Headlines: January 20, 2021
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On a day marking the momentous end of the disastrous past four years and the beginning of what might be a new chapter for the United States, Joe Biden was inaugurated as President and Kamala Harris as Vice President. Making history as the first woman and the first woman of color to fill the role of Vice President, the former California Senator, daughter of two immigrants—a Black man and an Indian woman—took her oath of office led by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Following that Joe Biden, who has spent decades in office, was sworn in as President by Chief Justice John Roberts. Mr. Biden’s inaugural address offered a stark contrast from the images of “American carnage” that his predecessor kicked off his tenure with. Among other things he alluded to how dangerously close the 2020 election came to being overturned. Biden offered a calmer era of Presidential politics. He also hailed the start of the history-making tenure of Vice President Kamala Harris. Biden recalled how exactly two weeks ago to the day, Capitol Hill swarmed with loyal supporters of the 45th President who answered his call to invade the Senate and stop Biden’s win from being certified.
Following President Biden’s inaugural address, a 22-year old Black woman named Amanda Gorman, who is the nation’s first “National Youth Poet Laureate,” and an activist from Los Angeles, read a powerful poem exactly two weeks after a riotous white supremacist armed mob overran the Capitol, and hours after their President flew a helicopter to his new residence in Florida.
Former President Donald Trump refused to attend Biden’s inauguration, becoming only one of a handful of single-term Presidents in U.S. history to showcase his soreness at losing reelection. He did leave a note for Mr. Biden as is the tradition, but the contents of it are so far under wraps. He left Washington D.C. on Wednesday after telling people to, “Have a good life,” as activists gathered on Black Lives Matter Plaza to celebrate his departure. His last day in office was marked by a late-night flurry of showering pardons and commutations to nearly 150 people including his former chief strategist Steve Bannon and former fundraiser Elliot Broidy. And one of his last acts in office was to quietly undo an anti-corruption measure he had hailed as “draining the swamp” – a rescinding of his own executive order to limit officials from turning into lobbyists or working for foreign governments after leaving their government positions. Trump also reportedly wants to form a new political party called the Patriot Party.
On his first day in office President Biden plans to sign numerous executive orders to begin reversing some of his predecessor’s actions. Among them, as per the Washington Post are orders that, “require masks on all federal grounds and ask agencies to extend moratoriums on evictions and on federal student loan payments.” Biden will also take numerous actions on immigration including extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, ending the so-called “emergency” at the border that gave impetus for a wall with Mexico, and nullifying the Muslim ban. He plans to sign an order canceling the Keystone XL pipeline–a long-time demand of climate justice activists and indigenous communities. And, he will rescind the 45th President’s “1776 Commission,” put in place just days ago and denounced as a racist revisioning of history. According to the Post, “Executive actions to be issued in coming days include revoking the ban on transgender people from serving in the military, as well as reversing the so-called global gag rule that blocks U.S. aid to organizations abroad that perform abortions or offer counseling on the procedure.”
As investigations into the January 6th Trumpian riot continue, federal investigators filed court documents on Tuesday showing the extent to which armed right-wing militia members were willing to go to subvert democracy. Evidence gathered from a communication app includes discussions of how to breach the Capitol and make “citizen’s arrests” of lawmakers. Meanwhile a man from Queens, New York who was a loyal backer of the former President was arrested on federal charges after announcing his intention to kill members of Congress before Inauguration Day. The man also believed in numerous conspiracy theories pushed by various right wing media outlets.
The United States on Tuesday officially surpassed 400,000 deaths from the coronavirus. The night before he became President, Joe Biden led an event commemorating the dead at a vigil next to the Lincoln Memorial. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, an infectious-diseases specialist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, will take the helm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under Biden. Her task is to rescue the once-vaunted agency that should have led the nation and the world on how to tackle the pandemic but whose reputation is now in tatters. Vaccine shortages plague the nation as demand far outweighs supply. Meanwhile Moderna, the biotech company whose vaccine is one of two being distributed, says it is investigating a cluster of possible allergic reactions to its product at a San Diego clinic. A California state epidemiologist is now recommending a pause in dispensing the vaccines from the particular lot. Out of about 330,000 doses, ten people are known to have suffered from the allergic reaction. That’s a rate of 0.003%.