government

Updated at 2:39 p.m. ET

President Obama announced today the most significant change in U.S. policy toward Cuba in more than 50 years, paving the way for the normalization of relations and the opening of a U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Obama said "we will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries."

The Patrick administration today announced more funding to help strengthen the advanced manufacturing industry in Massachusetts.

       Massachusetts will distribute $1.5 million to be shared by five regional workforce development agencies across the state to help recruit and train 280 unemployed or underemployed people for careers in precision manufacturing.    A vocational high school in western Massachusetts will get $400,000 to equip its machine shop with state of the art equipment.         

Haiti's Prime Minster Laurent Lamothe has bowed to pressure from anti-government protesters pushing for long-delayed elections and calling for his ouster, saying he will step down.

"I am leaving the post of prime minister this evening with a feeling of accomplishment," Lamothe announced in Port-au-Prince, the capital of the impoverished Caribbean nation.

The prime minister said he leaves office after accomplishing the "remarkable work" of the government.

"We put this country on a dynamic of deep and real change for the benefit of the population," he said.

Post updated at 9:38 p.m. ET.

A massive federal spending bill finally won the House's approval Thursday night, less than three hours before a midnight deadline that threatened a federal shutdown. The measure's fate had been in doubt after it narrowly survived a rules vote earlier in the day. The final tally was 219-206.

Following up on a controversial campaign promise, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's bill to ban horse-drawn carriages reached the City Council on Monday, in a move to phase out the carriages that often give tours around Central Park.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Simsbury's First Selectman, Democrat Mary Glassman, said she was blind-sided by the Republican-controlled Board of Selectmen's decision last week to cut her salary by 35 percent effective in July. 

On Monday, Glassman announced her resignation, effective January 2. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker to provide updates on the latest transportation news including CTfastrak, I-84, and our regional railways. Also, as we head into the winter months, how prepared are the state's roads?

The United States Postal Service is the latest victim of a wide-scale online data breach.

A USPS spokesman told NPR today that more than 800,000 employees may have been affected. In a statement, USPS said "names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, addresses, beginning and end dates of employment, emergency contact information" may have been compromised.

Jessica Whittle / Creative Commons

One of the most basic functions of local government is to protect its citizens. We talk with a panel of local firefighters who do just that.

When a fire breaks out, many Connecticut towns have volunteer forces that go to the rescue. What draws firefighters to this profession that includes a lot more than just fighting fires? Some Connecticut firefighters are even taking it a step further, and are going out west to help fight forest fires.

Chion Wolf

Ever since 1778 when Thomas Jefferson, revising the laws of Virginia, wrote something called a Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, there's been an ongoing debate about how to make sure people know what they need to know to participate fully as citizens of this democracy.

As is so often the case with Jefferson, his ideas and words seem visionary and eternal until you poke around in them a little bit and then it gets more complicated especially vis-a-vis who he thought was really fit to lead the American people.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Next Tuesday, November 4, Connecticut is among several states that will ask voters about changing elections laws. The ballot question on amending the Connecticut constitution is the "first" step towards making voting more flexible here.

Toronto Public Library

We’re just over a week away from the November 4 elections, and, so far, we’ve spent a lot of time talking politics here in our state. But what about our neighbors to the north, east, and west? 

Wavian / Creative Commons

It’s been almost two years since Hurricane Sandy tore her way through the Northeast -- leaving behind a trail of destruction throughout much of our region. 

Jeff Cohen / WNPR

The case of Edward Snowden sparked worldwide discussions about the reach of government into the personal, and technological, lives of its citizens. One of those discussions continued at Yale Law School on Tuesday. 

Jeff Cohen / WNPR

A majority of the Hartford city council approved a deal to bring a baseball stadium and related development to downtown Hartford.

City of Hartford

Who's ready for a quiz?

As the Hartford City Council geared up to vote on the plan to build a baseball stadium and other development, the city's redevelopment agency was meeting across the hall. A few weeks back, this same agency -- under pressure from Mayor Pedro Segarra -- voted to give the city land it needs to build its $350 million project.

There are six members on the board and one vacancy. Only five votes were made. Of them, three voted in favor. So here's the question: What's a majority of the Hartford Redevelopment Agency? Depending on the answer, the agency may have to vote again.

After 40 days of seclusion, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has made a public appearance, an outing that could help quell rumors about his health and status. Kim visited a new housing complex, according to state media that released photos of the event — but without attaching a specific date to it.

North Korea has confirmed only that Kim has been in "discomfort." The newly released photos show Kim using a cane, possibly confirming theories that he underwent ankle surgery. More than a month ago, he was seen limping as he walked.

Britain's Parliament has voted to support the recognition of a Palestinian state in a symbolic vote that follows a similar move by Sweden.

The BBC says the 274-to-12 vote in the House of Commons is being described by the chamber " 'as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution' — although less than half of MPs took part in the vote."

Connecticut Innocence Project

A Connecticut man who was freed after spending two decades in prison on wrongful murder and rape convictions has been appointed to the state parole board.

Gov. Dannel Malloy appointed Kenneth Ireland and four others to paid positions on the Board of Pardons and Paroles on Wednesday.

Jeff Cohen / WNPR

Whether or not Hartford's city council decides to move ahead with a $350 million development project just north of its downtown is about a lot of things.  It's about entertainment and amenities and opportunity and jobs. It's also about the future, and everybody sees the future differently.

The number of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong has dwindled today after a weekend that saw dozens of arrests and an angry backlash from business owners whose shops were shut down amid the demonstrations.

The South China Morning Post says: "Protest sites are quiet on Monday as some demonstrators leave for work, others remain and authorities keep their distance."

Pratt and Whitney

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy said that in the past seven years, the Pentagon has spent more than $160 billion of taxpayer money on foreign-made goods. He’s accusing the defense department of abusing legislation that requires it to buy American.

Hong Kong media are providing wall-to-wall coverage of the protests calling for the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, but in mainland China there has been little to no mention of the unrest.

The contrast is an illustration of the "one country, two systems" policy that has been in place since the former British colony reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, says newly released recordings of conversations between Federal Reserve officials show that the same kind of cozy relationships that led to the 2008 financial crisis still dominate Wall Street.

In an interview with Morning Edition, Warren says the recordings provide definite proof of that relationship.

For five decades, the official U.S. policy on Cuba was one of silence. But the real U.S. relationship with Havana involved secret negotiations that started with President Kennedy in 1963, even after his embargo against the island nation, say the authors of the new book Back Channel to Cuba. In fact, nearly every U.S. administration for the past 50 years has engaged in some sort of dialogue with the Cuban government, they say.

Jeff Cohen / WNPR

Former Connecticut Governor John Rowland's state pension of nearly $53,000 a year will not be affected by his second felony conviction. 

David Goehring / Creative Commons

We're back today after a one-week hiatus. 

Ben Nadaff-Hafrey is also back, this time as our Scramble SuperGuest.

We start today with a conversation about the embrace of U2 by Apple, and end with a chat about embraces in general.

So, leading off earlier this month, Apple had one of its special events. When people stop what they're doing to watch a big company roll out a new product, in this case the iPhone 6, Don Draper would be drooling in envy, right?

Waterbury Police Department

A former deputy commissioner of the state Department of Motor Vehicles has been charged with sexual assault. Victor Diaz was arrested Tuesday on accusations of sexual assault involving a victim younger than 16.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans believe religious influence on life in the U.S. is waning and nearly half think that churches and other houses of worship should play a greater role in the national discourse on social and political matters, according to a new Pew study.

www.GlynLowe.com / Creative Commons

Founded in 1916, the Brookings Institution became America’s first think tank -- an organization that devoted itself to the study of national public policy. Today, Brookings is just one of some 1,800 think tanks operating across the United States. 

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