AFRICA: In Sierra Leone, the government lifted crippling nationwide restrictions on movement put in place at the height of the Ebola crisis.
AMERICAS: The US and Cuba closed two days of talks in Havana with some progress toward restoring diplomatic ties but sharp differences over the role of human rights.
ASIA: The Japanese government said it had heard nothing from Islamist extremists holding two of its nationals since a 72-hour deadline to pay a USD200 million ransom expired.
EUROPE: A top Ukrainian separatist leader said he would not push for new peace talks with Kiev and warned that his forces were launching an offensive aimed at expanding their control.
MIDDLE EAST: The Yemeni parliament will hold an emergency meeting on Sunday after President Hadi offered to resign over a standoff with Shiite militia controlling the capital.
TECHNOLOGY: Tech specialists and companies reported that China is blocking VPN services that let users skirt online censorship of popular websites such as Google and Facebook with increased efficiency.
Saudi Arabia: International community reacts to change in leadership.
In his first public address King Salman pledged not to change the kingdom’s direction and called for unity among Muslims.
King Salman named one of his sons, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as defense minister and Prince Mohammed as the head of the royal court.
US VP Biden announced that he was to lead the American delegation “to pay our respects and offer condolences.”
The leaders of several countries, including Turkey and Jordan, canceled planned appearances at Davos and regional tours ahead of the funeral of King Abdullah.
The chief economist of the International Energy Agency said there would be no “significant” changes to Saudi oil policy following the death of King Abdullah.
Benin: Legislators approved a new law for the media that removes custodial sentences for offences deemed offensive against the head of state, and regulates access to news sources. (AFP)
Eritrea: RWB reported that six journalists were released from jail after six years, calling the releases “exceptional” news in a country ranked worst in the world for press freedom. (AFP)
Rwanda: Two police officers were jailed for 20 years for killing an anti-corruption activist who was investigating mineral smuggling from DR Congo. (Reuters)
Sierra Leone: The government lifted crippling nationwide restrictions on movement put in place at the height of the Ebola crisis. (AFP)
Region: The US and Cuba closed two days of talks in Havana with some progress toward restoring diplomatic ties but sharp differences over the role of human rights. (AP)
Colombia: The military incorporated 32 Canadian-built bulletproof combat vehicles into a new tactical unit stationed close to the border with Venezuela. (Reuters)
Mexico: Amnesty International called on the government to investigate the army in the disappearance of 43 students on 26SEP14. (AP)
Indonesia: The deputy chief of the country’s most powerful anti-corruption body was arrested over allegations he interfered in a legal case, sparking protests outside the agency headquarters. (AP)
Japan: The government said it had heard nothing from Islamist extremists holding two of its nationals since a 72-hour deadline to pay a USD200 million ransom expired. (AFP)
Korea, South: President Park Geun-Hye appointed Lee Wan-Koo, parliamentary floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, to replace Chung Hong-Won as prime minister (AFP)
Nepal: Lawmakers failed to meet a deadline to table a new constitution, seen as a key step to stability. (Reuters)
Thailand: Parliament voted to impeach former premier Yingluck Shinawatra, hours after prosecutors announced plans to indict her for corruption. (AFP)
France: The National Observatory Against Islamophobia reported that the number of anti-Muslim incidents in the country has soared since the Paris attacks, with 128 such acts registered over two weeks, almost the same amount as all 2014. (AFP)
Russia: Parliament ratified an agreement with Abkhazia that puts Russian and Abkhazian forces under joint command and sanctions the joint patrolling of the border. (AP)
Spain: Police have seized 11 tons of hashish and detained 55 people as part of an operation targeting a Moroccan drug trafficking ring. (AFP)
Ukraine: A top separatist leader said he would not push for new peace talks with Kiev and warned that his forces were launching an offensive aimed at expanding their control. (AFP)
Ukraine: EU finance ministers are to discuss offering additional money to help save the country from bankruptcy, potentially increasing its original plan to as much as EUR2.5 billion. (Reuters)
Region: Israel warned Lebanon and Syria not to allow militants to launch attacks on Israel from their soil. (Reuters)
Iraq: The president of Kurdistan complained about being excluded from a meeting of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State. (Reuters)
Israel: Four political parties that mostly represent the country’s Arab minority decided to run together in elections on 17MAR. (Reuters)
Yemen: Parliament will hold an emergency meeting on Sunday after President Hadi offered to resign over a standoff with Shiite militia controlling the capital. (AFP)
TECHNOLOGY AND COMMUNICATIONS
Communications: Tech specialists and companies reported that China is blocking VPN services that let users skirt online censorship of popular websites such as Google and Facebook with increased efficiency. (AP)
Suspected Cases as of 29DEC: 1,091,612 (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Maarten, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States, US Virgin Islands, and Venezuela.) Confirmed Cases: 22,796
Deaths as of 29DEC: 169 (Colombia, Puerto Rico, Martinique, Grenada, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Dominican Republic)
Cases as of 20JAN: 955 (Saudi Arabia (KSA), Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United Kingdom (UK), France, Tunisia, Italy, Oman, Kuwait, Yemen, Malaysia, Greece, Egypt, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Iran, Algeria, Austria, Turkey and the US)
Deaths as of 20JAN: 351 (Saudi Arabia, France, Qatar, United Kingdom, UAE, Oman)