By Angus McDowall RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah died early on Friday and his brother Salman became king, the royal court in the world's top oil exporter and birthplace of Islam said in a statement carried by state television. King Salman has named his half-brother Muqrin as his crown prince and heir. "His Highness Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and all members of the family and the nation mourn the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who passed away at exactly 1 a.m. this morning," said the statement. Abdullah, thought to have been born in 1923, had ruled Saudi Arabia as king since 2006, but had run the country as de facto regent for a decade before that after his predecessor King Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke. At stake with the appointment of Salman as king is the future direction of the United States' most important Arab ally and self-appointed champion of Sunni Islam at a moment of unprecedented turmoil across the Middle East. Abdullah played a guiding role in Saudi Arabia's support for Egypt's government after the military intervened in 2012, and drove his country's support for Syria's rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad. King Salman, thought to be 79, has been crown prince and defense minister since 2012. He was governor of Riyadh province for five decades before that. By immediately appointing Muqrin as his heir, subject to the approval of a family Allegiance Council, Salman has moved to avert widespread speculation about the immediate path of the royal succession in the world's top oil exporter. LONG TERM CHALLENGES Abdullah pushed cautious changes in the conservative Islamic kingdom including increased women's rights and economic deregulation, but made no moves towards democracy and was a hawk on policy towards rival Iran. King Salman has been part of the ruling clique of princes for decades and is thought likely to continue the main thrusts of Saudi strategic policy, including maintaining the alliance with the United States and working towards energy market stability. During his five decades as Riyadh governor he was reputedly adept at managing the delicate balance of clerical, tribal and princely interests that determine Saudi policy, while maintaining good relations with the West. In the long term Saudi rulers have to manage the needs of a rapidly growing population plagued by structural unemployment, and an economy that remains overly dependent on oil revenue and undermined by lavish subsidies. Saudi Arabia, which holds more than a fifth of the world's crude oil, also exerts some influence over the world's 1.6 billion Muslims through its guardianship of Mecca and Medina, Islam's holiest sites. Most senior members of the ruling al-Saud family are thought to favor similar positions on foreign and energy policy, but incoming kings have traditionally chosen to appoint new ministers to head top ministries like oil and finance. In a country where the big ministries are dominated by royals, successive kings have kept the oil portfolio reserved for commoners and insisted on maintaining substantial spare output capacity to help reduce market volatility. (Reporting By Angus McDowall and Ahmed Tolba in Cairo, Editing by WIlliam Maclean)
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Early data on the rollout of the vaccines for COVID-19 shows that minority populations in the United States already disproportionately affected by the pandemic are not being immunized at the same rate as white Americans.
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First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
President Joe Biden will continue his flurry of executive orders on Monday, signing a new directive to require the federal government to “buy American” for products and services. Why it matters: The executive action is yet another attempt by Biden to accomplish goals administratively without waiting for the backing of Congress. The new order echoes Biden's $400 billion campaign pledge to increase government purchases of American goods.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.What they're saying: "President Biden is ensuring that when the federal government spends taxpayer dollars they are spent on American made goods by American workers and with American-made component parts," the White House said in a fact sheet.The big picture: Biden’s action kick offs another week in which the president will seek to undo many Trump policies with executive actions, while signaling the direction that he wants to take the country. * Biden will also reaffirm his support for the Jones Act, which requires maritime shipments between American ports to be carried on U.S. vessels. * Last week, Biden signed an order to attempt to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors and workers to $15 an hour.The bottom line: Former President Trump also attempted to force the federal government to rely on U.S. manufacturers for procurement with "buy American" provisions. * But supply chains — with some parts and components made outside of the U.S. — require long and complicated efforts to boost domestic manufacturing. Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
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Israel will ban passenger flights in and out of the country from Monday for a week as it seeks to stop the spread of new coronavirus variants. "Other than rare exceptions, we are closing the sky hermetically to prevent the entry of the virus variants and also to ensure that we progress quickly with our vaccination campaign," said Benjamin Netanuahu, the Israeli prime minister. It came as a study in Israel reported a 60 per cent drop in over-60s being hospitalised with coronavirus three weeks after being vaccinated, in the latest sign that the jabs are effective. According to Maccabi, an Israeli healthcare provider, there was a significant decrease in hospitalisations from day 23 onwards, which was two days after patients received their second jab. Also on Sunday, Israel expanded its rapid vaccination drive to include 16-18 year-olds in an effort to get them back in schools to take their winter examinations. The winter matriculation certificate is a significant part of university and military admissions. At least one dose has been administered to around a quarter of Israel’s 9 million-strong population. The vaccine is generally available to over 40s or, with parental permission, those aged between 16 and 18. Israel struck a deal with Pfizer at the beginning of January that allowed them to expedite delivery of the vaccine, in return for sharing extensive data on their vaccination campaign with the rest of the world. Yuli Edelstein, the Israeli health minister, told The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday that the data from their vaccination programme suggests a first dose offered around 30 per cent protection from coronavirus.
A U.S. aircraft carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt has entered the South China Sea to promote "freedom of the seas", the U.S. military said on Sunday, at a time when tensions between China and Taiwan have raised concern in Washington. U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement the strike group entered the South China Sea on Saturday, the same day Taiwan reported a large incursion of Chinese bombers and fighter jets into its air defence identification zone in the vicinity of the Pratas Islands.
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Indianapolis police arrested a 17-year-old boy Monday in the killings of five people, including a pregnant woman, who were shot to death inside a home in what the city's mayor called a “devastating act of violence.” The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement that the name of the suspect in Sunday's killings was “not being released at this time since the suspect is a juvenile." As officers were investigating, police received information about 4:40 a.m. that led them to a nearby home, where they found multiple adults dead inside from apparent gunshot wounds, Sgt. Shane Foley said Sunday.
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Giuliani slams ‘hate-filled left-wing’ as he responds to $1.3bn defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems
Donald Trump’s personal lawyer claims legal action is intended to ‘frighten people of faint heart’
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The fate of top Democratic priorities like $1,400 checks and immigration overhaul could hang in the balance.
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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced the establishment of its embassy in Tel Aviv as the US national security advisor announced that America hopes to build “on the success of Israel’s normalisation agreements” under the Biden administration. The UAE cabinet decision to approve establishing the embassy comes after they signed the Abraham Accords in September, becoming the first Gulf state to establish a full diplomatic relationship with Israel. No further details about the embassy were given in UAE media. While Israel’s government recognises Jerusalem as its capital, the international community does not, with Palestinians claiming East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Most countries base their embassies in Tel Aviv. Before the deal, Israel only had peace deals with only two Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan - where it has fortified embassies. Most Arab countries had previously refrained from recognising Israel, believing that recognition should only be granted if serious concessions are made in the Palestinian peace process. Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco later agreed to follow in the UAE’s footsteps and normalise ties with Israel under US-brokered deals.
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Israeli authorities on Monday extradited a former teacher accused of sexually abusing her former students in Australia, capping a six-year legal battle that had strained relations between the two governments and antagonized Australia's Jewish community.
New U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, during his first phone call with his Japanese counterpart, reaffirmed America's commitment to Tokyo to defending a group of East China Sea islets claimed by both Japan and China, the Pentagon said. Austin, in talks with Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, confirmed that Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan security treaty, which stipulates U.S. defence obligations to Japan, covers the uninhabited islands, the Pentagon said in a statement.
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A former pathologist at an Arkansas veterans hospital has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient he misdiagnosed. Robert Morris Levy, 54, of Fayetteville was sentenced Friday in federal court. Prosecutors said Levy diagnosed a patient with lymphoma when the patient actually had a small-cell carcinoma.
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Biden news: Experts find major ‘gaps’ in Trump pardons as White House scrambles to rollout vaccine plan
Latest developments from Washington DC and beyond
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Brittney Gilliam had taken her family for a "Sunday funday" when officers with guns drawn ordered her and the four underage girls with her to exit the car.
The United States often sends ships and aircraft into the South China Sea to "flex its muscles" and this is not good for peace, China's Foreign Ministry said on Monday, after a U.S. aircraft carrier group sailed into the disputed waterway. The strategic South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade flows each year, has long been a focus of contention between Beijing and Washington, with China particularly angered by U.S. military activity there. The U.S. carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt and accompanied by three warships, entered the waterway on Saturday to promote "freedom of the seas", the U.S. military said, just days after Joe Biden became U.S. president..
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Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted stay-at-home orders across the state Monday in response to improving coronavirus conditions, a surprising move hailed by beleaguered businesses but that prompted caution from local health officials concerned the public may let down its guard. “We’re seeing a flattening of the curve — everything that should be up is up, everything that should be down is down — case rates, positivity rates, hospitalizations, ICUs," Newsom said at a virtual news conference. The turnaround puts California in a starkly different place than it was last month, when some Southern California hospitals overwhelmed by virus patients were crafting emergency plans for rationing care.
- The Telegraph
The acrimonious split within Republican ranks widened over the weekend as Donald Trump made his foray back into politics, backing the re-election of a hard-line supporter as chair of the party in Arizona. His wholehearted support for Kelli Ward was seen by allies as the former president firing a warning shot across the bows of any Republican senators considering backing his impeachment. Underlining Mr Trump’s grip on the Republican grassroots, the Arizona party also voted to censure John McCain’s widow, Cindy, former senator Jeff Flake and governor Doug Ducey, who refused to back the former president’s claims of election fraud. Mr Trump’s intervention came amid reports that he is considering setting up a “Patriot Party” which would spearhead primary challenges to his opponents in the 2022 mid-term elections. The former president has already amassed a massive war chest with his Save America political action committee declaring last month that it had raked in $207.5 million in donations.
India said it will administer homegrown coronavirus vaccine COVAXIN in seven more states from Monday as it seeks to inoculate 30 million healthcare workers across the country. The government this month gave emergency-use approval to the vaccine, developed by Bharat Biotech International Ltd and state-run Indian Council of Medical Research, and another licensed from Oxford University and AstraZeneca PLC that is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
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The Biden administration on Monday suspended some of the terrorism sanctions that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo imposed on Yemen’s Houthi rebels in his waning days in office. The Treasury Department said it would exempt certain transactions involving the Houthis from sanctions resulting from Pompeo's designation of the group as a “foreign terrorist organization” on Jan. 10. The exemption will expire Feb. 26, according to a statement from Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control announcing a general license for transactions that involve entities owned by the Iran-backed Houthis.
- The Independent
45th president sets up headquarters in Florida