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News in the Humanosphere: Pope announces contraception exception to prevent Zika spread

Pope Francis. (Credit: Raffaele Esposito/flickr)

“In wide-ranging comments aboard the papal plane, Pope Francis suggested to reporters that it might be acceptable for those fearing the Zika virus to use contraception. The pope did not explicitly approve the use of contraception as he spoke during the flight from Mexico to Rome. But he drew a distinction between the use of abortion to respond to the threat of Zika – which he categorically opposed – and the hypothetical use of contraception. … The Vatican press office described the pope’s remarks on contraception: ‘Using contraceptives to avoid pregnancy can be acceptable in difficult situations, he said, noting that Pope Paul VI authorized nuns in Africa to do the same half a century ago when they were threatened with rape.’” (NPR

Deadly attack on U.N. base in South Sudan…Gunmen in South Sudan opened fire on civilians sheltering inside a United Nations base in Malakal in the northeast Upper Nile region killing at least five people, the U.N. said. Some 30 people were wounded, according to initial reports, with peacekeepers firing tear gas to break up crowds in the crowded camp. “Violence involving the use of small arms, machetes and other weapons broke out,” UNMISS said in a statement. (AFP

Afghan hospital attacked…Two patients and a caretaker were killed during an overnight raid by Afghan forces on a health clinic in the central province of Wardak, the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, the aid group which runs the facility, said on Thursday. (Reuters

Where can I get one? Indian phone maker Ringing Bells launched a $5 smartphone today, with huge customer demand promptly crashing the little-known company’s website hours after the phone went on sale. (CBC )

Photo of the year: A haunting black-and-white image of a refugee passing a baby under a barbed wire fence won the prestigious World Press Photo Award on Thursday, highlighting Europe’s worst migrant crisis since World War II. (AFP


The man hoping to break Yoweri Museveni’s 30-year grip on Uganda’s presidency was briefly arrested on Thursday and the government shut down social media sites as voters cast their ballots under the gaze of police and soldiers in riot gear. Opposition officials said Kizza Besigye was arrested at dusk on polling day and held for about 30 minutes in the capital Kampala, but despite the tough security there were no reported flare ups of violence. (Reuters

Ugandan police fired tear gas to disperse furious voters Thursday in the capital Kampala as the election commission apologized for hours-long delays in delivering ballot papers. (AFP

Amid tardy delivery of voting materials in the capital, Ugandans tried to cast ballots Thursday in presidential and parliamentary elections, with tempers sometimes boiling over. (AP


Political violence, malnutrition and the looming threats of malaria and cholera have pushed Burundi to the brink of a “major crisis”, the U.N. children’s agency, Unicef, has warned. (Guardian

Recent downpours have greened Lesotho’s valleys, camouflaging a crisis caused by two years of inadequate rain that is spreading malnutrition and disease. (Guardian

When U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon urged African leaders not to cling to power at a summit last month, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe responded by saying he would continue “until God says ‘come'”. (Reuters

Kenya’s army said Thursday it had killed the intelligence chief of the al-Shabab Islamist insurgent group and 10 other commanders in an airstrike in Somalia. (AFP

The government in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday announced a probe into fresh allegations of sexual abuse by Congolese soldiers serving in the U.N. mission in Central African Republic. (AFP

South African President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday that 2.7 million households would be affected by a drought disaster which has hammered agricultural output, pushed up food prices and increased unemployment. (Reuters

Liberia’s central bank board has elected the son of Nobel Peace Prize winning President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as its interim executive governor, bank sources said. (Reuters

Research showing that our species interbred with Neanderthals some 100,000 years ago is providing intriguing evidence that Homo sapiens ventured out of Africa much earlier than previously thought, although the foray appears to have fizzled. (Reuters


Turkey blamed Syrian Kurds on Thursday for a suicide bombing that killed 28 people in the capital, Ankara, and vowed to retaliate, threatening new complications for the war in neighboring Syria and for the U.S. fight against the Islamic State. (WaPo

The United Nations should be able to deliver aid to all of Syria’s 18 besieged areas within a week, a senior U.N. official said Thursday, after life-saving supplies reached five locations. (AFP

More than 60 health facilities in Syria supported by the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) were hit in attacks last year, with a dozen completely destroyed, the group said Thursday. (AFP

Doctors Without Borders said on Thursday that it took the wrenching decision not to formally inform Syria’s government or its Russian allies about the location of some medical facilities such as the one hit by a deadly airstrike this week, amid concerns that doing so could open them up to targeting amid recent violence that has killed many civilians. (AP

Israel’s top general said Wednesday that soldiers must use proportionate force when dealing with a wave of Palestinian attacks. (VOA

An Iraqi court on Thursday sentenced 40 men to hang over the June 2014 massacre by Sunni jihadists and allied militants of hundreds of military recruits in Tikrit, the judiciary said. (AFP

The Department for International Development was initially blindsided by the size, complexity and pace of the Syrian crisis, according to a report that warns the department must urgently ready itself for similarly large and intractable humanitarian emergencies in the future. (Guardian

Two Palestinian 14-year-olds stabbed and killed an Israeli in a packed supermarket in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, Israeli and Palestinian officials said, as a five-month wave of bloodshed shows no sign of abating. (Reuters


A protest that rocked a New Delhi university this week spread across India on Thursday, with students and teachers in at least 10 cities demanding the release of a student leader arrested on sedition charges and accused of being anti-Indian. (AP

The Indian government has accelerated a drive to build millions of toilets as it makes ending open defecation by an estimated 600 million people a rallying cry. Some 9 million toilets have been built since the campaign was launched a little over a year ago. But sanitation experts say the campaign is faltering as many of the latrines lie unused. (VOA

U.S. sports equipment giant Nike axed Manny Pacquiao after he described gay couples as “worse than animals,” slamming the Filipino politician and boxer’s remarks as “abhorrent.” (AFP

Aid workers in Tonga are making last-minute preparations for the second tropical cyclone that is scheduled to hit the island this week, with fears that it could spread the Zika virus that first appeared in the South Pacific nation this month. (Reuters

Two influential environmental organizations squared off on Wednesday over protection for sharks in a new Pacific trade pact after the top U.S. trade official touted the pact’s environmental benefits. (Reuters

The Americas

U.S. President Barack Obama has confirmed he will visit Cuba in March as part of a broader trip to Latin America. He will be only the second sitting U.S. president in history to travel to the island, after Calvin Coolidge in 1928. (BBC

In order to support countries in Latin America and the Caribbean affected by the Zika virus outbreak, the World Bank Group announced today that it has made $150 million immediately available. (World Bank

Brazilian health officials and the WHO are denying links between a well-known pesticide and microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to develop abnormally small heads and leads to death in some cases. (CNN

…and the rest

The El Niño that caused record temperatures, drought and floods over the last year has passed its peak strength but will continue to have humanitarian impacts for months to come, the UN has said. (Guardian

The Islamic State’s English-language reach on Twitter has stalled in recent months amid a stepped-up crackdown against the extremist group’s army of digital proselytizers, who have long relied on the site to recruit and radicalize new adherents, according to a study being released on Thursday. (Reuters

Ukraine sank deeper into political turmoil Thursday as the governing coalition lost its majority in parliament after a second faction bailed out. (AP


Podcast: Burundi is in a Tailspin (UN Dispatch

Is the U.S. Military Propping Up Uganda’s ‘Elected’ Autocrat? (Foreign Policy

125 Million Crying for Help Symbolize World’s 11th Largest Nation (Inter Press Service

Eight ways the IMF can bolster support for the Sustainable Development Goals (ODI

Questions and answers about Europe and the migration crisis (AP

Nearly 80 years of work with children has taught us how vulnerable they are (WhyDev

Kendrick Lamar Wasn’t The Only Prison-Themed Grammy Nominee (Goats and Soda

Should your NGO be developing a mobile gaming app? (Devex

Uganda: Why It’s Too Early to Rule Out Kizza Besigye (African Arguments

Renewable energy projects must not rob Ugandans of their land (Guardian

Uganda: Why the Next Govt Should Focus On HIV (Key Correspondents

“Misusing” your rights to social media: Ugandan edition (Cherokee Gothic


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