Vaccine Mandate Denied, Djoko In Limbo, 97-Year-Old Piano Prodigy

British rider Sam Sunderland on his way to win the Dakar Rally motorbike title for the second time

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Nyob zoo!*

Welcome to Friday, where the U.S. Supreme Court says no to Biden’s vaccine mandate, Australia cancels Djokovic’s visa (again) and a child piano prodigy releases an album … at 97. Persian-language media Kayhan-London also takes a look at Russia's growing influence at the highest levels of Iran's military.

[*Hmong Daw - Laos]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• COVID update: The U.S. Supreme Court blocked President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for employees of large companies, but allowed one for certain healthcare workers to go forward. Following threats from President Rodrigo Duterte to arrest the unvaccinated, the Philippine government is considering allowing officials to go house-to-house to record individuals’ vaccination status. And the World Health Organization has added two more drugs, baricitinib and sotrovimab, to its lists of medications recommended for treating COVID-19.

• Djokovic visa canceled: Australia’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has canceled Novak Djokovic’s visa, overruling a Jan. 10 decision, on the grounds that the presence of the unvaccinated men’s tennis world n.1 risks fueling anti-vax sentiment on home soil. Facing immediate deportation and a three-year visa ban, Djokovic plans to challenge the decision, which would deny his quest to defend his Australian Open title.

• Capitol attack panel subpoenas Google, Facebook and Twitter for digital records: The U.S. House panel investigating the 2021 attack on the U.S. capital is looking into the role social media companies played in aiding in the organization of the insurgency. The goal is to better understand the role they played in spreading misinformation and violent extremism in the wake of the 2020 election.

• Prince Andrew loses military title and patronages: Facing charges in a U.S. court of sexually abusing a 17-year-old, Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s third child will no longer be referred to as “his royal highness” nor be a patron of the some 200 charities and organizations his name was associated with. Virginia Giuffre says she was trafficked by deceased billionaire Jeffrey Epstein to have sex with Prince Andrew, a charge the royal denies.

• Ukrainian government faces cyber attack: Amid growing tension with neighboring Russia, Ukraine was hit with a large-scale cyber attack that took down government websites with the warning for Ukranians to “be afraid and expect the worst.” Kyiv has launched an investigation.

• Turkey and Armenia begin normalization talks: The neighboring countries and historic enemies are kicking off a dialogue that diplomats hope could lead to normalizing diplomatic relations and reopening borders. A main point of contention is the 1915 killing of more than 1.5 Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, which Armenia considers a genocide.

• Child piano prodigy releases a new album at 97: American piano savant Ruth Slenczynska gave her first recital at age four, and wowed audiences around the world, drawing comparisons to Mozart. To celebrate her 97th birthday, Slenczynska is putting out My Life In Music, which includes compositions by Sergei Rachmaninoff and Frederic Chopin. Check out a video of 5-year-old Slenczynska playing Beethoven’s Minuet in G Major.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

“The year of change,” titles Brazilian weekly news magazine Istoé, with the country’s elections scheduled in October to elect the President, Vice President and the National Congress. These elections are “an opportunity for the country to get out of the trap of extremism,” writes the magazine, though acknowledges that “a difficult and troubled period” looms ahead.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

5.9 trillion

Indian billionaire and Asias’s richest man Mukesh Ambani announced Thursday that his conglomerate, Reliance Industries, would allot 5.9 trillion rupees (approximately $80 billion) to renewable power projects in the western Indian state of Gujarat, with the hope it will contribute to generating millions of new jobs, according to a company announcement to the National Stock Exchange of India.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Don't underestimate Russian influence over Iran's military

Russia's influence on Iran goes to the highest levels of its military and security structures. But will anyone in Iran dare question Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in spite of the grave risks to the country's national security? asks Shahram Sabzevari in Persian-language media Kayhan-London.

🇮🇷🇷🇺 Several sources recently reported on the sale of 24 Russian Su-35 fighter jets to the Islamic Republic of Iran. These were initially to be sold to Egypt, but that deal was thwarted by the threat of U.S. sanctions on Egypt. Since 15 of the planes were reportedly ready for delivery, they may be sent to the Iranian regime in early 2022. Reports of sales of Russian commercial or military planes to Iran are not new, though some now qualify them as a consolation for Tehran to make amends for Russia's suspected approval of the strikes that have targeted Iranian Revolutionary guards bases, allied militias and Iranian war material in Syria.

🤝 Supreme Leader Khamenei's overall governance strategies, which include a Look East approach in foreign and economic policies, envisage increasing military collaborations with the Russians. In March-April 2017 during a visit to Russia by former Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, Vladimir Putin said that the two sides had discussed increasing cooperation in the building and export of planes, such as Sukhoi fighters, to Iran.

⚠️ Is the regime effectively handing Iran's armies over to the Russians? Will anyone dare ask Khamenei why he is devoted to a Russian president who agreed to let the Israelis bomb Iranian and allied militia positions in Syria? Will any revolutionary general ask him who tells Israel which containers to strike in the port of Latakia? Russia's influence at the highest levels of Iran's military and security structures is a threat to Iranian national security. Its sway is enough to change Ayatollah Khamenei's mind on blocking UN inspectorate cameras in Iranian nuclear installations.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

Perhaps some individuals have watched too many 007 movies.

— China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said during a press conference, a day after British security services warned that a London-based Chinese agent was "knowingly engaged in political interference activities" inside parliament.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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Geopolitics

Ingrid Betancourt, A Hostage Heroine Reinvented As Feminist For President

Although Betancourt is best known for surviving six years as a hostage of the Colombian terror group FARC, and is considered a centrist politician, her unlikely new campaign for president will be centered on gender issues.

Betancourt in Bogota announcing her candidacy Tuesday

Chepa Beltran/LongVisual via ZUMA
Felipe García Altamar

-Analysis-

BOGOTA — Exactly 20 years after she was kidnapped by the FARC terror group in the middle of her campaign for Colombian president, Íngrid Betancourt is launching a new campaign to lead her nation. She will do so on behalf of her party, Verde Oxígeno, becoming the only female candidate from the Centro Esperanza Coalition (CCE), which for months received a barrage of criticism for grouping only male candidacies and traditional politicians.

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