, with the major indices rebounding somewhat after a rough beginning of the month.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 421.28 to a close of 17,778.15.

The Nasdaq jumped 104.09 to 4,748.40, while the S&P 500 closed at 2,061.23, up 48.34. After Wednesday's strong gains, Thursday's finish marked the strongest two-day run for the markets since January 2013. The Dow posted consecutive sessions with 200-point gains or better for the ninth time ever, and the first time since December 2008. Initial unemployment claims last week were down 4,000 from the previous week, the Department of Labor said Thursday. The four-week moving average was down 750.

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Mystery in Texas Meteorologist’s Shooting Deepens

Mystery in Texas Meteorologist’s Shooting Deepens

KCEN/Facebook(WACO, Texas) -- Police in Texas don't have a suspect or a motive in the shooting of a TV meteorologist in the station's parking lot on Wednesday.The suspect fled on foot as the weatherman was able to drive a short distance in his bullet-ridden car to get help."We are actively looking for [the suspect]," Trooper D.L. Wilson told ABC News Thursday. "We had troopers out overnight, but we didn't get any calls of suspicious people. We can't rule out that he's not in the area, but more than likely, he's left the area."Because there is no specific search area, police are "kind of scaling back," he added.Police are interviewing the victim, KCEN-TV's Patrick Crawford, and trying to get enough information for a forensic sketch of the suspect.

The man shot Crawford at least twice on Wednesday as he was getting into his car outside the Bruceville-Eddy, Texas, TV station, and left 11 bullet holes in his vehicle, Wilson said."Mr. Crawford is advising he has never seen this man before," the trooper said.The suspect has been described as a white male, 30 to 35 years old, with a medium build and a receding hairline."We'll do our best, follow any leads, and hopefully we can track this gentleman down," Wilson said.Crawford's wife Heather Brinkmann, who is also a meteorologist at the station, posted an update on her Facebook page Wednesday night to say her husband is in stable condition.KCEN-TV reported that police were at the station Thursday, checking IDs of everyone driving in the parking lot.

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Jennifer Aniston Reveals Downside to Letting Herself Go for “Cake”

Jennifer Aniston Reveals Downside to Letting Herself Go for “Cake”

ABC/Randy Holmes(NEW YORK) -- Jennifer Aniston is getting some serious Oscar buzz for her role in Cake, but the actress recently said letting herself go for the acclaimed role did come with some negative side effects.On an episode of the Dr. Oz Show that aired on Thursday, Aniston, 45, talked about playing a character -- Claire Simmons -- in the movie, that deals with chronic pain and how she had to stop working out for a while to make the part convincing to the audience.This lack of exercise really affected her in the real world."It really was interesting when you stop working out how you just...my serotonin levels went down. My stamina was shot. I was cranky. I was irritable," she said on the show in a clip obtained by US Weekly. "I found myself short. I was hungry like crazy."She said the role made her realize how important fitness is in her life."[It's] important to our soul, not just being able to fit into skinny jeans," she added. "Just your state of mind, your soul, all of that."

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What It Takes to Set Up a New Embassy in Cuba

What It Takes to Set Up a New Embassy in Cuba

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- So what does the United States have to do in order to officially establish an embassy somewhere?Not much more than change the sign on the door, even in Cuba.There are few legal requirements for a U.S. mission or other diplomatic building to become an embassy. Countries just have to exchange letters or notes saying they want to establish ties. And in this case, the United States has to end its agreement with the Swiss government, which has protected U.S. officials in Cuba for 53 years.“That will be done as soon as possible, whereupon we would transition to becoming an embassy and we would change the sign on our mission,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs Roberta Jacobson said Thursday.But just because establishing an embassy is so casual doesn’t mean it will happen quickly. All the changes that go into normalizing relations, like expanding travel licenses, take a while to be implemented and put in the Federal Register.So Americans looking to get their first legal Cohibas back to the states will still have to wait a few weeks.“Days or weeks, certainly not months,” Jacobson said.Once that happens, the building and personnel are already there. Jacobson noted that the United States already has more officials in Cuba than many other countries that have full relations with Havana, and the United States Interest Section there -- built in 1953 by the U.S. firm Harrison & Abramovitz and now led by career foreign service offer Jeffrey DeLaurentis -- regularly hosts Thanksgiving dinners, Fourth of July parties and other events.But while the building and the people are already there, it will still be a while until an ambassador calls the new embassy home. There has to be an official embassy before an ambassador can be appointed, and then the waiting game for Senate confirmation, which has sometimes taken more than a year recently, begins.

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Pope Francis Congratulates Developments in US-Cuba Relations

Pope Francis Congratulates Developments in US-Cuba Relations

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(ROME) -- Pope Francis congratulated the United States and Cuba on Thursday for agreeing to establish diplomatic ties after more than half a century of frozen relations.The historic thaw in relations between the two countries came about after a year of secret talks in Canada that directly involved the pope.The Vatican says Pope Francis wrote letters to Cuban President Raúl Castro and President Obama to urge them to resolve humanitarian questions of common interest. Those included the situation of certain prisoners.The Vatican said it received American and Cuban delegations to the Vatican in October, providing space for the two sides to negotiate diplomatic solutions to the decades-long stand off.The Vatican added that it will continue to provide support for both countries as they move toward strengthening their ties.

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Here’s What Happened the Last Time a US President Visited Cuba

Here’s What Happened the Last Time a US President Visited Cuba

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When President Obama told ABC News on Wednesday that he has not ruled out visiting Cuba in the future, it opened the doors for the first presidential visit to the island nation since 1928.The last American president to visit Cuba while in office was Calvin Coolidge, who traveled there in January 1928.The world was a different place.The Holland Tunnel opened only two months earlier under the Hudson River, linking New Jersey with New York City, and the first air-conditioned office building opened in San Antonio.Coolidge traveled to Cuba to address the Sixth Annual International Conference of American States in Havana on Jan. 16, 1928. Coolidge and his wife met with Cuban President, Gerardo Machado, who was in office from 1925 to 1933 until he was forced into exile.Cuba was the only foreign country Coolidge visited while in the White House. At the time, Benito Mussolini ruled Italy. Two months before Coolidge's visit to Cuba, Leon Trotsky was expelled from the Soviet Communist Party, leaving Joseph Stalin in control. About a month after that, Iraq had gained independence from Britain.Coolidge rode a presidential rail car without air-conditioning to Key West, then boarded the U.S.S. Texas battleship for the overnight trip to Havana, 100 miles away."The thirty-two-hour trip down to the tip of Florida was decorous and dull," Saturday Evening Post reporter Beverly Smith Jr. recalled in a 1958 article, "To Cuba With Cal." "Cal was granting no press conferences."After the boat arrived in Havana, "The crowds were tremendous and enthusiastic," Smith wrote. "They cheered themselves hoarse for Presidente Coolidge. They pushed close to his car, blowing kisses and throwing flowers. Cal, seemingly touched by this unaccustomed Latin warmth, showed more animation than usual. He bowed, he smiled, he took off his silk hat."In his speech, Coolidge said, "Thirty years ago Cuba ranked as a foreign possession, torn by revolution and devastated by hostile forces. Such government as existed rested on military force. Today Cuba is her own sovereign. Her people are independent, free, and prosperous, peaceful, and enjoying the advantages of self-government."

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What to Know About European Union’s Obesity Ruling

What to Know About European Union’s Obesity Ruling

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Europe's highest court ruled on Thursday that obesity can, under certain circumstances, be considered a disability, taking a step forward against obesity discrimination, experts say.The European Court of Justice heard the case of a child-care worker identified in the ruling as "Mr. Kaltoft," who claimed he had been fired from his job because of his weight. The court ruled that although obesity was itself not a disability, it can cause certain hindrances that can be considered a disability."In the past, employers have said with respect to obesity, 'Well, this is their fault,'" said Ted Kyle, chairman of the nonprofit Obesity Action Coalition, which is headquartered in Florida. Until now, employers did not feel obligated to accommodate obese employees in the workplace because they deemed that being obese was a personal choice, Kyle noted.He said various genetic and environmental factors are at play when it comes to obesity, and that employers are realizing they can't discriminate people based on weight.The European Court of Justice ruled that it was for the national court to determine whether Kaltoft's obesity qualifies as a disability -- analogous to the U.S. Supreme Court tossing a case back to a lower state court to hash out the details.Though we have the Americans with Disabilities Act in the United States, Rebecca Puhl, deputy director at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, said obesity only meets the definition of disability in some cases. In most cases, it does not meet the definition and the legal cases that hinge on obesity as a disability are generally not successful."The plaintiff must prove that his or her obesity is disabling or perceived to be disabling by others," Puhl said.Kelly Brownell, a professor at Duke University's Stanford School of Public Policy, said although some people may not want to be labeled as having a disability, he thinks the move is positive and puts Europe ahead of the United States."My perspective on this is that it's a good idea because there's very clear research showing that overweight people are discriminated against in most settings where there have been studies," Brownell said, pointing toward studies in education, health care and employment.

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