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Restoration of U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations is long overdue

Citing a half-century of failed policy, President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced he intends to normalize relations with Cuba, mending a rupture that dates to the chilliest days of the Cold War. While the move to restore diplomatic ties should not be taken as support for the Castro regime’s continuing human rights violations or its antidemocratic policies, it is undoubtedly the right step. Indeed, it is long overdue.

A Bush bonus that won’t die

The best that can be said for the “tax extenders” bill, approved in the waning days of the 113th Congress, is that it could have been much worse. After the November election, House and Senate leaders attempted to make all 55 special-interest tax breaks in the bill permanent instead of renewing them on a short-term basis, as per usual. The White House shot down that idea, which would have added more than $400 billion to the federal deficit over the next decade. Finally, all concerned settled on a $42 billion one-year renewal of the breaks, retroactive to Jan. 1, so that taxpayers can claim them on their 2014 returns — to be followed by a resumption of debate on broader tax reform in 2015.

A Texas-sized plate dispute

WASHINGTON — The Battle of Palmito Ranch near Brownsville, Texas, on May 13, 1865, is called the last battle of the Civil War, but the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) might consider that judgment premature, given its conflict with the state’s Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles. This skirmish is of national interest because it implicates a burgeoning new entitlement — the right to pass through life without encountering any disagreeable thought.

Military action alone cannot defeat terrorism in Pakistan

After the massacre of 132 children Tuesday at a military-run school in Peshawar, no Pakistani should be under any illusions about the nature of the so-called Pakistani Taliban. Leaders across the political spectrum, including some like Imran Khan who have in the past called for negotiations with the militants, have expressed horror at the killings. Focusing solely on that despicable group, however, won’t make future generations of Pakistani children safe.

Credit for the Cromnibus

Both houses of Congress have voted to send the $1.1 trillion “Cromnibus” spending bill to President BarackObama, and the president has promised to sign the measure, though it’s not an easy creature to like. The massive bill represents a last-minute, must-pass caricature of the deliberative process by which Congress is supposed to approve appropriations. It comes studded with special-interest giveaways, including relaxations of Wall Street and campaign finance regulations that would have been unlikely to pass as stand-alone measures. For the District of Columbia, there’s an especially wounding abrogation of a marijuana legalization referendum.

War authorization against Islamic State should be one of Congress’ first acts

Among the business that Congress will leave unfinished this month is legal authorization of the war against the Islamic State. Though the war has been underway for five months, President Barack Obama has said he would welcome legislation, and congressional leaders have denounced the president’s unilateral actions in other spheres, neither the White House nor Congress has made a passage of an Authorization for Use of Military Force a priority. That puts the ongoing military operations on shaky legal ground and deprives them of the political mandate they ought to have.

Obama’s Boehner bailout

WASHINGTON — How often will President Barack Obama come to House Speaker John Boehner’s rescue even when Republican leaders aren’t willing to give much in return? And does the president want to preside over a split in his party?

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Extreme eradication damaging hunting prospects

Since the first Polynesians arrived back in 200 BC, hunting has been a way of life in Hawaii. The first Marquesans followed by the Tahitians brought with them animals including the Polynesian pig, an essential food source. Eurpoeans later brought other game animals including sheep, goat and axis deer. Mouflon sheep from Sardinia and Corsica arrived in the 1960s and are now endangered in their native land. This hunting tradition has been passed down through four generations of my family, which was essential, especially during the Great Depression days, when my grandfather and his family would not have survived were it not for the wild game my great-grandfather put on the table.

America’s ‘dungeon’

Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the CIA began taking prisoners captured in U.S. anti-terrorism operations. Some were tortured. This is not news. But a long-classified Senate report released Tuesday depicts the disgusting extremes.

The plague of overcriminalization

WASHINGTON — By history’s frequently brutal dialectic, the good that we call progress often comes spasmodically, in lurches propelled by tragedies caused by callousness, folly or ignorance. With the grand jury’s as yet inexplicable and probably inexcusable refusal to find criminal culpability in Eric Garner’s death on a Staten Island sidewalk, the nation might have experienced sufficient affronts to its sense of decency. It might at long last be ready to stare into the abyss of its criminal justice system.

The New Republic is dead

WASHINGTON — At a 40th-birthday party in July for Franklin Foer, editor of the New Republic, the magazine’s young owner, Chris Hughes, got all choked up as he pledged to the roomful of writers at Foer’s country home in Pennsylvania that the two would be “intellectual partners for decades.”

An act of exceptional recklessness

WASHINGTON — With the apparently imminent release of the Feinstein report on CIA interrogations of high-value terrorists a decade ago, let’s consider the situation of intelligence personnel who have been involved, not in that program but in drone strikes against terrorists, conducted in a variety of countries around the world.