POLITICS
12/19/2014 04:50 pm ET

HUFFPOST HILL - President Stands Behind 'Spring Breakers' Star

A male journalist shout-asked whether President Obama would smoke a Cuban cigar, probably because he couldn’t translate “what about your gaffes?” into Spanish fast enough. That led to a social media debate about gender disparities in media (actually, it was about ethics in blaming journalism). And the commander-in-chief said he wouldn’t have pulled “The Interview” if he were a Sony executive. He didn’t weigh in on Sony’s “Smurfs” reboot, but we’ll keep asking the tough questions you’ve come to expect from male journalists. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, December 19th, 2014:

OBAMA TALKS CUBA AT PRESSER - Sabrina Siddiqui: “President Barack Obama on Friday defended his historic deal with Cuba and hit back at critics who said the decision overlooked the Castro regime's record on human rights. ‘What I know deep in my bones is that when you have done the same thing for 50 years and nothing has changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome,’ Obama said during a televised news conference. ‘And this gives us an opportunity for a different outcome.’... Obama said he did not anticipate any ‘overnight changes’ in the Cuban government's behavior, noting there would still be some actions that the U.S. would disagree with. But he added that was precisely why the two countries needed to restore ties, as it would provide the U.S. with ‘a greater opportunity to have influence’ in Cuba.” [HuffPost]

President weighs in on Seth Rogengate: “President Obama on Friday said that the United States ‘will respond proportionally’ against North Korea for its cyberattacks on Sony Pictures, and criticized the studio for giving in to intimidation and pulling the satirical movie that provoked the attacks. Mr. Obama said the response would come ‘at a place and time we choose,’ but declined to be more specific about what it would be. He said that “we have been working out the range of options that will be presented to me.’” [NYT]

The president praised the work of Seth Rogen and James “Flacco.” Slate quickly put up a web app that lets you Obamify your name.

If you see large numbers of woodland creatures running away from the coasts, here’s why: “Politico has been in talks to hire the Hollywood journalist Nikki Finke to write about Washington as a political columnist, people familiar with the discussions said Friday.” [NYT]

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MICHAEL BOGGS NOMINATION OFFICIALLY STALLS OUT - Jen Bendery: “Progressive groups and Democratic lawmakers fought all year to sink President Barack Obama's nominee Michael Boggs. And this week, they won. The Senate adjourned Tuesday without taking any action on Boggs' nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. That means his nomination has expired and Obama will have to renominate him next year for Boggs to still have a shot at the lifetime post. NARAL Pro-Choice America, one of Boggs' biggest critics, has been celebrating all week… Obama has faced intense fire from his base for nominating Boggs. Abortion rights groups protested votes he took as a state legislator to create ‘Choose Life’ license plates and to post online the names of abortion providers at a time of high clinic violence.” [HuffPost]

The way we debate now: “Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) took to Twitter and Facebook to lambaste Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who claimed Thursday on Fox News that his fellow Senate Foreign Relations Committee member ‘has no idea what he's talking about’ on Cuba. Paul came out in support of the Obama administration, which reached a historic accord with the communist island that included the release of U.S. Agency for International Development worker Alan Gross.” [HuffPost]

HOW WE FINALLY GOT A SURGEON GENERAL - Shorter version: A lot of people had to die. Sabrina Siddiqui: “The momentum progressives were seeking showed up unexpectedly in early fall. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa began to make global headlines, and chaos ensued when a few cases showed up in the U.S… ’When that occurred, there was a public awakening about the need to have somebody with deep public health and medical knowledge inside the administration who would be able to guide the right approaches,’ a Senate Democratic leadership aide told The Huffington Post. ‘A lot of our outside allies used that moment to help drive that message, and ever since that point in time, maintain the pressure on the Senate to confirm Vivek.’... Murthy, who said he plans to focus on obesity and chronic disease rather than guns, personally sat down with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to make his case. His appeal paid dividends, as Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), key red state Democrats, publicly came out in his support in a key point leading up to the vote. Advocates said their strategy was to frame their message around public health and shift the focus away from guns.” [HuffPost]

GOOOGLE SUES MISSISIPPI - Did you mean “Google Sues Mississippi”? Dana Liebelson: “Google is taking an attorney general to court on the grounds that his actions could threaten the freedom of the Internet. The tech giant sued Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (D) in a U.S. district court on Friday, alleging that his efforts to hold the search engine accountable for objectionable content online, such as illegal prescription drugs and pirated movies, violate federal law and are unconstitutional under the First and Fourth Amendments. The lawsuit claims that for the last 18 months, Hood has ‘threatened to prosecute, sue, or investigate Google’ unless it agreed to block content from its search engine, YouTube, and other platforms. Google aims to stop a ‘punitive’ subpoena that Hood sent Google on Oct. 27, 2014. In that 79-page demand, Hood accused Google of engaging in practices that were, ‘unfair, deceptive, and misleading" and sought to hold the tech company accountable for facilitating illegal content. Hood requested extensive documentation related to Google's business practices.’” [HuffPost]

GROWING NUMBER OF AMERICANS SEE RACIAL TENSIONS AS TOP ISSUE - Surprisingly “ethics in gaming journalism” didn’t make the top five. Igor Bobic. “The number of Americans who identify racism or race relations as the nation's top problem increased dramatically to 13 percent, according to a new Gallup survey, a figure not seen since the Rodney King verdict and subsequent Los Angeles riots in 1992. In November, only 1 percent of Americans cited racism or race relations as the biggest problem. The rise comes on the heels of several controversial incidents in Cleveland; Ferguson, Missouri; and Staten Island, New York, in which black men were killed by police officers. Last weekend, protesters marched across the country, including thousands in the nation's capital, to call for justice and decry racial discrimination.” [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here’s a cat giving a dog a massage.

COMFORT FOOD

- Second City sketch from 1997 featuring Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch doing a spot on NPR impression.

- Here’s the Willie Mays backward catch of Jenga.

- Video of the world’s deepest-known fish, recorded swimming around at 8,143 meters below sea level.

TWITTERAMA

@seungminkim: Audible questions from male reporters at today's White House presser: New Year's resolutions, smoking a cigar

@KimJongNumberUn: On a more positive note, I loved "Annie."

@daveweigel:
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