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Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the US Supreme Court, has died at the age of 93.

She was appointed by Republican ex-president Ronald Reagan in 1981 and retired from America’s highest court in 2006.

Ms O’Connor died in Phoenix of complications related to advanced dementia and a respiratory illness, the court said.

Her nomination and subsequent confirmation by the US Senate ended 191 years of male exclusivity on the bench.

Chief Justice John Roberts said Ms O’Connor “blazed a historic trail as our nation’s first female justice”.

“She met that challenge with undaunted determination, indisputable ability, and engaging candor,” he said.

“We at the Supreme Court mourn the loss of a beloved colleague, a fiercely independent defender of the rule of law, and an eloquent advocate for civics education.”

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At a White House ceremony in 2009, Democrat former president Barack Obama presented her with the medal of freedom, the highest civilian award a president can give.

A native of Arizona who grew up on her family’s sprawling ranch, Ms O’Connor wasted little time building a reputation as a hard worker who wielded considerable political clout on the nine-member court.

She was known as an unwavering voice of moderate conservatism on America’s top legal body.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) presents the Medal of Freedom to the first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, August 12, 2009. Obama presented the nation's highest civilian honour to 16 recipients during the ceremony. REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo
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Ex-president Barack Obama presents the medal of freedom to Sandra Day O’Connor

Her influence and legal thinking as a Supreme Court justice were most closely scrutinised when it came to the court’s rulings on abortion, arguably the most divisive issue it has faced.

Ms O’Connor baulked at letting states outlaw most abortions, refusing in 1989 to join four other justices who were ready to reverse the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision that said women have a constitutional right to abortion.

Then, in 1992, she helped forge and lead a five-justice majority that reaffirmed the core holding of the 1973 ruling.

“Some of us as individuals find abortion offensive to our most basic principles of morality, but that can’t control our decision,” Ms O’Connor said in court during the ruling in Planned Parenthood v Casey.

“Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code.”

Margaret Thatcher welcomes U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in 1984
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Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher welcomes Sandra Day O’Connor in 1984

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In 2022, some 30 years after its landmark decision, a more conservative Supreme Court struck down Roe v Wade in a highly-divisive ruling.

The granddaughter of a pioneer who travelled west from Vermont and founded the family ranch three decades before Arizona became a state, Ms O’Connor grew up in the remote outback and learned to ride horses and round up cattle.

“I didn’t do all the things the boys did,” she said in a 1981 Time magazine interview, “but I fixed windmills and repaired fences”.

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Ukraine war: Hundreds of new sanctions placed on Russia by US and EU after Alexei Navalny’s death

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Ukraine war: Hundreds of new sanctions placed on Russia by US and EU after Alexei Navalny's death

Hundreds of new sanctions have been placed on Russia by the US and the EU on the eve of the second anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine and a week after Alexei Navalny’s death.

Among those targeted by Washington’s more than 500 new sanctions are people involved in Mr Navalny’s imprisonment and three Russian officials the US has said are connected to his death.

The Russian opposition leader, who was a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, fell unconscious and died suddenly last Friday in an Arctic penal colony.

Ukraine-Russia war latest: Putin ‘may achieve war goal’

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‘Fighting with one hand tied’ in Ukraine

President Joe Biden, who has condemned the death, met Mr Navalny’s widow and daughter on Thursday.

The US Treasury sanctions target Russia and its war machine – in the largest number of restrictions imposed in one go since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022.

The Biden administration imposed new trade restrictions on 93 entities from Russia, China, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan, India and South Korea for supporting Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.

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Putin ‘will pay an even steeper price’

The president said in a statement on Friday: “The American people and people around the world understand that the stakes of this fight extend far beyond Ukraine.

“If Putin does not pay the price for his death and destruction, he will keep going. And the costs to the United States – along with our Nato allies and partners in Europe and around the world – will rise.”

President Joe Biden speaks about his meeting with Alexei Navalny's widow Yulia Navalnaya and daughter Dasha, in San Francisco, Feb. 22, 2024. The U.S. government is hitting Russia with the largest tranche of financial penalties imposed on Moscow since its 2022 invasion of Ukraine. They target roughly 600 people and firms from Russia to China to the United Arab Emirates. The sanctions are timed to the second anniversary of the invasion, and in response to the death of Navalny. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
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President Joe Biden has announced further sanctions on Russia. Pic: AP

As well as targeting those associated with Mr Navalny, the US has also hit “Russia’s financial sector, defence industrial base, procurement networks and sanctions evaders across multiple continents”, Mr Biden said.

The penalties “will ensure Putin pays an even steeper price for his aggression abroad and repression at home,” he added.

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Navalny’s mother shares update on son’s body

The EU’s sanctions

The EU measures were against people and organisations it suspects of undermining Ukraine, focusing on “members of the judiciary, local politicians and people responsible for the illegal deportation and military re-education of Ukrainian children”.

It takes the total number of sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU to over 2,000, including some placed on Mr Putin and his associates.

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Navalny’s widow speaks out

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the 106 sanctions against individuals and 88 aimed at “entities”, often companies, banks, government agencies or other organisations, showed the bloc’s “determination to dent Russia’s war machine and help Ukraine win its legitimate fight for self-defence”.

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What remains of Russian opposition?

Companies making electronic components, which the EU believes could have military as well as civilian uses, were among 27 entities accused of “directly supporting Russia’s military and industrial complex in its war of aggression against Ukraine”, a statement said.

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Those companies – including some based in India, Sri Lanka, China, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Thailand and Turkey – face tougher export restrictions.

The names should be published in a few days’ time.

Since the start of the war, the US has put more than 4,000 officials, oligarchs, firms, banks and others under Russia-related sanctions.

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US lander successfully touches down on moon for first time in over 50 years

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US lander successfully touches down on moon for first time in over 50 years

The Odysseus moon lander has successfully touched down.

The privately-owned Intuitive Machines’ lander is the first US lander to successfully touch down on the moon’s surface in more than 50 years – since the last of NASA’s Apollo programme in 1972.

It is also the first ever private craft to land on the moon.

There were claps in the Houston control room as landing success was confirmed after a few tense minutes.

“I know this was a nail-biter, but we are on the surface, and we are transmitting,” Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus said.

“Welcome to the moon.”

The team had to wait for confirmation that there was a signal before celebrating.

The lander was successfully launched aboard a SpaceX rocket last week.

Following the latest update: Moon landing live

NASA is the mission’s main sponsor, paying $118m (£93.5m) to put its experiments on board as part of a programme which could eventually see astronauts return to the moon later in the decade.

Odysseus is also carrying six other payloads from commercial companies.

It has landed closer to the moon’s south pole than any other craft.

The region has many more craters, cliffs and boulders than the equator, where the Apollo landings were in the 60s and 70s.

Scientists hope to find layers of ice, or perhaps Arctic-style permafrost, from which they can create hydration for astronauts – something which would enable them to stay for prolonged missions.

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Joe Biden calls Vladimir Putin a ‘crazy SOB’ – and the Kremlin reacts

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Joe Biden calls Vladimir Putin a 'crazy SOB' - and the Kremlin reacts

Joe Biden has sparked a war of words with the Kremlin after he called Vladimir Putin a “crazy SOB” at a fundraiser.

Speaking at an event in San Francisco, the president fired a barb at his Russian counterpart while discussing the effects of climate change.

“This is the last existential threat. It is climate,” Mr Biden told donors in California.

“We have a crazy SOB like that guy Putin and others and we always have to worry about nuclear conflict, but the existential threat to humanity is climate.”

Ukraine-Russia war latest

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in response: “Has Mr Putin ever used one crude word to address you? This has never happened. Therefore, I think that such vocabulary debases America itself.”

He then called it a poor attempt to sound like a “Hollywood cowboy,” and added: “This is a disgrace for the country itself, I mean the United States.”

It’s not the first time Mr Biden has sworn at opponents, with the president caught on microphone calling a Fox News reporter a “stupid son of a bitch” during a White House press conference in January 2022.

The president has also, according to Sky’s US partner NBC News, called Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu an “asshole” on at least three occasions recently.

During the 2020 election, Mr Biden told a man he was “full of shit” in a row about gun control during a campaign stop in Detroit, Michigan, and later called him a “horse’s ass”.

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‘Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death’

After Mr Biden’s latest expletive in San Francisco, he turned his attention to Donald Trump over the former president comparing himself to Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who died at an Arctic penal colony last week.

“Some of the things that this fellow’s been saying, like he’s comparing himself to Navalny and saying that – because our country’s become a communist country, he was persecuted, just like Navalny was persecuted. I don’t know where the hell this comes from,” the president said.

“I mean, if I stood here 10, 15 years ago and said any of this, you’d all think I should be committed. It astounds me.”

Last week, the president blamed the “monster” Russian leader and “his thugs” for Mr Navalny’s death – which the Kremlin denies.

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