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NEWS   THURSDAY, DECEMBER  18, 2014   NEWS

57 Percent Of Americans Say Race Relations In U.S. Are Bad
A majority of Americans now say that race relations in the United States are bad, according to the latest NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll, which showed the most pessimistic assessment of racial issues in almost two decades. In the wake of protests over the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police, just four in ten Americans told pollsters that they believe race relations in the United States are "good," while 57 percent disagreed. And nearly a quarter - 23 percent - classified the current state of the country's racial issues as "very bad." The data showed a dramatic slide from just 18 months ago, when a July 2013 poll indicated that a majority - 52 percent - offered an optimistic view of race relations. And throughout President Barack Obama's first term in the White House, more than seven in ten Americans said race relations were good, with a record 77 percent giving a positive assessment shortly after Obama's election as the first black president. MSNBC
VOA VIEW: Thanks to the black president, Obama.

Knives Are Out! Axelrod Disses Clinton: ‘Ready For Hillary … Ready For What?’
David Axelrod, former adviser to President Obama, took a quick pot shot at Hillary Clinton, saying that when he thinks of the “Ready for Hillary” mantra that’s been making waves on the White House fundraising trail, he thinks — ready for what exactly? “What happened in 2008 was that Hillary’s candidacy got out in front of any rationale for it, and the danger is that that’s happening again,” he said, on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. “You hear ‘Ready for Hillary’; it’s like, ready for what?” Washington Times

Gap In Wealth Between Rich And Middle-Income Biggest In 30 Years
The wealth gap between the rich in the United States and the middle-class has hit a new record, the Pew Research Center said Wednesday. Using statistics from the Federal Reserve, Pew said that in 2013 rich households had assets averaging $639,400, while the median wealth of those in the middle-income bracket was $96,500. That gave the rich a cushion almost seven times the size of middle-income families and almost 70 times the assets of those classified as low-income. The gap is the biggest since the Federal Reserve began releasing its Survey of Consumer Finances 30 years ago. UPI
VOA VIEW: Though times has and will hurt the middle-income more that the high income earners.

Thank You, Fed! Stocks Have Best Day Of 2014
The Federal Reserve is going to take its sweet time raising interest rates. And the market couldn't be happier. The Dow and S&P 500 had their best days of 2014. The Dow surged 288 points. The central bank said Wednesday afternoon that it would be "patient in beginning to normalize the stance of monetary policy" and added that this new language is consistent with earlier statements that it plans to keep interest rates low for a "considerable time," which it also kept. Oh J-A-N-E-T, I love you so. Investors had been hoping the Fed would keep the "considerable time" phrase in its statement. By doing so, it appears that the Fed is signaling that it is unlikely to begin raising interest rates until sometime in the summer of 2015 or later. CNN

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U.S. Aerospace Sector Sees Big Opportunities In Cuban Thaw
President Barack Obama's decision to restore U.S. diplomatic ties with Cuba could yield big opportunities for the U.S. aerospace sector, which builds parts and provides maintenance for commercial aircraft, a top industry official said Wednesday. Marion Blakey, president and chief executive officer of the Aerospace Industries Association, welcomed the president's announcement and said it was likely to result in "a great deal of new commerce" for U.S. companies. Reuters

Poll: Hillary Clinton The Early 2016 Frontrunner, But Barely
Call Hillary Clinton the early presidential frontrunner - but barely. That's the result from a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which finds that half of American voters - 50 percent - saying they could see themselves supporting her if she runs for the White House in 2016, while 48 percent oppose her. Although that margin of support is small, it stands in sharp contrast to the numbers for well-known Republicans, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who announced on Tuesday that he's "actively" exploring a presidential bid. MSNBC
VOA VIEW: More liberal media pro Clinton brainwashing.

Dreamers Tell GOP Presidential Hopefuls To Stop Deportations
Illegal immigrants who gained tentative legal status under President Obama’s 2012 amnesty for so-called Dreamers have issued a challenge to would-be 2016 GOP presidential candidates, demanding to know whether the Republicans would deport the Dreamers and their parents. With former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s announcement Tuesday that he is actively exploring a presidential bid, the Dreamers said it’s time for him — and the rest of the field — to say whether they would cancel Mr. Obama’s amnesty. Washington Times

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Why More Adults Are Getting "Kids' Diseases"
Chickenpox befell Angelina Jolie this week, preventing the actress-turned-director from attending the premiere of her new film. Meanwhile, an outbreak of mumps has hit the National Hockey League, sidelining more than a dozen players and two referees. These are considered kids' diseases. Most adults have vivid, fretful childhood memories of standing in line to get vaccinations that they expected to provide lifetime protection. Why, then, are these prominent adults -- and scores of others -- coming down with these infections? Mainly, it comes down to two factors, experts say. CBS

Sony Hack Believed To Be Routed Through Infected Computers Overseas
Federal cyber-security sources close to the investigation have confirmed to ABC News that there is evidence to indicate the Sony intrusion was routed through a number of infected computers in various locations overseas, including computers in Singapore, Thailand, Italy, Bolivia, Poland and Cyprus. The primary suspects are members of an elite North Korean cyber-security unit known as "Bureau 121," the sources also confirmed today. But authorities have not ruled out that it could be an insider cooperating with some groups with a grudge against Sony, or an insider who helped the North Koreans. ABC

Biggest Price Drop Since 2008 Lifts U.S. Consumers
Prices paid by American consumers dropped in November by the most in almost six years, providing a boost to buying power that will propel economic growth. The cost of living fell 0.3 percent, the most since December 2008, after being little changed the prior month, according to Labor Department figures issued today in Washington. The retreat was led by a plunge in fuel that is continuing to unfold. The cheapest gasoline since 2009 and a strengthening job market lifted weekly paychecks in November by the most in six years, one reason why companies such as Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) are enjoying a cheerful holiday season. Federal Reserve policy makers today said they will be patient on the timing of the first interest-rate increase and expect inflation to “rise gradually” toward their goal. Bloomberg

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New York Moves To Ban Fracking
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 but controversial gas-drilling technique. New York has had a temporary ban on the practice since an environmental review began in 2008. State Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens said Wednesday that he was recommending a total ban, and Cuomo said he would defer to Martens and Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker in making the decision. CBS

U.S. To Return To Olympic Bidding With Candidate For 2024 Games
The U.S. will bid for the 2024 Olympics as it seeks to host the Summer Games for a first time in 28 years. Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston yesterday made presentations in Redwood City, California, to the board of the U.S. Olympic Committee, which voted unanimously to put forward a candidate to the International Olympic Committee. Each city’s plan will be discussed at a board meeting next month with the aim of choosing a representative before the end of January, USOC Chairman Larry Probst told reporters. “It’s a four-way tie,” Probst said on a conference call. “We’re going to take our time, we’re going to go through a very deliberate and thoughtful process, and we’re going to pick the city that we think has the best chance of winning.” Bloomberg

Lawyer: Christie Won’t Be Sued In Bridge Scandal
A lawyer says two lawsuits filed in the apparently politically motivated lane closings of the George Washington Bridge will move forward without New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as a defendant. A federal judge consolidated the cases, one of which named Christie as a defendant along with a former Christie aide who sent an email incriminating her in the closings last year. Attorney Barry Epstein says a new lawsuit will be filed in place of the consolidated complaints, and won't name Christie as a defendant because there's been no evidence the Republican governor was involved in the closings. The bridge scandal has been a source of speculation over how it might affect Christie's political future. Las Vegas Sun

Pakistan Reinstates Death Penalty In Wake Of Deadly School Attack
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reinstated the death penalty Wednesday, a day after a deadly Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar. Tuesday's attack targeted children and shocked a country accustomed to news of violence. Most of the children killed, 132 in total, were between the ages of 12 and 16. The government declared a three day mourning period beginning Wednesday and an official with Sharif's office announced "The prime minister has approved abolishment of moratorium on the execution of death penalty in terrorism-related cases." UPI

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US, Cuba Seek To Normalize Relations After Alan Gross Released
Republican lawmakers pushed back strongly Wednesday against President Obama's decision to enact a series of orders meant to normalize relations with Cuba, with some GOP heavy hitters calling it “another concession to tyranny.” “These changes will lead to legitimacy for a government that shamelessly continuously abuses human rights but it will not lead to assistance for those whose rights are being abused,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Wednesday. Obama said on Wednesday that the United States will end what he called an “outdated approach” with Cuba, and take steps to normalize diplomatic relations -- including opening an embassy in Havana -- after American Alan Gross was released from the communist country following five years in prison. Fox News

McCain: 'We Must Leave A Force Behind' In Afghanistan
Two days after President Obama welcomed U.S. troops home from Afghanistan, Sen. John  McCain is warning that thing there will get "a lot worse"  if the U.S. doesn't leave an adequate military force behind. "The United States should be talking about leaving a stabilizing force behind in Afghanistan to give them the capabilities that they don't have right now and won't have when we, quote, 'leave,'" McCain told Fox News's Greta Van Susteren Tuesday night.  The Taliban already is stepping up its attacks: "Casualties have been larger, showing that we must leave a force behind." McCain warned that the U.S. risks a rerun of the "Iraq movie," where hard-won stability unraveled after the United States failed to leave behind a residual military force when the war ended. CNS News

Obama Grants First Commutations Under New Clemency Program
Eight Americans serving time for drug offenses will be allowed to leave prison ahead of schedule next year, making them the first inmates to earn reduced sentences through a broad clemency program announced by the Obama administration earlier this year. President Barack Obama on Wednesday granted the commutations to men and women from Alabama, Virginia, Iowa and other states who were in prison for possessing crack cocaine or methamphetamine, with the intent to distribute the drugs or related charges. In April, the U.S. Justice Department laid out new guidelines that allow re-examination of prison terms meted out to inmates who have served at least 10 years of their prison term, are non-violent and were sentenced under laws that have since changed. Reuters

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US International Aid Head To Step Down
The head of the nation's global development agency said Wednesday he will step down from his post in February, following an announcement by the U.S. government that it would start talks toward restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba. Rajiv Shah, the administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, gave no public reason for leaving the agency he's lead since 2000. In a statement released Wednesday morning, he said he had "mixed emotions" but did not elaborate. Shah's announcement also came hours before U.S. officials confirmed on Wednesday that USAID contractor Alan Gross was freed from a Cuban prison. Fox News

Pakistan Militants: Children's Massacre Was To Avenge Army Strikes
As Pakistan started three days of national mourning Wednesday, the Taliban said they targeted a school that mostly admits soldiers' children because the students aspired to follow in their fathers' footsteps and target militants. Terrorists ambushed the school in Peshawar on Tuesday, explosives strapped to their bodies, and burst into an auditorium filled with students taking exams. They sprayed bullets rapidly, killing 145 people. Of those, 132 were children, authorities said. In an email, the terror group warned Muslims to avoid places with military ties, saying it attacked the school to avenge the deaths of children allegedly killed by soldiers in tribal areas.  accused the students at the army school of "following the path of their fathers and brothers to take part in the fight against the tribesmen" nationwide. CNN

$4.20 Per Pound: Price Of Ground Beef Climbs To Another Record
The average price of a pound of ground beef climbed to another record high -- $4.201 per pound -- in the United States in November, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In August 2014, the average price for a pound of all types of ground beef topped $4 for the first time, hitting $4.013, according to the BLS.  In September, the average price jumped to $4.096 per pound, and in October, the average price climbed to $4.154 per pound. In November, the average price hit the highest price ever recorded -- $4.201 per pound. CNS News

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Iran Calls Nuclear Talks 'Very Useful'; Negotiations Set To Resume In January
Iran's deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi said on Wednesday that he had had "very intense" and "very useful and helpful" nuclear negotiations with major powers in Geneva. Araqchi, speaking to reporters at the end of closed-door talks, said there was an agreement to continue nuclear talks "next month" at a venue to be decided. The US negotiating team led by Acting Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman left the talks without making any comment. Jerusalem Post

Israel Severely Rebuked, As PM Warns 'Spirit Of Appeasement' Blowing Through Europe
At the end of a day in which international organizations in Europe severely rebuked Israel, and the French were poised to submit a joint resolution with the Jordanians and Palestinians to the UN Security Council calling for a Palestinian state in two years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a “spirit of appeasement” is blowing through Europe. Speaking Wednesday evening at a reception for foreign journalists, Netanyahu cited three decisions – the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg’s taking Hamas off the EU’s terrorist list, the European Parliament’s resolution backing Palestinian statehood, and the call at a meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to investigate Israel for supposed violations of that convention – as indicating Europe’s interest in appeasing the “very forces that threaten Europe itself.” Jerusalem Post

E-Cigarettes 'Help Smokers Quit Or Cut Down'
E-cigarettes can help smokers stop or reduce their habit, a respected international review has confirmed. The first Cochrane review to examine the products considered two randomised trials with data from 662 current smokers. The review authors, from the UK and New Zealand, said the results needed to be expanded on by other studies. Public health doctors said they remained concerned that the devices could reverse progress on smoking. The trial researchers found that about 9% of smokers who used e-cigarettes were able to stop smoking for up to a year, and possibly longer. BBC

Russia Plans New Measures To Stabilise The Rouble
Russia is planning new measures to stabilise the rouble to try to stem its recent slump against the dollar. Its central bank said, if necessary, it would provide additional capital to Russia's banks and financial companies. The rouble has regained ground from Tuesday's all-time low, although trading remains edgy and volatile. The announcement left the currency 10% higher against the dollar. One US dollar bought 62 roubles, far fewer than the record low of 79 on Tuesday. Russia also said it would hold more foreign exchange auctions if needed. "These measures are intended to balance supply and demand on the foreign exchange market, which will help stabilise the rouble rate more quickly," said the Russian central bank's first deputy governor, Ksenia Yudayeva. BBC

Gun Control Has Turned Australia Into A Nation Of Defenceless Victims, Says Senator
Liberal Democratic senator David Leyonhjelm says Sydney siege would have been less likely if public had weapons to fight back.Australia has been turned into a “nation of victims” by gun control laws, Liberal Democratic senator David Leyonhjelm believes. He says this week’s Sydney cafe siege would have been less likely to happen if the gunman thought his hostages might be carrying concealed weapons. “That nutcase who held them all hostage wouldn’t have known that they were armed and bad guys don’t like to be shot back at,” Senator Leyonhjelm told ABC radio on Thursday. Instead, he says, “we are all disarmed victims” and that’s unacceptable. Guardian

Senior Cleric: Iran Has Knowledge To Build A Nuclear Bomb
An official site belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has quoted a senior conservative cleric as saying that Iran has attained the knowledge to build a nuclear bomb but doesn’t want to use it. The IRGC site of Kurdistan province today quoted Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a leading cleric who often leads Friday prayers in Tehran, as telling a group of IRGC commanders in Iran’s Kurdistan province that Iran had the expertise to enrich uranium not just to the 5% and 20% levels required for civilian uses but to higher levels required for a bomb. “[We] can enrich uranium at 5% or 20%, as well as 40% to 50%, and even 90%,” he was quoted as saying. But he said the Islamic republic believed that the building of a bomb is religiously forbidden. Guardian

UN Capacities 'Pushed To The Limit' In 2014, Ban Says In Year-End Wrap-Up
After a year of “discord, disease and disruption” that saw peace operations, diplomacy and humanitarian capacities “pushed to the limit” responding to West Africa's Ebola outbreak, terrorist groups and ongoing conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed reporters today at United Nations Headquarters, where he summed up the year and looked ahead to 2015. Recapping the challenges the UN family tackled over the past year, Mr. Ban noted that over 100 million people need humanitarian assistance and more than 50 million have been displaced by various crises around the world – the most since the Second World War. UN News

Ban Ki-Moon Hails Decision By US, Cuba To Normalize Relations
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the “very important step” taken by the leaders of the United States and Cuba towards normalizing relations between the two countries. Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro of Cuba reportedly agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility. Media reports say that, as part of a deal negotiated over a period of 18 months, the US will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than 50 years after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years. UN News

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