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Diaz-Canel (L) with Raul Castro in 2018. Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa/Getty Images

The Castro era ended in Cuba on Monday after six decades, with Raúl Castro handing over the reigns of a party founded in 1965 by his brother Fidel.

Why it matters: Miguel Díaz-Canel, 60, now assumes the challenge of maintaining Communist rule while grappling with growing discontent over Cuba's economic stagnation.

Driving the news: Born after the revolution, Díaz-Canel contrasted with his predecessor at Monday's party conference, wearing a suit rather than military fatigues.

  • Díaz-Canel has emphasized continuity since becoming president in 2019, and he signaled today that he'd do the same as party chief.
  • But he has already overseen an increase in internet access on the island and made it easier to start a business. More economic reforms along those lines could be forthcoming.
  • One key question is how closely President Biden will engage. There's little indication that outreach to Cuba will be a priority for the new administration as it was in former President Obama's second term.

What to watch: Cuba is facing an uptick in COVID-19 cases, but it hopes to soon be able to fight the outbreak with a homegrown vaccine.

  • That would be a major point of pride for Cuba, which has long overachieved in the medical field for an island of its size and relative poverty.

Go deeper

Omicron cases confirmed in 4 U.S. states

A healthcare worker inserts a Covid-19 rapid test into a machine in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Daniel Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Five cases of the newly-discovered Omicron variant were detected in New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday, making New York the fourth state with confirmed cases.

The latest: In addition to New York, the variant has been confirmed in California, Colorado and Minnesota.

Early winter heat shatters records in U.S., Canada

Temperature departures from average on Dec. 2, 2021, as depicted by the GFS computer model. (Weatherbell.com)

A widespread and intense heatwave is roasting large portions of the U.S. and Canada, shattering daily and monthly temperature records.

Why it matters: Winter is the fastest-warming season across the U.S., and the lingering warmth is shortening the snow season in places like Colorado and Montana, where mountain snowpack is a critical source of water during the summer months.

5 hours ago - Science

COVID time warp

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a lifetime ago to some, and just yesterday to others. Scientists are beginning to unpack the way people processed the passage of time amidst the stress, uncertainty and isolation of the 1 year, 8 months and 21 days since WHO declared a pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic's global effects on how people experience time could provide new insights into the brain's ability to perceive and predict time — a fundamental feature of life.