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Cuba, meet Facebook: New White House policies announced yesterday will dramatically ease restrictions on travel to and business with the island. The administration will also back off some previous demands that might make it easier to hold discussions with Iran. And conversations between the two most powerful labor groups in the United States produce major support for Obama's immigration agenda. Talk may be cheap, but today it racks up a 45 on the Change-o-Meter.
The White House yesterday unveiled major changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba that will waive travel limitations for Americans with family there and give American telecom companies access to the island nation. The opening up of airlines and airwaves represents a dramatic loosening of the restrictions that have characterized the Cuban-American relationship since the Kennedy administration. The telecom industry's new access to Cuba, compounded by Raúl Castro's decision last year to lift his brother's ban on cell phones, will create a flood of information into one of the last remaining Communist strongholds. And we've seen that where Twitter goes, revolution follows, so the policy change (and the fulfillment of a campaign promise) is good for 20 points on the 'Meter.
The New York Times reports that Obama plans to abandon a Bush-era demand that Iran put its nuclear program on pause in advance of talks between the two countries. Hoping to avoid reminders that the woman who is now his secretary of state once called such a move naive, Obama says he will pressure Iranian leaders to allow inspection of their nuclear facilities if the two countries decide to chat. Call the 'Meter naive as well, but given that it seems improbable Iran might halt nuclear production in order to discuss halting nuclear production, we award 10 points for moving ever closer to productive talks between the two mutually wary nations.
Meanwhile, the United States' two most powerful labor organizations have been talking, and Obama is reaping the benefits. Despite a historic rivalry, the AFL-CIO and the Change To Win federation have agreed on provisions for an overhaul of American immigration policy, which would include legalized status for undocumented immigrants currently living in the country. This is good news for Obama, who desperately needs the cooperation of labor groups to pass immigration reform. The labor movement proved in 2007 that reform couldn't succeed without their go-ahead, and Obama wins 15 more points on the Change-o-Meter for getting a powerful pair of groups to back him on an issue he has vowed to shoehorn into a busy year.
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