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Dec 17, 2014

‘I’m free,’ says American after five years held in Cuba

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The messages from Alan Gross had grown increasingly ominous. In May, on his 65th birthday, the former U.S. aid worker said he would rather die than spend another birthday in a Cuban prison. Two weeks ago, his wife said he was “literally wasting away.”

But arriving home on Wednesday, Gross – released after more than five years of imprisonment on espionage charges – looked almost giddy with joy as he told a news conference in Washington he was “incredibly blessed” to be free.

Dec 17, 2014

Obama to announce major Cuba policy overhaul; prisoners swapped

HAVANA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama was set to announce a shift in policy toward Cuba on Wednesday and the Associated Press reported the changes would include the opening of an embassy in Cuba and the start of talks to normalize relations.

The shift in policy, which could be one of the biggest changes in decades of animosity between communist-ruled Cuba and the United States, was heralded by Cuba’s release of American aid worker Alan Gross after five years in prison in a reported prisoner exchange with Havana.

Dec 17, 2014

Cuba releases American Alan Gross as U.S. prepares to overhaul Cuba policy

HAVANA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Cuba has released American aid worker Alan Gross after five years in prison in a reported prisoner exchange with Havana that the United States said on Wednesday heralds an overhaul of U.S. policy toward Cuba.

A U.S. official said Gross was released on humanitarian grounds. CNN reported a prisoner exchange that also included Cuba releasing a U.S. intelligence source and the United States releasing three Cuban intelligence agents.

Dec 16, 2014

U.S. officials expect stiffer Pakistani resolve in wake of Taliban attack

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The United States offered further counter terrorism help to Pakistan on Tuesday after a deadly Taliban attack on a school, and U.S. officials said privately they expect stronger Pakistani resolve in fighting the insurgents.

President Barack Obama said the raid, which killed at least 132 students and nine staff at a military-run high school in the city of Peshawar, was an act of “depravity” and he promised that Washington would back Pakistan against the militants.

Dec 11, 2014

Psychologist says U.S. Senate’s CIA report makes false charges

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – One of the two psychologists who devised the CIA’s harsh Bush-era interrogation methods said on Wednesday that a scathing U.S. Senate report on the torture of foreign terrorism suspects “took things out of context” and made false accusations.

“It’s a bunch of hooey,” James Mitchell told Reuters from his home in Florida when asked for his response to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s findings released on Tuesday. “Some of the things are just plain not true.”

Dec 10, 2014

Report slams psychologists who devised Bush-era interrogation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The CIA paid $80 million to a company run by two former Air Force psychologists without experience in interrogation or counter-terrorism who recommended waterboarding, slaps to the face and mock burial for prisoners the U.S. suspected of being terrorists, according to a U.S. Senate report.

The two men are referred to in the report by the pseudonyms “Dunbar” and “Swigert” but have been identified by U.S. intelligence sources as James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. The CIA outsourced more than 80 percent of its interrogation program to the company, Mitchell Jessen & Associates of Spokane, Washington, for its work from 2005 until the termination of the arrangement in 2009. The CIA also paid the company $1 million to protect it and its employees from legal liability.

Dec 8, 2014

Six Guantanamo prisoners fly to Uruguay for resettlement

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Six men held for more than a decade at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were flown to Uruguay for resettlement on Sunday, the latest step in a slow-moving push by President Barack Obama’s administration to close the facility.

The release of four Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian, who arrived in South America aboard a U.S. military transport plane, represented the largest single group to leave the internationally condemned U.S. detention camp since 2009, U.S. officials said.

Dec 7, 2014

Uruguay accepts six Guantanamo prisoners for resettlement

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Six men held for more than a decade at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were flown to Uruguay for resettlement on Sunday, the Pentagon said, the latest step in a slow-moving push by the Obama administration to close the facility.

The release of four Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian, who arrived in South America aboard a U.S. military transport plane, represented the largest single group to leave the internationally condemned U.S. detention camp since 2009.

Dec 4, 2014

Obama’s pick to head Pentagon not always on same page as president

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ashton Carter, a veteran Washington insider President Barack Obama is expected to name as his new defense secretary, built a reputation as a behind-the-scenes team player during many years in senior Pentagon posts.

But scrutiny of the 60-year-old former physicist’s views on issues ranging from North Korea to Iraq to defense spending also show an independent thinker whose opinions have not always aligned fully with those of the president.

Nov 21, 2014

Powerful U.S. pro-Israel lobby holds fire as Iran deadline looms

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As the United States and other powers negotiate down to the wire on a nuclear deal with Iran, one voice has been unusually quiet – the main pro-Israel lobby in Washington.

Israel deeply distrusts the attempt to reach a deal at talks in Vienna that would lift harsh international sanctions on Iran in return for limits to its nuclear program, aimed at preventing it from developing an atomic bomb.

    • About Matt

      "White House correspondent who has covered news on four continents for Reuters, from Latin American coups and drug wars to the O.J. Simpson murder trial in Los Angeles to the Balkans conflict to the second Palestinian Intifada to the Iraq war. He has covered George W. Bush and is now covering President Barack Obama."
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