News in the Humanosphere: Obama makes historic Cuba trip

National Capitol Building in Havana, Cuba. (thaths/flickr)

The three-day trip, the first by a U.S. president to Cuba in 88 years, is the culmination of a diplomatic opening announced by Obama and Castro in December 2014, ending a Cold War-era estrangement that began when the Cuban revolution ousted a pro-American government in 1959. Obama, who abandoned a longtime U.S. policy of trying to isolate Cuba, wants to make his shift irreversible. But major obstacles remain to full normalization of ties, and the Democratic president’s critics at home say the visit is premature. (Reuters http://reut.rs/1SbT5y6)

So. Many. Elections…“Election watchers have deemed…a #SuperSunday in Africa, where people are voting in elections in Benin, Cape Verde, Congo-Brazzaville, Niger, Senegal and Zanzibar. To be more exact: Benin and Niger are holding run-off presidential elections; the poll in the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) is a first-round (and probably only-round) presidential election; Cape Verde’s poll is a parliamentary election; Zanzibar’s election is due to an annulment of an earlier poll; and Senegalese are voting on a referendum.” (WaPo http://wapo.st/1SbTfFN)

Lights out…From Sydney’s Opera House to New York’s Empire State Building and Paris’s Eiffel tower, landmarks worldwide dimmed their lights Saturday for the 10th edition of the Earth Hour campaign against climate change. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1pCVhpx)

#SuperSunday

Voters went to the polls in Congo Republic on Sunday under a government-imposed communications blackout as long-time leader Denis Sassou Nguesso sought to extend his rule over the Central African oil producer. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/25dAHMm)

Benin began voting Sunday in the deciding second round of its presidential election, with Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou taking on businessman Patrice Talon for the tiny west African country’s top job. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1T3FVFD)

Niger’s president is running for a second five-year term Sunday against an opponent who campaigned from behind bars before being flown last week to Paris for medical treatment. (AP http://yhoo.it/1RvaI97)

Senegalese residents on Sunday voted on a constitutional referendum that could see sweeping constitutional reforms including a reduction of presidential powers and terms from seven to five years, on a continent where many leaders try to hold onto power. (AP http://yhoo.it/1nZKtzR)

Voters in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan headed to the polling stations Sunday for an election intended to confirm the ruling party’s solid grip over parliament. (AP http://yhoo.it/1pCVfxQ)

Tens of thousands of exiled Tibetans voted Sunday for a new leader tasked with sustaining their struggle for greater autonomy in the Chinese-ruled province as the Dalai Lama retreats from the political frontline. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1pCVglg)

Africa

A former Congolese vice-president becomes the most senior political leader ever to face judgment before the International Criminal Court on Monday, when judges rule on whether he committed war crimes in the Central African Republic. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1T3H14q)

The Kenyan military said Sunday it killed 34 Islamic insurgents in two separate battles in neighbouring Somalia this weekend. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1nZKtA7)

Pressure on South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma intensified on Sunday when in a newspaper interview, a former high-ranking official added to mounting allegations that Zuma had a corrupt relationship with a prominent family of business owners. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1RYfxbo)

Nigeria plans a massive cleanup in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, where some residents complain that years of poorly regulated petroleum production have taken a toll on vegetation, water quality, farmland and fishing communities. (VOA http://bit.ly/1pCV1Xz)

MENA

Dozens of United Nations international staffers pulled out of their Western Sahara mission on Sunday after Morocco demanded they leave because of remarks by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the disputed territory. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1T3H4wZ)

After months of losing ground in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State group is showing signs of wear and tear, and its opponents say they have seen an increase in desertions among the extremists. But the jihadis appear to be lashing back with more terrorist and chemical attacks. (AP http://yhoo.it/1pCVlWh)

The United States supports Morocco’s autonomy plan for the disputed territory of Western Sahara, considering it both credible and realistic, the U.S. mission to the United Nations said on Saturday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1RYe6d8)

Hundreds of Ethiopian Israelis marched in Jerusalem on Sunday after the government cancelled plans to allow their relatives to emigrate from the African nation, calling the move discrimination. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1RYfBIc)

The Russian Defence Ministry recorded five violations of a tentative ceasefire agreement in Syria in the last 24 hours, RIA news agency reported on Sunday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1RYfAUP)

Asia

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg held a rare meeting with China’s propaganda chief, at a time when Chinese authorities are tightening control over their cyberspace. (AP http://yhoo.it/1pCVfhh)

A mudslide on a hilly track buried eight teenage students returning home after exams in northern Pakistan after several days of heavy rain, officials said Sunday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1nZKu72)

A Philippine presidential debate erupted into heated exchanges Sunday over allegations of corruption, a lack of patriotism and incompetence hurled against the leading candidates in a tight race to lead their poor and divided nation. (AP http://yhoo.it/1RYfzQL)

The Americas

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has said she will take legal action against a senator who has accused her of involvement in corruption at the state oil company Petrobras. (BBC http://bbc.in/1pCVbOA)

In his historic visit to Cuba, President Barack Obama is relegating decades of American acrimony with the communist country further into the past and cementing a new relationship between the Cold War-era foes. (AP http://yhoo.it/1RYfAnM)

More than 250,000 children have been affected by the conflict in Colombia since peace talks between the Government and the country’s main armed opposition group FARC started three years ago. (UNICEF http://bit.ly/1Zh3iMG)

A U.S. congressman says the deportation of a North Carolina teen to Honduras has been stayed by federal immigration officials. (AP http://yhoo.it/1RYfBYR)

…and the rest

Two migrants have been found dead on a boat that arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos, on the first day of the implementation of an agreement between the EU and Turkey on handling the new arrivals. (AP http://yhoo.it/1pCVclL)

Pope Francis in his Palm Sunday homily decried what he called indifference to the refugees flooding into Europe, making a comparison to authorities who washed their hands of Jesus’ fate ahead of his crucifixion. (AP http://yhoo.it/1nZKvYF)

Sunday was the day an agreement between the European Union and Turkey on ending illegal migration went into effect — but its implementation still remains uncertain. (AP http://yhoo.it/1pCVmt6)

Opinion/Blogs

I Love the U.N., but It Is Failing (NY Times http://nyti.ms/1nZLZCj)

Tough Medicine from a UN Insider. (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1pV7ky7)

Is Terrorism in West Africa the New Normal? (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1nZMJaw)

It’s Not Just Poverty (Inter Press Service http://bit.ly/25dAFEt)

Development banks need to wake up to the human rights crisis in Honduras (Guardian http://bit.ly/1RYfzjF)

It’s international happiness day today, and there are some baffling national winners and losers (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/1pCXHnX)

Barack Obama on Uhuru Kenyatta (Africanist Perspective http://bit.ly/1pCXP77)

Syrian Refugee Kids Were Told To Draw Whatever They Wanted (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1nZMNaf)

What Africa will look like in 100 years (The Telegraph http://bit.ly/1pCXTDO)

What price an Olympics that protects the rights of children and their families? (Guardian http://bit.ly/1nZMIU1)

Africa’s $700 Billion Problem Waiting to Happen (Foreign Policy http://atfp.co/1RtpYte)

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