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A New COVID-19 Challenge: Mutations Rise along with Cases

The race against the virus that causes COVID-19 has taken a new turn: Mutations are rapidly popping up, and the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the more likely it is that a variant that can elude current tests, treatments and vaccines could emerge.

The coronavirus is becoming more genetically diverse, and health officials say the high rate of new cases is the main reason. Each new infection gives the virus a chance to mutate as it makes copies of itself, threatening to undo the progress made so far to control the pandemic.

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Trouble at Home May Change Biden's Hand in Iran Nuclear Talks

A lot of the characters are the same for U.S. President-elect Joe Biden but the scene is far starker as he reassembles a team of veteran negotiators to get back into the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

President Donald Trump worked to blow up the multinational deal to contain Iran's nuclear program during his four years in office, gutting the diplomatic achievement of predecessor Barack Obama in favor of what Trump called a maximum pressure campaign against Iran.

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Biden Inauguration Rehearsal Evacuated over Nearby Fire

Participants in a rehearsal for U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration were evacuated from the West Front of the Capitol on Monday on orders of security officials after a fire in a homeless encampment, officials said.

Those who had gathered for a walk-through, including a military band, were directed to head indoors and moved in the directed of a secure location inside the Capitol complex.

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Israel Trades Pfizer Doses for Medical Data in Vaccine Blitz

After sprinting ahead in the race to inoculate its population against the coronavirus, Israel has struck a deal with Pfizer, promising to share vast troves of medical data with the international drug giant in exchange for the continued flow of its hard-to-get vaccine.

Proponents say the deal could allow Israel to become the first country to vaccinate most of its population, while providing valuable research that could help the rest of the world. But critics say the deal raises major ethical concerns, including possible privacy violations and a deepening of the global divide that enables wealthy countries to stockpile vaccines as poorer populations, including Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza, have to wait longer to be inoculated.

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Hassan Signs Pfizer Deal, Promises Vaccines from Astrazeneca, Sinopharm

Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan on Sunday signed a “final agreement” with the Pfizer company for securing more than 2.1 million Covid-19 vaccines that will begin gradually arriving in Lebanon as of early February, his press office said.

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U.S. Calls Bahrain, UAE 'Major Security Partners'

The United States called Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates "major security partners" early Saturday, a previously unheard of designation for the two countries home to major American military operations.

A White House statement tied the designation to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates normalizing ties to Israel, saying it "reflects their extraordinary courage, determination and leadership." It also noted the two countries long have taken part in U.S. military exercises.

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Iranian Guard Holds Anti-warship Ballistic Missile Drill

Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard conducted a drill Saturday launching anti-warship ballistic missiles at a simulated target in the Indian Ocean, state television reported, amid heightened tensions over Tehran's nuclear program and a U.S. pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic.

Footage showed two missiles smash into a target that Iranian state television described as "hypothetical hostile enemy ships" at a distance of 1,800 kilometers (1,120 miles). The report did not specify the type of missiles used.

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UN Lebanon Envoy Jan Kubis to Head Libya Mission

The U.N. Security Council has given a green light for former Slovak Foreign Minister Jan Kubis, the current U.N. envoy in Lebanon, to lead the U.N. political mission in conflict-stricken Libya, a post that has been vacant for nearly a year, diplomats said Friday night.

The council had until 5 p.m. EST to object to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' selection of the veteran diplomat, who previously served as the top U.N. envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq, but diplomats said there were no objections. They spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of an official U.N. announcement.

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First Syrian Plane since 2011 Lands in Beirut

A Cham Wings plane flying from Aleppo in Syria, landed at one o’clock after midnight at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport following the restoration of air connectivity at Aleppo airport, the National News Agency reported Friday.

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Powerful Indonesia Quake Kills at Least 34, Topples Buildings

A powerful earthquake rocked Indonesia's Sulawesi island early Friday, killing at least 34 people, levelling a hospital and severely damaging other buildings, authorities said.

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