Politics

Political news from WNPR

Updated at 5:45 p.m. ET

Police from around the country are gathering at the Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens today to honor a fallen comrade, Officer Rafael Ramos, who was fatally shot in an unprovoked attack one week ago along with his partner, Wenjian Liu.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Vice President Joe Biden are in attendance at the funeral, which followed a wake for Ramos on Friday that was attended by hundreds.

Like Cuban-American families throughout the diaspora, the Garcias of Key West, Fla., gather on Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve, to catch up on news and eat a traditional meal of lechón, or roast pig.

Wayne Garcia, a local building contractor and artist, prepared the pork for the family feast this year. He smokes it for seven hours in a hole dug in his backyard, in a style he says was passed down from his great-grandparents.

Authorities in New York City are monitoring threats made against police since two officers were fatally shot on Saturday, and are upping security at some stationhouses.

The gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, shot and killed Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in their patrol car before committing suicide. He had posted messages on social media suggesting the assault was revenge for deaths of two unarmed black men at the hands of authorities.

Alan Gross, the former USAID subcontractor who spent five years in a Cuban prison before his release last week, will get $3.2 million from the federal government, part of a settlement with the Maryland-based company for which he worked at the time of his arrest.

The U.S. Agency for International Development, in a statement, said it had finalized a settlement, agreed to in principle in November, with Development Alternatives, Inc.

The city of Boston’s new chief of arts and culture has been making the rounds during her first full week on the job. Her name is Julie Burros and she hails from Chicago, a city famous for embracing and supporting the arts (like “Cloud Gate” in the above photo).

Burros quickly earned the nickname “arts czar” after Boston Mayor Marty Walsh fulfilled his campaign promise by appointing her to the newly created cabinet-level position this past September.

Rep. Michael Grimm, the New York Republican who won re-election despite being indicted on 20 criminal counts related to a restaurant he owns, pleaded guilty to one charge of felony tax evasion Tuesday. He'll be sentenced in June; calls for him to leave Congress began Tuesday morning.

Grimm, a former FBI agent who represents Staten Island and south Brooklyn, had previously pleaded not guilty to charges that included mail fraud and perjury.

Pete Souza / White House

A measure designating Samuel Colt's 19th-century gun factory in Connecticut as a national park was signed into law on Friday by President Barack Obama. 

Official photos

Next month, the state legislature will convene with a lot of familiar names in new top jobs. We sit down with the two new Senate leaders, President Martin Looney and Minority Leader Len Fasano. What are their priorities for the next session? You can join the conversation with your questions and suggestions for the new Senate leadership.

Governor Dannel Malloy is tapping a Bridgeport state senator as his new commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Motor Vehicles. 

Sujata Srinivasan / WNPR

The Pakistani community in Connecticut strongly condemned the massacre of scores of school children by Taliban gunmen in Pakistan on December 16. Nearly 100 members of the Pakistani-American Association of Connecticut held a vigil at the Connecticut State Capitol last Friday.

Pete Souza / White House

President Barack Obama claimed an array of successes in 2014, citing lower unemployment, a rising number of Americans covered by health insurance, and an historic diplomatic opening with Cuba. 

Naval History and Heritage Command / Creative Commons

Earlier this week, the Senate confirmed Vivek Murthy to be the nation’s next Surgeon General. His confirmation had been held up for more than a year by pro-gun lobbyists, because of his support for new gun control measures. Murthy founded the group Doctors for America, which had advocated for gun restrictions, but he has said his focus as Surgeon General will be on tackling the nation’s obesity problem.

Two days after the U.S. and Cuba decided to end a more than 50-year estrangement, the natural question is: What's next?

On Morning Edition, NPR's Michelle Kelemen reports that the process of normalizing diplomatic relations will be pretty straight forward and is likely to be done quickly.

"We can do that via an exchange of letter or notes. It doesn't require a formal sort of legal treaty or agreement," Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere, said during a briefing on Thursday.

NY Fracking Ban Decision Elicits Different Reactions

Dec 18, 2014

It will probably go down as the biggest decision of the year in New York State – a ban on fracking. Wednesday’s news came the same day casino license recommendations were announced. Supporters of a fracking ban are celebrating the long-awaited decision while opponents say they are disappointed and the Southern Tier, where fracking would have taken place, is doomed.

The White House says the devastating cyber attack on Sony Pictures was done with "malicious intent" and was initiated by a "sophisticated actor" but it would not say if that actor was North Korea.

Spokesman Josh Earnest says the matter is still under investigation.

"Regardless of who is found to be responsible for this, the president considers it to be a serious national security matter," Earnest says.

American Alan Gross, who spent five years in a Cuban prison before his release today as a humanitarian gesture, said "it's good to be home," and that he hoped the U.S. and Cuba move past their "mutually belligerent" policies.

"Two wrongs never made a right," Gross said in Washington shortly after he returned to the U.S. aboard a government plane.

Gross appeared frail but cheerful. Some of his front teeth were missing.

Gross thanked President Obama and his national security team for working toward his freedom.

CT-N

Governor Dannel Malloy said he'll turn the focus onto solving Connecticut's transportation challenges in his second term.

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."

With news that the United States will work toward re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and easing the embargo, there is already talk about the reaction in the Cuban-American community.

In political terms, this is a major voting bloc in the hugely important swing state of Florida.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Legend holds that years after the the Hartford Convention, a visitor from the South was touring the Old State House and asked to be shown the room where the Convention met. Ushered into the Senate chamber, the southerner looked at the crimson in the face of George Washington in the Gilbert Stuart portrait hanging here and said, "I'll be damned if he's got the blush off yet.

NTSB

A second Metro-North engineer has filed a federal negligence lawsuit against the railroad as a result of the May 2013 derailment in Bridgeport that injured dozens of people. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Our weekly news roundtable The Wheelhouse discusses the new look of the Malloy administration as the governor heads into his second term. Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House Chris Donovan finds a new line of work with a state teachers' union. We also check in on the Elm City, where New Haven's police chief is making headlines for a confrontation at the Yale Bowl.

A Closing Conversation With Gov. Deval Patrick

Dec 17, 2014

With only a few weeks now remaining now in Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration, WBUR’s Bob Oakes sat down with the outgoing Massachusetts governor for the last time in his executive office on Beacon Hill.

The conversation began with a look back to Patrick’s first inaugural address in 2007. In that speech, Patrick spoke of lifting up the poor and stabilizing the middle class.

Listen above to Gov. Patrick’s full conversation on WBUR’s Morning Edition.

Interview Highlights

Former New York Gov. George Pataki says he is "very seriously" considering a run for the White House.

New property tax rates have been set in Springfield, Massachusetts.  For the first time in many years, the rates for both homeowners and business property owners have been reduced, as property values continue to recover from the Great Recession

In what The Associated Press called a "final flurry of accomplishment" Tuesday night, lawmakers were able to push through a bill that extended a package of tax breaks, which had expired at the end of 2013, and confirmed 12 more judicial nominees. NPR's Ailsa Chang reported the confirmations also marked a big accomplishment for the Obama administration.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Rhode Island's governor-elect Gina Raimondo has picked Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, a fellow Yale alum with experience leading economic-development efforts in New York and New Jersey, as her choice to be Rhode Island's first commerce secretary.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Former House Speaker Chris Donovan has a new job. CT News Junkie reports Donovan will take up a position with the Connecticut Education Association. 

Picture the Olympic flame at night, reflecting off Boston Harbor. Picture rowers slicing up the Charles River, the sun warming the russet roofs of Harvard behind them.

That imagery may be part of the presentation Tuesday, as representatives from Boston try to persuade the United States Olympic Committee, or USOC, to choose Boston over three other U.S. cities for consideration for the 2024 Summer Games.

Earlier this month, after the events in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y, the White House announced the creation of what it's calling a Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

The group's job is to find ways to strengthen the relationship between police and the public, and to share recommendations with the president by late February.

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