US President Barack Obama began his first week in office with a series of executive orders, including one repealing a ban on US funding to international aid groups that perform or offer advice on abortions.

First instituted in 1984 by Ronald Reagan, the 'global gag rule' was repealed by Bill Clinton in 1993 and then reinstated by George W. Bush in 2001.

Although Obama has halted all pending rules and regulations, several controversial policies from the Bush administration's last days have already taken effect, including one that allows agencies to bypass federal wildlife biologists when reviewing projects under the Endangered Species Act.

And on 26 January, Obama announced plans to strengthen federal fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles and to review a decision by the Bush administration that would stop California and other states from adopting stricter standards of their own.