Today’s edition of quick hits:
* Welcome home: “The U.S. contractor who was freed Wednesday after five years in captivity in Cuba expressed support for restoring normal relations between the U.S. and Cuba, and celebrated his return to American soil. ‘What a blessing it is to be a citizen of this country,’ Alan Gross said in a short speech from his lawyer’s Washington, D.C. office.”
* Russia: “Trading in the Russian ruble was volatile early Wednesday morning, rallying briefly on news that the Finance Ministry was ready to sell some of its foreign currency reserves, and then weakening again.”
* The day after: “Pakistan’s army and intelligence chiefs traveled to Afghanistan on Wednesday to seek help locating the Pakistani Taliban commanders responsible for the massacre of students at a school here in Peshawar the day before, officials said.”
* New York: “Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration announced on Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State because of concerns over health risks, ending years of uncertainty over the disputed method of natural gas extraction.”
* A surprising retreat: “Sony Pictures has decided to pull their upcoming comedy ‘The Interview’ from distribution amid security concerns and reports that the five largest movie theater chains in the U.S. had decided to hold off on screening the film.”
* Arizona: “The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked the state of Arizona from enforcing a policy that denies driver’s licenses to young immigrants granted legal status by President Barack Obama in 2012.”
* As if the White House beat wasn’t busy enough today: “President Obama granted clemency to 20 individuals – including 12 pardons and eight commutations.”
* No rush: “The Federal Reserve on Wednesday said it would be “patient” in deciding when to begin to increase interest rates, suggesting that the recent burst of positive U.S. economic data hasn’t moved up widely-expected plans to begin to raise rates sometime next year.”
* Does Russia’s economic crisis threaten the U.S. economy? Not exactly. In fact, it might even help us a little, at least in the short term.
* Good move: “President Obama on Tuesday again used his executive authority to enact an environmental priority as he indefinitely barred oil and gas exploration of Alaska’s picturesque Bristol Bay to protect some of the nation’s most productive commercial fisheries.”
* She’s right: “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) didn’t mince words when blaming Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) for blocking a bill to help prevent veteran suicides.”
* The nation’s only state to pursue single-payer health care is hitting the pause button: “[Vermont] Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Wednesday that he will not ask the Legislature to consider a financing plan for single-payer health care. The government-financed health care system proposal has been one of Shumlin’s central policy goals.”
* And it’s good to see Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) take his “Molotov” problem in stride.
Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.