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Rimbo, Sweden — The UN's special envoy has appealed to Yemen's warring sides to "act now" for the future of the country, as representatives from the government and Houthi rebels gathered for UN-sponsored peace talks in Sweden.

Why it matters: For only the second time in more than three years of war, officials from President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government and representatives from the Houthi rebel movement joined the talks aimed at discussing ways to end the fighting that has killed an estimated 56,000 people and left a staggering 22 million needing humanitarian assistance.

The UN special envoy is seeking to introduce a set of confidence-building measures at the talks in Rimbo, a town around 30 miles north of the Swedish capital Stockholm, that will eventually pave the way for future negotiations.

  • While the warring sides will not meet face-to-face, the confidence-building measures may include negotiating a ceasefire in the critical port city of Hodeidah, large-scale prisoner swaps, the reopening of Sanaa international airport and the payment of salaries to civil servants in Houthi-held areas.
  • But Yemen Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani gave little indication that he was going to offer concessions to his rivals. He rejected a Houthi proposal to form a presidential council without President Hadi as "nonsense".
  • Peter Salisbury, a Yemen analyst and consultant at the International Crisis Group, said the talks "appeared to be heading in the right direction,” but “the odds are in favor of a negative outcome.”

What’s next: “The best case scenario is a broad agreement on these confidence-building measures, this includes something positive on Hodeidah that will stave off the battle for the port and city, and an agreement to meet sometime later for future talks,” Salisbury says.

Go deeper: Read the full Al Jazeera report.

Go deeper

Updated 21 mins ago - Technology

Mayors see cryptocurrency as a way to address income inequality

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

At the U.S. Conference of Mayors' meeting in D.C. this week, there's buzz around the idea of giving cryptocurrency accounts to low-income people.

Why it matters: Cities have been experimenting with newfangled ways to address income inequality — like guaranteed income programs — and the latest wave of trials could involve paying benefits or dividends in bitcoin, stablecoin or other digital currencies.

Updated 23 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February
  2. Vaccines: Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker
Updated 3 hours ago - Sports

Experts predict major boom for North American sports stadiums

Rendering of the $375 million Moody Center on the UT-Austin campus. Photo courtesy of Moody Center

Stadium and arena construction in North America will total a relatively tame $5.8 billion this year, a 12% decrease from 2021.

The big picture: What the industry lacks in construction it expects to make up for in design, with experts predicting a sports venue boom over the next half-decade, SBJ reports.