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Eyder Peralta

President Obama will close out 2014 with his traditional end-of-year press conference.

The press conference is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. ET., and it's bound to be eventful because Obama has a lot to talk about.

Among the news events that will likely come up:

-- The normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Two days after the U.S. and Cuba decided to end a more than 50-year estrangement, the natural question is: What's next?

On Morning Edition, NPR's Michelle Kelemen reports that the process of normalizing diplomatic relations will be pretty straight forward and is likely to be done quickly.

"We can do that via an exchange of letter or notes. It doesn't require a formal sort of legal treaty or agreement," Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere, said during a briefing on Thursday.

There was a significant drop in the number of executions and death penalty sentences in 2014, a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center finds.

The group's year-end accounting finds that:

-- States conducted 35 executions in 2014 — the lowest since 1994.

-- And the justice system sentenced 72 people to death — the lowest number in 40 years.

Just hours after the United States and Cuba announced they were moving toward normalizing relations, crowds gathered in Havana and Miami trying to come to grips with a historic shift.

NPR covered the reaction in those two places with two pieces on Morning Edition.

NPR's Greg Allen reported from Miami:

On Tuesday, President Obama picked up the phone and talked to Cuban President Raul Castro.

Updated at 3:42 p.m.

The Obama administration announced today that it would begin the process of re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

It's a contentious issue, and reaction has been swift. Here's a roundup:

With news that the United States will work toward re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and easing the embargo, there is already talk about the reaction in the Cuban-American community.

In political terms, this is a major voting bloc in the hugely important swing state of Florida.

The Church of England has named its first female bishop.

The Rev. Libby Lane, who has been a parish priest for 20 years, will be consecrated on Jan. 26, becoming the first woman to hold that position since the church was founded five centuries ago.

Pakistan is picking up the pieces today after an attack on a school by Taliban militants left 145 people dead.

It's a heart-wrenching story. We've collected the news in a different post. Here, we'll tell the story visually, but fair warning — the photographs are representative of the horrific attack, so they're tough to look at:

A day after a horrific Taliban attack on a school that left 145 people dead, Pakistan began to take stock.

One of the big, controversial questions to emerge from the Senate investigation into the CIA interrogation of terrorism suspects is this: Did President George W. Bush know the specific techniques used by the CIA to interrogate terrorism suspects?

Jeb Bush, the former Republican governor of Florida and the brother and son of two former U.S. presidents, has essentially kicked off the 2016 presidential campaign with a pre-announcement announcement on Facebook.

Saying he had conversations with his family about the future of the country, Bush said he had decided to "actively explore" a presidential run.

He went on:

A day after a hostage siege left two people plus a gunman dead, Australians left thousands of bouquets of flowers at a makeshift shrine.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Russia's ruble plunged to a record low against the dollar on Tuesday despite some bold measures taken by the country's central bank to halt its slide.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

(This post was last updated at 2:07 p.m. ET.)

Taliban militants stormed a school in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, leaving scores of students dead.

Quoting Pakistani officials, multiple media outlets say the death toll is at least 140, including at least 80 students in grades 1 through 10.

A little before 8 p.m. local time, police announced that the operation had ended after the gunmen were killed. Security personnel, police official Abdullah Khan told the AFP, were now in the process of sweeping the rest of the building.

Family members of some of the victims of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., have filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer, distributor and seller of the rifle used by the gunman to kill 26 people.

One of six northern white rhinos left in the world died at the San Diego Zoo on Sunday.

Angalifu was thought to be 44 years old. He came to the park from Sudan in 1990 and had been treated for a range of age-related ailments.

U-T San Diego reports:

A gunman was holding an unknown number of hostages at a downtown chocolate cafe in Sydney. Early on Tuesday morning, Australian time, police moved in and said the siege was over.

We're following the news here. Below is a feed of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's news coverage. ABC is the country's national public broadcaster:

(Last updated at 1:48 p.m. ET.)

Just as the siege entered its second day, police stormed a chocolate shop in downtown Sydney, ending a more than 12-hour hostage standoff that began during morning rush hour.

The airspace over London has been severely restricted because of a "computer failure," Eurocontrol, the European flight safety body, said on Friday.

NPR's Ari Shapiro tells us many flights are expected to be grounded for more than three hours.

"The U.K.'s National Air Traffic Control Center experienced a mid-afternoon power failure," Ari reports. "That forced Heathrow and other airports in the London area to stop all air traffic in and out. Heathrow is Europe's busiest airport, so this will have ripples all across the continent."

Plagued by controversy and sharp drops in attendance and stock prices, SeaWorld has announced that CEO Jim Atchison will step aside.

U-T San Diego reports that the amusement park also plans on cutting an unspecified number of jobs. Atchison, according to the newspaper, will receive a $2.4 million payout and become vice chairman of the board.

Chairman David F. D'Alessandro will take on the job of chief executive officer while a permanent replacement is sought.

Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Michel du Cille died Thursday while on assignment in Liberia for The Washington Post. The newspaper says du Cille collapsed while walking on foot from a village in Liberia's Bong County. He was taken to a hospital but died of an apparent heart attack.

The "Pineapple Express" is being blamed for two deaths in Oregon this morning, as it continues to dump wind and rain across the drought-stricken region.

The Associated Press reports that from Oregon all the way to Southern California, residents battled with power outages, flooded roads and mudslides.

The news service adds:

"Avalanches of mud and debris blocked part of the Pacific Coast Highway in Ventura County early Friday, National Weather Service specialist Stuart Seto said.

The parents of 43 students who went missing more than two months ago in Mexico say they don't believe the government's account of what happened to their loved ones and they will continue to protest and demand justice.

"The report is full of crap."

That's what former Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News in an interview about a Senate investigation that found the Central Intelligence Agency used brutal techniques to interrogate terrorism suspects and then misled lawmakers, the White House and Congress about what they were doing.

The United States says that with the closing of its detention center at Bagram, it is no longer holding any prisoners in Afghanistan.

As Reuters puts it, the announcement was made late Wednesday and marks the end of a controversial chapter in U.S. history.

NBC News reports the U.S. gave up custody of its two final prisoners:

After months of acts of civil disobedience that at some points paralyzed Hong Kong, police cleared the final encampment of what's come to be known as the Umbrella Revolution.

Demonstrators had gathered on the streets of Hong Kong for two months. The protest site at Admiralty was, symbolically, the most important because it was closest to the government offices. In the end, it was also the last one standing.

Pirate Bay, one of the world's most popular and largest file-sharing sites, is offline today, after police in Sweden raided their servers.

TorrentFreak, which reports on file-sharing sites, says that while Pirate Bay has been targeted by authorities in the past, this is the first time the peer-to-peer network disappeared from the Internet.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Weather Underground says a storm moving up the West Coast of the United States is the wettest to hit the region since 2009.

The good news, writes Weather Underground's Jeff Masters, is that the region has been hurt by a historic drought:

"Rainfall amounts of 3 - 8 inches are expected over most of Northern California, with snowfall amounts of 1 - 3 feet predicted in the Sierra Mountains.

After two-months' worth of pro-democracy demonstrations that at times paralyzed Hong Kong, authorities are warning that they will clear protesters from a campsite blocking a main road near government headquarters on Thursday.

The Admiralty protest site is the last bastion of a protest movement that has come to be known as the Umbrella Revolution.

Reuters reports:

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