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Cuba And U.S. To Re-establish Diplomatic Relations

Obama wins raves in Latin America over Cuba shift

12/19/14 08:40AM

Many of President Obama's critics on the right routinely focus on the global stage as a basis of their rebukes. Obama's foreign policy, they argue, has rattled international confidence in the United States and weakened respect for us abroad. It's hard to lead the free world, the Republican argument goes, if we're not as respected or as admired as we once were.
 
The argument, in general, is nonsense. America's stature quantifiably slipped during the Bush/Cheney era, but there's ample evidence that Obama has helped repair our standing in recent years.
 
That said, even if we take the right's rhetoric at face value, conservatives should be absolutely thrilled with the White House this week -- with one big announcement, the president has apparently boosted the United States' reputation throughout an important part of the world. The New York Times had a fascinating report on this:
President Obama has been lambasted for spying in Brazil, accused of being a warmonger by Bolivia, dismissed as a "lost opportunity" by Argentina, and taunted in Nicaragua by calls for Latin America to draw up its own list of state sponsors of terrorism -- with the United States in the No. 1 spot.
 
But now Latin American leaders have a new kind of vocabulary to describe him: They are calling him "brave," "extraordinary" and "intelligent."
 
After years of watching his influence in Latin America slip away, Mr. Obama suddenly turned the tables this week by declaring a sweeping détente with Cuba, opening the way for a major repositioning of the United States in the region.
This is no small development. As Latin America has soured on the United States, China has sought to take advantage, expanding Chinese ties and influence in the region, and positioning itself as a long-term partner for countries throughout Central and South America.
 
With one breakthrough shift, a half-century in the making, the Obama White House has taken an enormous step towards shaking off our imperialist reputation and vastly improving our standing.
Customers shop for "Green Friday" deals at the Grass Station marijuana shop on Black Friday in Denver, Colo. on Nov. 28, 2014. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

Nebraska, Oklahoma take aim at Colorado's pot law

12/19/14 08:00AM

A couple of years ago, voters in Colorado and the state of Washington approved landmark drug laws, making recreational marijuana use legal for adults. The state measures were at odds with federal statutes, but the Obama administration gave Colorado and Washington its blessing to proceed.
 
Two years later, some of Colorado's neighbors are looking to the federal courts to undo what the states' voters did.
Two heartland states filed the first major court challenge to marijuana legalization on Thursday, saying that Colorado's growing array of state-regulated recreational marijuana shops was piping marijuana into neighboring states and should be shut down.
 
The lawsuit was brought by attorneys general in Nebraska and Oklahoma, and asks the United States Supreme Court to strike down key parts of a 2012 voter-approved measure that legalized marijuana in Colorado for adult use and created a new system of stores, taxes and regulations surrounding retail marijuana.
According to the lawsuit, crafted by Republican state attorneys general in Nebraska and Oklahoma, Colorado created a "scheme" that circumvents federal law and allows pot to flow into neighboring states. This in turn undermines their prohibition laws, "draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems."
 
The suit added, "The Constitution and the federal antidrug laws do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local pro-drug policies and licensed distribution schemes throughout the country."
 
In other words, far-right GOP state attorneys general want federal courts to order federal law enforcement to enforce federal laws, whether voters in the Centennial State like it or not.
 
It's always interesting to see where conservative governing principles start and end, isn't it?

Family searches for U.S. mystery spy, and other headlines

12/19/14 07:53AM

Obama plans to start lifting restrictions on Cuba as soon as next month. (New York Times)

U.S. businesses can't wait for Cuba gold rush. (Washington Post) 

Family says U.S. mystery spy released in Cuba has disappeared without a trace. (Miami Herald)

Kurds, backed by U.S. airstrikes, reverse an ISIS gain (New York Times)

Anti-union groups try changing local county laws. (New York Times)

Nebraska, Oklahoma AG's sue Colorado over legalized marijuana. (Tulsa World)

'Colbert Report' signs off (Hollywood Reporter)

Flares over Chevron refinery in Richmond, California, called normal but worry the neighbors (NBC Bay Area)

What are you reading this morning? Let us know in the comments, please.

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Cuba deal reached under cloak of secrecy

Cuba deal reached under cloak of secrecy

12/18/14 11:39PM

Rachel Maddow reports new details of how President Obama negotiated directly with Cuba's President Castro to remake U.S./Cuba relations, the role of Pope Francis, secret meetings, and the American spy returned to the U.S. in the deal. watch

US wary of North Korea war fantasy

US wary of North Korea war fantasy

12/18/14 11:38PM

Rachel Maddow reports on how the United States is weighing its options as it pieces together clues that North Korea is behind the hack of Sony Pictures and the threats against movie theaters, mindful that North Korea would like to draw the U.S. into war. watch

Programming note: Lambchop to pack heat

Programming note: Lambchop to pack heat

12/18/14 11:31PM

Rachel Maddow alerts viewers to an upcoming special presentation of All In with Chris Hayes in which Hayes visits a shooting range to test out the one kind of gun the NRA does not want sold in America. watch

Russia crash is perilous, schadenfreude aside

Russia crash is perilous, schadenfreude aside

12/18/14 09:42PM

Michael McFaul, former U.S ambassador to Russia, talks with Rachel Maddow about the dire economic circumstances President Putin has placed Russia in, the danger to the world economy of a Russian crash, and what options remain open for Putin to recover. watch

Jeb Bush caught in conflict over Cuba embargo

Jeb Bush caught in conflict over Cuba embargo

12/18/14 09:26PM

Rachel Maddow reports on how Jeb Bush, fresh off the starting line of a presidential bid, suffered embarrassment after grandstanding in support of the embargo of Cuba when it was revealed that he was being paid by a bank that violated that embargo. watch

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