In Through the Clout Door: “An agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia to reestablish diplomatic relations has cast China in a leading role in Middle Eastern politics — a part previously reserved for longtime global heavyweights like the U.S. and Russia. It’s another sign that China’s diplomatic clout is growing to match its economic footprint.” (This is a big story.)

+ The Political Wind and the Willow: “The approval came as the interior department announced it was going to ban any future oil and gas drilling in the US Arctic Ocean, as well as protect millions of acres of Alaska land deemed sensitive to Native communities. But the Willow decision has still stirred anger.” Biden approves controversial Willow oil drilling project in Alaska. AP: Alaska’s Willow oil project is controversial. Here’s why.

+ Moral Code Red: Mexico kidnapping: A twisted moral code explains cartel’s apology. “Four Americans were kidnapped by a drug cartel, and two of them were murdered, when they visited the town of Matamoros, Mexico. So why would the cartel apologize for the incident and hand over its own gunmen to the police?” (Hint: Because killing Americans brings a heat these guys don’t want. It’s not morals. It’s strictly business.)

+ Bear Hug: “Zucchero and his brother, Dominic, started the business in the late 1970s, building a reputation as a classic spot for the Italian-American speciality.” A Chicago legend, whose Italian beef sandwich helped inspire ‘The Bear,’ has died.

+ Duke Score: In NorCal, we’re preparing for another atmospheric river. The rain just won’t stop. Neither will the snow and ice in the mountains, which can be hazardous, and incredibly beautiful.