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News in the Humanosphere: U.S. and Cuba to restore full diplomatic relations

Formerly detained aid worker, Alan Gross.

The United States announced Wednesday that it is ending its 50-plus year freeze with Cuba and restoring ties to the southern neighbor. The imprisoned USAID contractor Alan Gross was released as were some Cuban political prisoners and also some alleged Cuban spies held in American jails.  Money quote: “Today, we are making these changes because it is the right thing to do. Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past, to reach for a better future, for the Cuban people, the American people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world,” said President Obama. (Reuters

Plus: Cubans tweet reactions to historic diplomatic thaw. (BBC

FARC announces an immediate cease-fire: The announcement happened in Havana. Three decades of conflict could come to an end. “Colombia’s Marxist FARC rebels have declared an indefinite unilateral cease-fire beginning on Dec. 20 but promised to call it off if they come under attack by government forces, the group said on its website on Wednesday. The government has refused the FARC’s demand for a two-way truce since the sides began peace talks in Cuba in late 2012, casting doubt on the viability of the rebel ceasefire if the government does not reciprocate.” (Reuters

U.S. says North Koreans are behind Sony hack: And Sony has shamefully capitulated to their demands by pulling the film a film from release next week. “Senior administration officials, who would not speak on the record about the intelligence findings, said the White House was debating whether to publicly accuse North Korea of what amounts to a cyberterrorism attack. Sony capitulated after the hackers threatened additional attacks, perhaps on theaters themselves, if the movie, ‘The Interview,’ was released.” (NYT

Mass grave uncovered in Syria: “More than 230 bodies of people believed to have been killed by Islamic State militants have been found in a mass grave in Syria’s eastern Deir al-Zor province, a group monitoring the country’s war said on Wednesday. (Reuters

Half a million people in three West African nations rocked by Ebola are going hungry and that number could double by March if food supplies do not improve, two United Nations agencies warned on Wednesday. (Reuters

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will travel to Ebola-hit countries in West Africa this week to raise awareness about the health crisis, U.N. officials said. (AFP

Ebola surveillance teams fanned out Wednesday in Sierra Leone’s capital to search for sick people, as the president imposed new restrictions on movement and gatherings in a bid to stop the disease’s spread. (AP

Scores of Ethiopian health workers arrived in Liberia on Tuesday to bolster the response to an Ebola outbreak that the government says it wants to stamp out before Christmas. (Reuters


Democratic Republic of Congo and U.N. forces are renewing a hunt for Ugandan rebels in a corner of the DRC’s restive east who are blamed for slaughtering 260 local people. (AFP

Tanzania’s attorney general resigned late on Tuesday, becoming the first political casualty in an energy corruption scandal in the east African country that has led Western donors to delay aid and weakened the currency. (Reuters

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has named a new prime minister, amid international pressure to end chronic political infighting. (VOA

East African nations are expecting South Sudan’s refugee numbers to rise drastically in the coming year as more people flee violence and a deepening humanitarian crisis in the country. Kenya’s top diplomat also says her country will keep pressure on South Sudan’s political leaders to agree on a peace deal. (VOA

Organizations led by sex workers that support sex-worker rights need more funding to eliminate violence against women, halt the spread of HIV and end discrimination on the grounds of gender, according to a report published on Wednesday. (Guardian

About 150 suspected supporters of Ivory Coast’s former President Laurent Gbagbo are receiving medical treatment in prison after starting a hunger strike this month, an official from Gbagbo’s political party and a U.N. document said. (Reuters

A profile of Nigeria’s Lady Mechanic Initiative, founded by Sandra Aguebor-Ekperouh, that has trained around 700 women mechanics since 2004. (GlobalPost


With peace talks exhausted, pressure building on the streets and increasing international support, the Palestinians are hoping the time has finally come for a U.N. resolution on ending the Israeli occupation. (AP

A British inquiry set up to investigate allegations of atrocities carried out by U.K. troops in Iraq in 2004 cleared them of the most serious claims but found they had mistreated nine detainees. (AFP

The international community delivered a stinging rebuke to Israel’s settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, saying Wednesday the practice violates its responsibilities as an occupying power. (AP

The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday renewed for 12 months its authorization for humanitarian access without Syrian government consent into rebel-held areas of Syria at four border crossings from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan. (Reuters


The massacre of more than 130 Pakistani school children by Taliban gunmen was a chilling reminder of Hillary Clinton’s warning to Islamabad in 2011 that “you can’t keep snakes in your back yard and expect them only to bite your neighbors”. (Reuters

A prominent former official with Myanmar’s main opposition party was detained on Wednesday and faces charges of insulting religion, which stemmed from a speech intended to discourage extremist interpretations of Buddhism, his lawyer said. (Reuters

Two hundred villagers in southwest China have signed a letter calling for an 8-year-old child to be sent away because he is HIV positive, state media has reported, in a case highlighting the stigma attached to the condition and widespread ignorance about it. (Guardian

Cambodian officials say they are investigating a health clinic in a small village where more than 100 people have now tested positive for HIV. (VOA

In the northwest of India, the business in brides is booming. Skewed sex ratios in states including Haryana, where there are only 830 girls for every 1,000 boys and young women being lured away to jobs in India’s booming cities, means men like Yadav are increasingly left with few options when it comes to finding a wife. (Guardian

The Americas

Haiti President Michel Martelly met Wednesday with opposition leaders in a bid to stabilize the politically fractious country as pressure mounted on him to appoint an interim prime minister. (AP

At least 11 people have been killed in clashes between rival vigilante groups in Michoacan state, western Mexico. The two groups confronted each other in the town of La Ruana. (BBC

The lower house of the Brazilian Congress says that about 30 Indians armed with bows and arrows tried to break into the chamber of deputies but police and security personnel held them at bay with pepper spray. (AP

Brazilian organizers of the 2016 Olympics are creating a task force to deal with a so-called “super bacteria” discovered in Olympic sailing waters. (AP


What the U.S.-Cuban deal could mean for the United Nations and the fight against Ebola. (UN Dispatch

Why that Australian hostage taker was a delusional phony (GlobalPost

Four futures for international tax rules (CGD

Africa for optimists: 2014 in review (Daily Maverick

Africa for pessimists: 2014 in review (Daily Maverick

What has Christmas shopping got to do with allocating foreign aid? (ODI

Did the 2004 tsunami change emergency aid forever? (Development Progress

A game of Ludo helps Liberians catch a break from Ebola (Goats and Soda

UNICEF’s stunt (AidSpeak

When the protagonist isn’t a white kid (How Matters

Slashing aid spending also cuts Bishop’s credibility (Development Policy Centre

Brokering a deal on the post-2015 development agenda (Global Dashboard


We don’t need no stinking’ dirty money: The EU has agreed rules to stamp out tax evasion and stop dirty money from criminal gangs or terrorism finance being channeled through anonymous companies. (Guardian

Developing countries are losing money through illicit channels at twice the rate at which their economies are growing, according to new estimates released Tuesday. Further, the total volume of these lost funds appears to be rapidly expanding. (IPS

Researchers are reporting another disappointment for efforts to cure infection with the AIDS virus. Six patients given blood-cell transplants similar to one that cured a man known as “the Berlin patient” have failed, and all six patients died. (AP


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]