Chatter: Kenya votes




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Kenya is voting. Polls opened this morning for one of the most closely watched general elections in the nation's history, its first since the 2007 vote that was followed by devastating post-election violence.

Since then, Kenya has rewritten its constitution, stepped up measures against vote rigging and deployed thousands of security forces. Yet today, at least 15 people are reported killed in attacks across the country, including an assault on police officers near Mombasa and explosions at polling stations close to the Somalian border.

Kenyan papers' headlines today read "Never again." Here's hoping.

We don't habemus papam, but we're getting there. (With apologies to Latinists.) The first steps are being taken toward electing a new pope, with cardinals from all over the world due to hold their opening "pre-conclave" meeting in Vatican City today. The talks will continue every day until the conclave begins.

When exactly that will be is not yet clear: not all of the 115 cardinals expected have yet arrived, and once they do, delegates have promised to "take as much time as we need to think about what sort of pope the Church needs now." Hopefully they'll need around two-and-a-half weeks: the Vatican wants a new pope by Easter Sunday, March 31.


Wait, did they just cure HIV? A baby born with the virus in the US is reported to be "functionally cured" after a very early course of drug treatment. The little girl, now two-and-a-half years old, stopped taking the medication around 12 months ago and yet, incredibly, tests negative for HIV.

Doctors say her case offers hope that HIV is potentially curable in infants – so long as they are given antiretroviral drugs within hours of their birth. For people in whom the infection has already taken hold, alas, experts believe it's probably too late. We're not there yet.

Fancy meeting you here. US Secretary of State John Kerry is about to begin surprise talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Saudi Arabia. The working lunch was not originally on the agenda for Kerry's debut diplomatic tour, but was added at the last minute after Abbas paid an unexpected visit to Riyadh.

Palestinian officials say Abbas will give Kerry "the Palestinian point of view" on Israeli settlements, Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike and other contentious issues ahead of President Barack Obama's trip to the Middle East later this month.

Get well soon, Your Maj. Queen Elizabeth II is spending her second day in hospital for suspected gastroenteritis, the first time she's had to do so in 10 years. The famously robust monarch was admitted as a precaution, her spokespeople say, and is expected to stay another two days or so to allow doctors to monitor her symptoms.

The Queen is said to be in "good spirits," despite – or, we might ignobly speculate, thanks to – having to cancel all her official engagements for the week.


The deadly sinkhole won't strike again. Demolition has begun on the house in Florida where a giant sinkhole swallowed the hapless occupant, Jeff Bush. Bush, 37, is believed dead.

Authorities say they have fished out as many of his belongings as possible and will now raze the home where he died. Neighboring houses have also been evacuated as the sinkhole – already about 20 feet wide and 60 feet deep – continues to expand. At least no one else will be in its reach as it does.