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Specialist labs in France and Sweden confirm Putin foe Navalny was poisoned with Novichok

Specialist labs in France and Sweden have confirmed that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent from the Novichok group, the German government announced Monday.

Why it matters: The chemical is typically associated with Russian security services and was used in the attempted assassination in 2018 of Sergei Skripal, a Russian former double agent who had relocated to the U.K. The Kremlin has denied wrongdoing.


What they're saying: “The results of the tests have revealed unequivocal proof of the presence of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group. This constitutes a severe violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)," the German government said in a statement.

  • "The Federal Government has therefore requested that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) help analyst evidence related to to the Navalny case."
  • "We once again call on Russia to make a statement on the incident. We are closely consulting with our European partners regarding possible next steps."

The state of play: Navalny has been taken out of his medically induced coma by German doctors. He is no longer on a ventilator and is able to get up from his hospital bed, according to an update from his spokesperson on Monday.

Go deeper: White House calls poisoning of Navalny "completely reprehensible"

DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials sought to improperly alter election results

The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate whether any current or formal DOJ officials "engaged in improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome," the agency announced Monday.

Driving the news: The investigation comes in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged that Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ's civil division, had plotted with President Trump to oust acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen in a scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia.

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Biden signs order overturning Trump's transgender military ban

President Biden signed an executive order on Monday overturning the Trump administration's ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.

Why it matters: The ban, which allowed the military to bar openly transgender recruits and discharge people for not living as their sex assigned at birth, affected up to 15,000 service members, according to tallies from the National Center for Transgender Equality and Transgender American Veterans Association.

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GOP Sen. Rob Portman will not run for re-election, citing "partisan gridlock"

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced Monday he will not run for a third term in the U.S. Senate in 2022, citing "partisan gridlock."

Why it matters: It's a surprise retirement from a prominent Senate Republican who easily won re-election in 2016 and was expected to do so again in 2022.

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Merger Monday has been overrun by SPACs

Five companies this morning announced plans to go public via reverse mergers with SPACs, at an aggregate market value of more than $15 billion. And there might be even more by the time you read this.

The bottom line: SPAC merger activity hasn't peaked. If anything, it's just getting started.

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Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.

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Xi Jinping warns against "new cold war" in Davos speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a "new cold war" could turn hot, and must be avoided, in a speech on Monday to at World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Agenda” conference.

Why it matters: Xi didn't refer directly to U.S.-China tensions, but the subtext was clear. These were his first remarks to an international audience since the inauguration of President Biden, whose administration has already concurred with Donald Trump's determination that China is committing "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, and issued a warning about China's aggression toward Taiwan.

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MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell moves the goalposts on a run for Minnesota governor — again

The will-he-or-won't-he speculation surrounding a possible gubernatorial run by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is destined to continue at least a bit longer.

What he's saying: Lindell told Axios that his focus is currently on proving his (baseless) claims of election fraud. He won't make a decision until that fight is resolved.

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Wall Street pencils in virus variants as latest economic risk

Wall Street is pinning its bets of an economic rebound this year on mass vaccinations and a virus brought under control, but new coronavirus strains threaten that sunny outlook, a number of firms are warning.

Why it matters: None downgraded growth forecasts because of the variants, but they’re acknowledging there’s a new asterisk to the anticipated economic recovery.

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