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Obama Reportedly to Announce Thaw in Embargo as Alan Gross Freed From Cuban Prison

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Alan Gross before his capture in 2009.

Update: The White House confirms it plans to normalize trade and travel to Cuba, saying, "It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed." In Little Havana, the news has yet to stir any real protests as TV crews far outnumber a handful of sign-waving protesters.

American contractor Alan Gross was released from Cuban prison this morning, according to ABC.

Gross, a USAID employee caught in 2009 distributing satellite equipment that is banned in Cuba, was in declining health. According to ABC, Gross' release is part of a prisoner swap that will see the three remaining members of the "Cuban Five" spy ring returned to the island.

Word is now bubbling that the move might just be the first step in a much bigger announcement. President Obama will speak at noon and reportedly may announce plans to thaw the Cuban trade embargo.


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Obama Could Lift Sanctions Against Cuba After Next Week's Election, Says Congressman

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Photo by Jvlio via Wikimedia Commons
Are US-Cuba relations about to see a new dawn?
The Cuban expression "mañana, mañana." is often interpreted by Anglos as an excuse for laziness. In fact, the saying speaks volumes about its island of origin. In a country that has been led by one Castro or another for more than half a century, what hope can there be that tomorrow will be any different from today?

Earlier this month, that question brought several dozen experts, academics, and journalists to Columbia Journalism School in Manhattan. Optimism was evident in the conference's title -- Covering Cuba in an Era of Change -- as well as in the presentations, which included strong hints that the embargo's days are numbered.

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Steven Sotloff's Family Hid His Jewish Identity in Attempt to Save Kidnapped Journalist

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YouTube
An ISIS video showing Steven Sotloff, who was captured last year in Syria.
A day after a video depicting his beheading was posted online, more details are emerging about the life and death of Middle East correspondent and Miami native Steven Sotloff.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking is the revelation that his family hid Sotloff's Jewish identity in a desperate attempt to save him from ISIS, the Islamist terror group that had kidnapped him during a reporting trip to Syria.

See also: ISIS Beheads Journalist, Threatens to Kill Miami Reporter if Obama Continues Attacks

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J.J. Rendon: Alvaro Uribe Did "the Dirty Work of the Chavistas Without Knowing It"

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Courtesy of J.J. Rendón
J.J. Rendón poses next to a caricature of himself
It's been a chaotic summer for Colombians. First, they watched their national soccer team win four straight games at the World Cup. Then los cafeteros were cruelly denied a trip to the semifinals by a bunch of brutal Brazilians and a bogus referee.

While Colombia was uniting around its team, however, it was also being pulled apart by cutthroat politics. The June 15 presidential election was so dirty it deserved a red card. There were defections, accusations of bribery, and a candidate who publicly pissed himself.

The only thing that wasn't surprising was the man at the center of it all: J.J. Rendón.

See also: J.J. Rendon is Latin America's Karl Rove

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Manuel Noriega Suing Call of Duty For Including Him as a Character

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Manuel Noriega: former Panamanian dictator, former decades-long resident of Miami-Dade's Federal Correctional Institute, unwilling video game star.

Yes, Noriega was featured as a character in Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and now he's suing the video game makers from his Panamanian jail cell.

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Florida Teenager Tariq Khedir Returned Home After Alleged Brutal Beating by Israeli Forces

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Courtesy of CAIR Florida
The tenuous Israeli-Palestinian relationship teetered on a knife's edge last week when the bodies of three murdered Israeli teens were found. It threatened to tip into outright mayhem days later when a Palestinian teen was kidnapped and burned alive in a revenge killing. And this weekend, a Florida teenager was at the center of the latest seesawing conflict after he was allegedly brutally beaten by Israeli forces during a protest.

Tariq Khedir, a 15-year-old who goes to high school in Tampa, was released from prison this morning and is now under house arrest. The U.S. government has called for a full probe into a beating activists say was caught on video.

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Prince Harry Is Partying in Miami This Week

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Fresh off a reported split form his longtime girlfriend, the world's most eligible bachelor, Prince Harry, is reportedly in South Beach celebrating a friend's bachelor party.

Do you hear that? It's the sound of thousands of Miami girls desperately rummaging through their closets trying to find the perfect outfit that says, "Hey, I'm sexy and available, but also I'm future British royalty material."


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Miami's Jewish Congregations Disturbed By Ukraine's "Jewish Registration" Letters

Photo by MosheA via Wikimedia Commons
Miami Beach became one of the Jewish capitals of America thanks in part to the mass immigration fleeing anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe under the Nazis. So it's no surprise that when news broke earlier today about fliers circulating in eastern Ukraine demanding that Jewish residents "register" with the government, switchboards lit up at local Jewish centers from residents worried about the implications.

"The situation has to be taken very seriously," said Rabbi Marc Philippe of the Temple Emanu-El synagogue in Miami Beach. "When people didn't take it too seriously in 1940, 1939 we know what happened...It's so eerie that it's exactly the same scenario that is happening over there."

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Miami Company's Venezuelan Security Expert Arrested and Accused of "Terrorist Acts"

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Courtesy of Risks Inc.
Chamel Akl was arrested after photographing protests like this one in Caracas.
The police station burned bright as a bonfire. As cars hissed past on the Caracas highway, flames consumed the roadside structure as if it were kindling. Black smoke belched into the night sky. By the time dawn broke over the Venezuelan capital April 1, nothing was left of the building but a charred concrete shell.

The station was still smoking when Chamel Akl drove by hours later. An instructor for a Miami-based security company, Akl was also an open critic of the Chavista government. Two months of violent street protests had scared away most international businessmen -- his usual clients -- so he had taken to tweeting the location of cops and soldiers he spotted around the city.

They were watching him as well, however. And when Chamel pulled up in front of his brother's house after dinner, cops suddenly swarmed his armored SUV. They dragged the brothers out at gunpoint, cinched their hands behind their backs with zip ties, and pushed them into the back of a paddy wagon.

See also: Miami Mercenaries: International Security Business Is Booming in South Florida

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Guatemala's Ex-President Pleads Guilty to Miami Money Laundering

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What started in Guatemala and took a financial detour to Miami has now ended in New York. Former Guatemalan president Alfonso Portillo pleaded guilty in a New York courtroom today to a charge of money laundering designed to hide bribes he had taken from Taiwan.

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