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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan approved the USS Arlington and Patriot battery's movement. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The U.S. is deploying the USS Arlington, an amphibious transport ship, and a Patriot air defense system to U.S. Central Command in the Middle East, the Defense Department announced on Friday.

What to watch: This decision is partially based on U.S. intelligence that says Iran has green-lit some proxy forces to "go after American military personnel and assets in the region," 3 U.S. officials told NBC. An anonymous defense official told the AP the same thing last Monday, saying Iran and its proxy forces were preparing to possibly attack U.S. forces in the region.

"The United States does not seek conflict with Iran, but we are postured and ready to defend U.S. forces and interests in the region."
— DOD in a statement on Friday

The backdrop: The U.S. deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force earlier this week to send "a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime" that attacks on U.S. interests or allies will be met with force.

  • President Trump announced sanctions on Iran's iron, steel, aluminum and copper exports this week in an effort to curb any revenue that may be used for developing weapons, amid renewed tensions regarding the Iran nuclear deal.

Go deeper: Trump's next moves to tank the Iranian economy

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions previously imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds the first significant action by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
10 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

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