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Beijing reports first local omicron case ahead of Olympics

Beijing has reported its first local omicron infection, according to state media, weeks before the Winter Olympic Games are due to start. The infected person lives and works in the city’s northwestern district of Haidian and had no travel history outside of Beijing for the past two weeks. The individual experienced symptoms on Thursday and was tested on Friday for COVID-19, officials said in a news conference Saturday during which they confirmed the infection. The infection comes less than three weeks before the Winter Olympic Games’ opening ceremony on Feb…

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Biden nominates 3 to Fed board, including first Black woman

President Joe Biden will nominate three people for the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, including former Fed official Sarah Bloom Raskin for the top regulatory slot, and Lisa Cook, who would be the first Black woman to serve as a governor. Biden will also nominate Phillip Jefferson, an economist, dean of faculty at Davidson College in North Carolina, and a former Fed researcher, according to a person familiar with the decision Thursday who was not authorised to speak on the record. The three nominations will have to be approved by…

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Pak says 100 mn people vaccinated against COVID-19 as 5th wave begins

 Pakistan on Tuesday said that authorities have partially inoculated 100 million people against the COVID-19 as the fifth wave of the coronavirus has begun in the country. Planning Minister Asad Umar, who is head of the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), tweeted that 75 million people have been fully vaccinated. Achieved another major milestone in the vaccination campaign yesterday, crossing 100 million people who have received at least one dose. Of these nearly 75 million are fully vaccinated, he said. He went on to say that work not complete…

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Biden to deliver first State of the Union address on March 1

President Joe Biden will deliver his first State of the Union address on March 1, the White House confirmed Friday, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent the president a formal invitation to speak to Congress and the American public one year into his term. It will mark the latest any president has delivered a State of the Union address. The speech is normally timed for January, and occasionally for February. The delay is driven in part by a busy legislative calendar, a winter spike in COVID-19 cases from the more…

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Sri Lanka vaccinates children as doctors warn of COVID surge

Sri Lankan health authorities on Friday began vaccinating children aged 12 to 15, as the island nation’s top medical specialists warned of a wave of COVID-19 infections in the coming weeks driven by the omicron variant. Under the new vaccination program, children will be given a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine, said the health ministry. Earlier, children above 15 could be vaccinated. The latest effort begins as schools are set to fully reopen from Monday. Children were previously allowed to attend schools in two groups. The move also comes…

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US commander: Al-Qaeda numbers in Afghanistan up ‘slightly’

The al-Qaeda extremist group has grown slightly inside Afghanistan since U.S. forces left in late August, and the country’s new Taliban leaders are divided over whether to fulfill their 2020 pledge to break ties with the group, the top U.S. commander in the region said Thursday. Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said in an interview with The Associated Press that the departure of U.S. military and intelligence assets from Afghanistan has made it much harder to track al-Qaeda and other extremist groups inside Afghanistan. We’re probably…

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Court rejects Trump’s efforts to keep records from 1/6 panel

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday against an effort by former President Donald Trump to shield documents from the House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. In a 68-page ruling, the three-judge panel tossed aside Trump’s various arguments for blocking through executive privilege records that the committee regards as vital to its investigation into the run-up to the deadly riot that was aimed at overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election. Judge Patricia Millett, writing for the court, said Congress had a uniquely vital interest in…

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Japan’s military, among world’s strongest, looks to build

Dozens of tanks and hundreds of soldiers fired explosives and machine guns in drills on Monday on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, a main stronghold for a nation that is perhaps the world’s least-known military powerhouse. Just across the sea from rival Russia, Japan opened up its humbly named Self Defense Force’s firing exercises to the media in a display of public firepower that coincides with a recent escalation of Chinese and Russian military moves around Japanese territory. The drills, which foreign journalists rarely have a chance to witness, will…

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Solomon Islands leader faces no-confidence vote after riots

Lawmakers in the Solomon Islands debated on Monday whether they still have confidence in the prime minister, after rioters last month set fire to buildings and looted stores in the capital. China, meanwhile, said it was shipping in aid for its citizens caught up in the violence. Many businesses remained closed in Honiara ahead of the vote over concerns that violence could erupt again, leading to an eerie calm. Troops and police from Australia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and New Zealand are helping keep the peace at the request of…

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Anthony Fauci says early reports encouraging about omicron variant

 United States health officials said that while the omicron variant of the coronavirus is rapidly spreading throughout the country, early indications suggest it may be less dangerous than delta, which continues to drive a surge of hospitalisations. President Joe Biden’s chief medial adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday that scientists need more information before drawing conclusion’s about omicron’s severity. Reports from South Africa, where it emerged and is becoming the dominant strain, suggest that hospitalisation rates have not increased alarmingly. Thus far, it does…

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