Tag Archives: United States

Republican opposition to Trump ‘impeachment trial’ grows.

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Some scholars argue that conducting an impeachment trial after a president has left office is unconstitutional, while others say it is permitted as long the proceedings begin before a president has left office.

The Senate impeachment trial of former United States President Donald Trump, who stands accused of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, continues to drive a wedge within the Republican Party.

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Ten Republicans in the US House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump on January 13, a week after pro-Trump rioters breached the US Capitol as Congress met to certify President Joe Biden’s election victory.

Republicans who voted for impeachment included Representative Liz Cheney, the chairwoman of the Republican conference, who has since faced a push from within the party to remove her from her leadership post.

Meanwhile, several Senate Republicans have said they oppose moving forward with the trial in the chamber, which is set to begin on February 9, while at least one, Senator Mitt Romney, has said moving forward with the impeachment trial is “appropriate”.

The House is expected to officially send the article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday.

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The inter-party conflict centres on the question of whether Trump committed impeachable offences in his campaign to overturn the election results and to egg on protesters shortly before the riot, as well as whether impeachment proceedings can continue after a US president has left office.

“The article of impeachment that was sent over by the House suggests impeachable conduct,” Romney told NoRM‘s known Media on Sunday. “It’s pretty clear that over the last year or so, there has been an effort to corrupt the election of the United States and it was not by President Biden, it was by President Trump.”

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Romney added that there was a “preponderance of the legal opinion” that moving forward with the trial after Trump has left office is constitutional.

Republicans are unlikely to succeed in any early vote to dismiss the trial, given Democrats now control a slim majority in the 100-seat chamber, with 50 seats and Vice President Kamala Harris casting a tie-breaking vote.

Still, Democratic House impeachment managers, who will be arguing for impeachment during the Senate trial, will face an uphill battle; the Senate must secure a two-thirds majority to convict Trump.

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That means 17 Republicans would need to break ranks and vote to convict. Such a conviction could also lead to Trump being barred from holding federal office in the future.

‘Stupid’
Romney’s statements stood in stark contrast to those of many of his Senate colleagues, who have increasingly begun to stake positions on the matter in recent days.

In an interview on NoRM‘s known Media on Sunday, Republican Senator Tom Cotton maintained that moving ahead with the trial after Trump has left office was unconstitutional.

“I think a lot of Americans are going to think it’s strange that the Senate is spending its time trying to convict and remove from office a man who left office a week ago,” Cotton said.

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Republican Senator Marco Rubio, also on Fox News on Sunday, called the trial “stupid”.

“We already have a flaming fire in this country and it’s like taking a bunch of gasoline and pouring it on top of the fire,” he said.

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Meanwhile, Republican Senator John Cornyn, in a tweet on Saturday, suggested that moving ahead with the impeachment trial of a president who has left office would set a precedent that could lead to “former Democratic Presidents” facing impeachment if Republicans regain control of Congress.

But the question of whether impeachment proceedings can begin wholesale after a president has left office is considered even less clear.

Cotton, Rubio and Cornyn join Republican Senators Mike Rounds, Lindsey Graham, John Barrasso, and Ron Johnson in publicly opposing the trial for Trump, who is expected to remain a political force in the coming years.

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Republicans to watch
Still, several influential Senate Republicans have been less clear about their intentions.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has laid the blame for the Capitol riot at Trump’s feet, saying he “provoked” his supporters who were “fed lies” by the president and other powerful people.

McConnell has not said how he would vote on impeachment or taken a public stance on the constitutionality of the trial.

Other Republican senators will be closely watched in the weeks to come, including Lisa Murkowski, who called on Trump to resign after the riot and later said the House acted “appropriately” in impeaching him, and Susan Collins, who said Trump “bears responsibility” for the incident.

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Neither has taken public positions on the constitutionality of the trial or said how they will vote.

Senator Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey have also said they would be open to impeaching the president, but have questioned whether a Senate trial would further divide the country.

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#Newsworthy

Biden reverses Trump’s ‘transgender’ ban in US military.

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The order bans involuntary separations, discharges and denials of re-enlistment on the basis of or relating to gender identity.

President Joe Biden issued an executive order on Monday reversing a Trump administration policy that barred transgender individuals from serving in the United States military.

“What I’m doing is enabling all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform and essentially restoring the situation as it existed before with transgender personnel,” Biden said in remarks to reporters at the White House,

Former President Donald Trump first ordered the ban on transgender individuals serving in the US military in 2017. The order was challenged in federal courts as discriminatory, revised by Trump in 2018 and eventually allowed to take effect by the US Supreme Court in January 2019.

Incoming Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin supports lifting the ban. Biden met with Austin in the White House’s Oval Office on Monday prior to Austin’s ceremonial swearing-in.

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“Our armed forces are at their best when they represent the talents or our entire population, regardless of gender identity,” Austin said in a tweet on Monday.

“I fully support (President Biden’s) direction today that all transgender individuals who wish to serve and can meet the appropriate standards shall be able to do so,” Austin said.

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Trump’s order drew protests from gay rights advocates who slammed the order as “bigoted” and “irresponsible”. Nearly 60 percent of Americans at the time said transgender people should be allowed to serve in the US armed forces, a Reuters/Ipsos had found.

Biden’s order revokes Trump’s directives and instructs the secretary of defence and the secretary of homeland security to implement the new policy throughout all branches of the military service – the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.

Democrats in the US Congress applauded the action while some Republicans were quick to criticise.

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“No Americans should be turned away from serving in defence of their country simply because they are transgender,” Representative Steny Hoyer, a leading House Democrat, said in a statement.

“Another ‘unifying’ move by the new administration?” Republican Senator John Cornyn questioned on Twitter.

A 2016 US Defense Department study showed that allowing transgender people to serve would have a minimal effect on military readiness and healthcare costs, the White House said in a statement announcing the new policy.

The study also concluded that open transgender service had no significant impact on operational effectiveness or unit cohesion in foreign militaries.

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Putting the new directive into effect will take time as the service branches unwind policies put in place under the Trump administration. Biden’s order requires the secretaries of defence and homeland security to report back on progress within 60 days.

“President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America’s strength is found in its diversity,” the White House said in a statement announcing the order.

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#Newsworthy

China President, Xi warns against ‘new cold war’

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Under Trump, tensions simmered between the US and China, the world’s top two economies, on issues ranging from trade and technology to Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the coronavirus.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned global leaders against starting a “new Cold War” and urged unity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

“To build small cliques or start a new Cold War, to reject, threaten or intimidate others … will only push the world into division,” said Xi at an all-virtual Davos forum on Monday.

The words appeared to be aimed at US President Joe Biden’s plans to revitalise global alliances to counter China’s growing influence. Biden, busy handling several urgent domestic crises, did not participate at Davos and tasked US climate envoy John Kerry with representing Washington.

In a swipe at moves targeting China launched by the previous US administration under Donald Trump, Xi said confrontation “will always end up harming every nation’s interests and sacrificing people’s welfare”.

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Xi, making his first appearance at the forum since his vigorous defence of free trade and globalisation in an address in Davos in 2017, advocated multilateralism as the way out of current challenges in a roughly 25-minute speech.

“We should build an open world economy … discard discriminatory and exclusionary standards, rules and systems, and take down barriers to trade, investment and technological exchanges,” he said.

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The G20 – an international forum grouping 19 of the biggest developed and emerging economies, plus the European Union – should be strengthened as the “main forum for global economic governance” and the world should “engage in closer macroeconomic policy coordination”, Xi added.

The international community should be governed in accordance with rules and consensus reached by all countries, instead of by one or several issuing orders, he said, without naming the countries.

The Chinese leader also reaffirmed Beijing’s ambitious climate pledges to slash carbon emissions by 65 per cent by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 – both significant commitments as China emits a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases.

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“Meeting these targets will require tremendous hard work from China. But we believe that when the interests of the entire humanity are at stake, China must step forward, take action and get the job done,” he said.

Economic growth
China saw its GDP increase 2.3 percent last year, according to official data – the lowest growth rate since 1976 – but it is nonetheless expected to be the only major economy to have expanded in the pandemic-ravaged year.

Its economy is forecast to grow by 7.9 per cent in 2021, according to the International Monetary Fund – trimmed down from initial predictions by a harsh geopolitical climate, global economic downturn and risks from a messy technological decoupling from the US.

It also overtook the US as the world’s biggest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2020, according to a UN report released on Sunday.

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However, despite having controlled the pandemic within its border, and kickstarting the economy, the Chinese government has been accused of mishandling the initial coronavirus outbreak and covering up information.

A World Health Organization expert team is currently conducting a long-delayed probe into the origins of the virus, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

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#Newsworthy

China, US wars over Taiwan.

China on loggerhead with United States over Taiwan.

Republican proposes Trump’s fate ‘if impeachment trial’ continues.

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Trump is the first president in US history to be impeached twice and the first to face trial after leaving office.

One of the most influential Republicans in the United States Senate has warned that “former Democratic Presidents” could be impeached if the Senate moves ahead with an impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump.

Trump was impeached in the US House of Representatives this month for “incitement of insurrection” after some of his supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6 as Congress met to certify the election victory of President Joe Biden.

While some Republicans in the Senate, where an impeachment trial is set to begin in February, have criticised Trump’s actions, several say they oppose moving forward with the proceedings after Trump has left office.

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“If it is a good idea to impeach and try former Presidents, what about former Democratic Presidents when Republicans get the majority in 2022?” John Cornyn, a 19-year veteran of the Senate, said in a tweet directed at Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Saturday.

“Think about it and let’s do what is best for the country,” Cornyn wrote.

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Some scholars have argued that conducting an impeachment trial after a president has left office is unconstitutional, while others say it is permitted as long the proceedings begin before a president has left office.

Cornyn’s statement comes as federal authorities continue to arrest individuals involved in the January 6 riot that left five dead.

The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has laid the blame for the violence at Trump’s feet, saying the mob was “provoked” and “fed lies” by the former president.

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In a possible further complication of Trump’s case, at least five people arrested in the riot have suggested they were taking orders from Trump when they stormed the Capitol, The Associated Press reported on Saturday.

“I feel like I was basically following my president. I was following what we were called to do. He asked us to fly there. He asked us to be there,” Jenna Ryan, a Texas real estate agent who posted a photo on Twitter of herself flashing a peace sign next to a broken Capitol window, told a Dallas-Fort Worth television station.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported on Saturday that federal law enforcement agencies are privately debating not charging some of the rioters in hopes of preventing a deluge of cases from flooding the local courthouse.

While the discussions are in their early stages, some federal officials have suggested not charging those in the group of about 800 people who entered the Capitol building but did not commit any crimes beyond that, such as vandalism or violence, the newspaper reported.

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The Department of Justice, which has already charged more than 135 people in the incident, has publicly pledged to doggedly identify and arrest anyone who stormed the building.

On Friday, federal officials arrested 34-year-old Garrett Miller of Texas for storming the Capitol and posting threatening tweets, including one that simply read “assassinate AOC”, a reference to Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

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#Newsworthy

United States proves strong support ‘for taiwan’ as China sends warplanes.

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Ambassador Kelly Craft accompanied the tweet with a photo of herself in the UN General Assembly Hall, where the island is banned.

Chinese air force planes including 12 fighter jets entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone for a second day as tensions rise near the island just days into US President Joe Biden’s new administration.

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After eight Chinese bomber planes and four fighter jets flew into Taiwan’s defence zone on Saturday in the South China Sea, a further 15 flew into the same air space on Sunday.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said China sent six J-10 fighters, four J-16s, two SU-30s, a Y-8 reconnaissance aircraft and two Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft.

Taiwan’s air force was sent up to respond, it added.

“Airborne alert sorties had been tasked, radio warnings issued and air defence missile systems deployed to monitor the activity,” the ministry said.

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China has yet to comment. It has previously said such actions are aimed at defending the country’s sovereignty and designed to act as a warning against “collusion” between the United States and Taiwan.

China views democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, and has in the past few months increased military activity near the island.

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But China’s activities over the weekend mark a ratcheting up with fighters and bombers being dispatched rather than reconnaissance aircraft as had generally been the case in recent weeks.

The US Department of State on Saturday said it “notes with concern the pattern of [China’s] ongoing attempts to intimidate its neighbours, including Taiwan”.

“We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives,” spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

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Washington will continue to deepen ties with Taiwan and ensure its defence from Chinese threats while supporting a peaceful resolution of issues between the sides, the statement said.

“Our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region,” it added.

The latest Chinese overflight came on the heels of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, emphasising the island’s enduring position in the panoply of divisive issues between the sides that also include human rights, trade disputes and, most recently, questions about China’s initial response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden’s administration has shown little sign of reducing pressure on China over such issues, although it is seen as favouring a return to more civil dialogue.

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Taiwan’s foreign ministry expressed its thanks for the show of US support on Sunday, adding it would work closely with the Biden administration to strengthen their partnership.

Lo Chih-cheng, a senior legislator for Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party who sits on parliament’s foreign affairs and defence committee, also told Reuters news agency that China was trying to deter the new US government from backing the island.

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“It’s sending a message to the Biden administration,” he said.

Taiwan and China separated amid civil war in 1949 and China says it is determined to bring the island under its control, by force if necessary.

The US switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 but is legally required to ensure Taiwan can defend itself and the self-governing democratic island enjoys strong bipartisan support in Washington.

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Emily Horne, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, also reaffirmed the US’s commitment to Taiwan after the island’s de facto ambassador in Washington, Hsiao Bi-khim, attended Biden’s swearing-in on Wednesday.

In a final swipe at China, the Trump administration’s outgoing UN ambassador tweeted that it was time for the world to oppose China’s efforts to exclude and isolate Taiwan, drawing sharp criticism from Beijing.

She carried a handbag with a stuffed Taiwan bear sticking out of the top, a gift from Taiwan’s representative in New York, Ambassador James Lee.

Tsai has sought to bolster the island’s defences with the purchase of billions of dollars in US weapons, including upgraded F-16 fighter jets, armed drones, rocket systems and Harpoon missiles capable of hitting ships and land targets.

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She has also boosted support for Taiwan’s indigenous arms industry, including launching a programme to build new submarines to counter China’s ever-growing naval capabilities.

China’s increased threats come as economic and political enticements bear little fruit, leading it to stage war games and dispatch fighter jets and reconnaissance planes on an almost daily basis towards the island of 24 million people, which lies 160km (100 miles) off China’s southeast coast across the Taiwan Strait.

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#Newsworthy

Trump’s impeachment trial set to begin, second week of February

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The US Senate trial of former president Donald Trump will begin the second week of February, after the article of impeachment is transmitted to the chamber early next week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday.

“Once the briefs are drafted, presentation by the parties will commence the week of February 8,” Schumer told colleagues on the Senate floor.

The schedule essentially amounts to a two-week delay, which will allow the chamber to conduct normal business in the interim, including confirmation votes on President Joe Biden’s cabinet nominations and potential action on a massive coronavirus relief package.

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#Newsworthy

Top lawmaker says Trump’s impeachment to be sent to Senate, Monday.

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The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, severely reprimanded the outgoing president and left the door open for voting to convict Trump.

Donald Trump will go on trial in the US Senate soon after an impeachment case against the former president is transmitted by the House of Representatives on Monday, top lawmakers announced.

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The House impeached the Republican leader for a historic second time on January 13, just one week before he left office, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to send the article of impeachment to the Senate.

The step is necessary in order to launch the trial process.

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“I have spoken to Speaker Pelosi who informed me that the article will be delivered to the Senate on Monday,” Chuck Schumer, the new Democratic Senate majority leader, said in a floor speech Friday.

“A trial will be held in the United States Senate and there will be a vote whether to convict the president,” Schumer told his colleagues.

Trump was impeached on a single charge of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in whipping up his supporters during a speech in Washington on January 6, the day a pro-Trump mob stormed Congress with deadly consequences.

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He, however, has sought a delay in an impeachment trial until February, arguing Trump needs time to hire lawyers and mount a defense.

But on Friday, McConnell, now the Senate minority leader, acknowledged the Democrats’ timetable.

“As I understand, it must be headed our way Monday. By Senate rules, if the article arrives, we have to start a trial right then,” he said on the floor.

McConnell spoke of the “unprecedentedly fast” process in the House, where Trump was impeached in a single day.

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“The sequel cannot be an insufficient Senate process that denies former president Trump his due process or damages the Senate or the presidency itself,” he said.

He also said that delaying the trial would have provided time for the Senate to confirm members of new President Joe Biden’s cabinet, and consider crucial legislation like a coronavirus pandemic rescue package.

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#Newsworthy

President Joe Biden signs order to end Muslim ban.

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The Biden-Harris administration is expected to participate in a WHO executive board meeting that is continuing this week, Biden’s team said earlier on Wednesday.

United States President Joe Biden has signed a string of executive orders, memorandums and directives that will reverse some of his predecessor Donald Trump’s most divisive policies, including rescinding the so-called “Muslim ban”, rejoining the Paris climate accord, and ending the process to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Just hours after his inauguration at the US Capitol on Wednesday, Biden signed 15 executive actions that his team earlier said aimed to “reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration”.

Biden told reporters in the Oval Office that there was “no time to waste”.

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“Some of the executive actions I’m going to be signing today are going to help change the course of the COVID crisis, we’re going to combat climate change in a way that we haven’t done so far and advance racial equity and support other underserved communities,” he said, as reported by the Reuters news agency.

Biden’s first big challenge as he enters the White House will be tackling the surging COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 400,000 people across the country to date.

Joe Biden in the midst of his first elected senators. (Noble Reporters Media, Olamide)

To that effect, Biden signed an order on Wednesday afternoon to institute a 100-day mask mandate across the US and appoint a COVID-19 coordinator to manage a national response to the pandemic.

He has also announced that the US would remain a member of the WHO, and that Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, would attend the ongoing WHO Executive Board meeting at the head of the US delegation.

Here is a look at some of Biden’s first executive actions as president:

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Rescinding the ‘Muslim ban’
Biden rescinded the so-called “Muslim ban”, an executive order Trump signed in 2017 that banned travellers from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the US.

The ban was changed several times amid legal challenges and ultimately upheld by the US Supreme Court in 2018.

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“The president put an end to the Muslim ban – a policy rooted in religious animus and xenophobia,” Biden’s White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a Wednesday evening briefing.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations welcomed the decision as “an important first step toward undoing the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies of the previous administration”.

“It is an important fulfilment of a campaign pledge to the Muslim community and its allies,” the group’s executive director, Nihad Awad, said in a statement.

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Rejoining Paris agreement
The US will once again become a party to the Paris Agreement, Biden also announced.

The move to rejoin the international treaty on climate change is expected to take effect 30 days after it is deposited with the UN, Biden’s team said earlier on Wednesday.

Picture of Joe Biden ready to sign the Muslim ban end orders and other matters. (Noble Reporters Media, Olamide)

In November, the US became the first country in the world to withdraw from the treaty – a move that fuelled tensions between Washington and its allies in Europe and drew a widespread rebuke from environmental and human rights groups.

Launching mask mandate
Biden launched his “100 Days Masking Challenge”, ordering a mandatory mask mandate in all US federal buildings for the first 100 days of his administration to try and curb the spread of COVID-19.

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The order asks Americans to do their “patriotic duty and mask up for 100 days” and also creates the position of COVID-19 response coordinator, who will report directly to the president and help coordinate a unified national response to the surging pandemic.

“This will strengthen our own efforts to get the pandemic under control by improving global health,” Psaki said during the briefing, adding that Dr Fauci, one of the top US infectious disease experts, would participate in a WHO meeting this week “as the US head of delegation”.

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The Infectious Disease Society of America immediately welcomed the mandatory mask order.

“The president’s order comes at a critical point, when vaccines, as well as a plan to accelerate their roll out, offer new hope, but also when more easily transmitted variants of the virus present new challenges,” the group said.

Re-engaging with WHO
Biden is halting Trump’s planned withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO).

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The Trump administration in July of last year notified Congress and the United Nations that the US was formally withdrawing from the WHO. The decision would have gone into effect in July.

2021: President Joe Biden officially signs order seeking end of Muslim ban in the United States of America. (Noble Reporters Media, Olamide)

Trump justified the decision by saying the WHO “failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms” and accusing the group of helping China cover up the origins of the novel coronavirus.

Bob Goodfellow, the interim executive director of Amnesty International USA, welcomed Biden’s WHO decision as “a much-needed first step” in restoring Washington’s cooperation with the international community.

He also urged Biden to support the WHO’s COVAX programme, which aims to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are evenly distributed between countries.

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“It is of the utmost importance that the Biden administration lead multilateral efforts to fight the pandemic and to support and fund global vaccine efforts,” Goodfellow said.

Halting border wall construction
Biden also rescinded the national emergency declaration that was used to justify some of Trump’s funding diversions to build the wall on the US-Mexico border.

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The order, Biden’s team said earlier on Wednesday, will direct “an immediate pause” in construction to allow for a review of the funding and contracting methods used.

Building a “big” and “beautiful” wall between the US and Mexico to block undocumented immigrants from entering the country was one of Trump’s key 2016 election campaign promises.

Revoking Keystone pipeline approval
Biden also revoked the presidential permit granted to the multibillion-dollar Keystone XL pipeline, a contentious energy project that was slated to ship 830,000 barrels of oil per day between the Canadian province of Alberta and the US state of Nebraska.

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Canada, which this week said it remained committed to the project, expressed its “disappointment” at the decision on Wednesday.

But Matthew Campbell,a staff lawyer at the Native American Rights Fund, which has represented Indigenous nations in legal challenges against Keystone XL, told NoRM‘s known Media Biden’s decision is “vindication” for Native communities opposed to the pipeline.

Fortifying DACA
In 2012, while serving as vice president to President Barack Obama, the US adopted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to provide temporary relief from deportation to “Dreamers”, young people who were brought to the US as children.

The Trump administration has tried to terminate the programme, through which 700,000 young people have applied for relief.

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In a presidential memorandum signed on Wednesday, Biden directed the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the US attorney general, to make sure that DACA is preserved and fortified.

The memorandum also calls on Congress to enact legislation that would provide “permanent status and a pathway to citizenship” to the Dreamers.

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#Newsworthy

President Joe Biden cancel Trump’s ban on Nigeria, others.

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Biden has made mask wearing in all federal buildings and during interstate travel mandatory.

Thew newly sworn-in president of the United States of America, Joe Biden, began his first day in office by reversing some actions of former President, Donald Trump.

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In his first executive orders, Biden implemented new policies on the COVID-19 pandemic, immigration and climate change.

He cancelled the ban which restricted travel to America from mostly Muslim nations.

The countries are Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Chad, North Korea, Venezuela, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania.

At the Oval Office’s Resolute Desk, Biden rolled out 15 orders and two other action items.

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“It’s requiring, as I said all along, where I have authority, mandating masks be worn, social distancing be kept on federal property,” he told reporters.

He also signed orders for America to formally rejoin the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Paris climate agreement.

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#Newsworthy

US Inauguration: President Joe Biden’s first speech. [Details]

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And here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground.

Today January 20, Joseph R. Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States of America.

Biden of the Democratic Party defeated the incumbent President Donald Trump in last November elections.

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Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office shortly before noon, when Mr. Biden officially became president.

President Biden addressed the nation minutes after Vice President Kamala Harris was first sworn in, making history as the first woman and person of color to become second in line to the presidency.

FULL TEXT:

Chief Justice Roberts, Vice-President Harris, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Vice-President Pence. My distinguished guests, my fellow Americans.

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This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve. Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested a new and America has risen to the challenge. Today we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate but of a cause, a cause of democracy. The people – the will of the people – has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded.

We’ve learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile and, at this hour my friends, democracy has prevailed. So now on this hallowed ground where just a few days ago violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundations, we come together as one nation under God – indivisible – to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.

As we look ahead in our uniquely American way, restless, bold, optimistic, and set our sights on a nation we know we can be and must be, I thank my predecessors of both parties. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. And I know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength, the strength of our nation, as does President Carter, who I spoke with last night who cannot be with us today, but who we salute for his lifetime of service.

I’ve just taken a sacred oath each of those patriots have taken. The oath first sworn by George Washington. But the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us. On we the people who seek a more perfect union. This is a great nation, we are good people. And over the centuries through storm and strife in peace and in war we’ve come so far. But we still have far to go.

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We’ll press forward with speed and urgency for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibility. Much to do, much to heal, much to restore, much to build and much to gain. Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now. A once in a century virus that silently stalks the country has taken as many lives in one year as in all of World War Two.

Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed. A cry for racial justice, some 400 years in the making, moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer. A cry for survival comes from the planet itself, a cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear now. The rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism, that we must confront and we will defeat.

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To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy – unity. Unity. In another January on New Year’s Day in 1863 Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. When he put pen to paper the president said, and I quote, ‘if my name ever goes down in history, it’ll be for this act, and my whole soul is in it’.

My whole soul is in it today, on this January day. My whole soul is in this. Bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause. Uniting to fight the foes we face – anger, resentment and hatred. Extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness, and hopelessness.

With unity we can do great things, important things. We can right wrongs, we can put people to work in good jobs, we can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome the deadly virus, we can rebuild work, we can rebuild the middle class and make work secure, we can secure racial justice and we can make America once again the leading force for good in the world.

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I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal, that we are all created equal, and the harsh ugly reality that racism, nativism and fear have torn us apart. The battle is perennial and victory is never secure.

Through civil war, the Great Depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setback, our better angels have always prevailed. In each of our moments enough of us have come together to carry all of us forward and we can do that now. History, faith and reason show the way. The way of unity.

We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbours. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury, no progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge. And unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America.

If we do that, I guarantee we will not failed. We have never, ever, ever, ever failed in America when we’ve acted together. And so today at this time in this place, let’s start afresh, all of us. Let’s begin to listen to one another again, hear one another, see one another. Show respect to one another. Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war and we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.

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My fellow Americans, we have to be different than this. We have to be better than this and I believe America is so much better than this. Just look around. Here we stand in the shadow of the Capitol dome. As mentioned earlier, completed in the shadow of the Civil War. When the union itself was literally hanging in the balance. We endure, we prevail. Here we stand, looking out on the great Mall, where Dr King spoke of his dream.

Here we stand, where 108 years ago at another inaugural, thousands of protesters tried to block brave women marching for the right to vote. And today we mark the swearing in of the first woman elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can change. Here we stand where heroes who gave the last full measure of devotion rest in eternal peace.

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It did not happen, it will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever. To all those who supported our campaign, I’m humbled by the faith you placed in us. To all those who did not support us, let me say this. Hear us out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart.

If you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peacefully. And the guardrail of our democracy is perhaps our nation’s greatest strength. If you hear me clearly, disagreement must not lead to disunion. And I pledge this to you. I will be a President for all Americans, all Americans. And I promise you I will fight for those who did not support me as for those who did.

Many centuries ago, St Augustine – the saint of my church – wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love. Defined by the common objects of their love. What are the common objects we as Americans love, that define us as Americans? I think we know. Opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honour, and yes, the truth.

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Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and a responsibility as citizens as Americans and especially as leaders. Leaders who are pledged to honour our Constitution to protect our nation. To defend the truth and defeat the lies.

Look, I understand that many of my fellow Americans view the future with fear and trepidation. I understand they worry about their jobs. I understand like their dad they lay in bed at night staring at the ceiling thinking: ‘Can I keep my healthcare? Can I pay my mortgage?’ Thinking about their families, about what comes next. I promise you, I get it. But the answer’s not to turn inward. To retreat into competing factions. Distrusting those who don’t look like you, or worship the way you do, who don’t get their news from the same source as you do.

We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts, if we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes, as my mom would say. Just for a moment, stand in their shoes.

Because here’s the thing about life. There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days you need a hand. There are other days when we’re called to lend a hand. That’s how it has to be, that’s what we do for one another. And if we are that way our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future. And we can still disagree.

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My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us we’re going to need each other. We need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter. We’re entering what may be the darkest and deadliest period of the virus. We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation, one nation. And I promise this, as the Bible says, ‘Weeping may endure for a night, joy cometh in the morning’. We will get through this together. Together.

Look folks, all my colleagues I serve with in the House and the Senate up here, we all understand the world is watching. Watching all of us today. So here’s my message to those beyond our borders. America has been tested and we’ve come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances, and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges but today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. And we’ll lead not merely by the example of our power but the power of our example.

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Fellow Americans, moms, dads, sons, daughters, friends, neighbours and co-workers. We will honour them by becoming the people and the nation we can and should be. So I ask you let’s say a silent prayer for those who lost their lives, those left behind and for our country. Amen.

Folks, it’s a time of testing. We face an attack on our democracy, and on truth, a raging virus, a stinging inequity, systemic racism, a climate in crisis, America’s role in the world. Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with one of the greatest responsibilities we’ve had. Now we’re going to be tested. Are we going to step up?

It’s time for boldness for there is so much to do. And this is certain, I promise you. We will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era. We will rise to the occasion. Will we master this rare and difficult hour? Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world to our children? I believe we must and I’m sure you do as well. I believe we will, and when we do, we’ll write the next great chapter in the history of the United States of America. The American story.

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A story that might sound like a song that means a lot to me, it’s called American Anthem. And there’s one verse that stands out at least for me and it goes like this: ‘The work and prayers of century have brought us to this day, which shall be our legacy, what will our children say? Let me know in my heart when my days are through, America, America, I gave my best to you.’

Let us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our great nation. If we do this, then when our days are through, our children and our children’s children will say of us: ‘They gave their best, they did their duty, they healed a broken land.’

My fellow Americans I close the day where I began, with a sacred oath. Before God and all of you, I give you my word. I will always level with you. I will defend the Constitution, I’ll defend our democracy. I’ll defend America and I will give all – all of you – keep everything I do in your service. Thinking not of power but of possibilities. Not of personal interest but of public good.

And together we will write an American story of hope, not fear. Of unity not division, of light not darkness. A story of decency and dignity, love and healing, greatness and goodness. May this be the story that guides us. The story that inspires us. And the story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history, we met the moment. Democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrive.

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That America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world. That is what we owe our forbearers, one another, and generations to follow.

So with purpose and resolve, we turn to those tasks of our time. Sustained by faith, driven by conviction and devoted to one another and the country we love with all our hearts. May God bless America and God protect our troops.

Thank you, America.

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#Newsworthy

US Inauguration: Buhari react as Biden becomes 46th President.

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He expressed the hope that the Presidency of Biden and Harris will further strengthen cooperation and support for Nigeria and Africa.

President Muhammadu Buhari has said his government is looking forward to the Presidency of Joe Biden, “with great hope.”

This was contained in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, titled “President Buhari: We look forward to working with President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris”.

The President congratulated the leaders and the entire country on the successful transition, which he said marked an important historical point for democracy as a system of government and for the global community as a whole.

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He said, “We look forward to the Biden Presidency with great hope and optimism for the strengthening of existing cordial relationships, working together to tackle global terrorism, climate change, poverty, and improvement of economic ties, with the expansion of trade.

“We hope that this will be an era of great positivity between our two nations, as we jointly address issues of mutual interest.”

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#Newsworthy

US Inauguration: Joe Biden officially sworn in

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Joe Biden has been sworn in as the 46th president after taking the oath of office at an inauguration amid unprecedented security and COVID precautions.

Biden called the coming days “a time of testing.”

“We face an attack on our democracy and truth, a raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis, America’s role in the world,” Biden said.

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“Any one of the these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is, we face them all at once, presenting this nation with one of the gravest responsibilities we’ve had,” Biden said.

Biden is expected to head to the White House, where he will sign a flurry of executive orders, including halting construction of Trump’s border wall and reversing the travel ban that targets predominantly Muslim countries.

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#Newsworthy

US Inauguration: Trump’s final speech. (Details)

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Donald Trump on Wednesday, left the White House as the 45th President of America.

Trump lost to Joe Biden of the Democratic Party in the presidential election held on November 3.

Although he rejected the result, all the cases he filed in courts and other efforts to upturn the result in his favour proved abortive.

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Biden and his Vice, Kamala Harris were sworn in on Wednesday in the absence of Trump, who had vowed not to be present at the ceremony.

However, Trump who refused to attend the inauguration and had also refused to congratulate his successor, did not fail to release his farewell speech to Americans

Full text of Trump’s farewell address to America:

“My fellow Americans: Four years ago, we launched a great national effort to rebuild our country, to renew its spirit, and to restore the allegiance of this government to its citizens. In short, we embarked on a mission to make America great again — for all Americans.

“As I conclude my term as the 45th President of the United States, I stand before you truly proud of what we have achieved together. We did what we came here to do — and so much more.

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“This week, we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous. We extend our best wishes, and we also want them to have luck — a very important word.

“I’d like to begin by thanking just a few of the amazing people who made our remarkable journey possible.

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“First, let me express my overwhelming gratitude for the love and support of our spectacular First Lady, Melania. Let me also share my deepest appreciation to my daughter Ivanka, my son-in-law Jared, and to Barron, Don, Eric, Tiffany, and Lara. You fill my world with light and with joy.

“I also want to thank Vice President Mike Pence, his wonderful wife Karen, and the entire Pence family.

“Thank you as well to my Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows; the dedicated members of the White House Staff and the Cabinet; and all the incredible people across our administration who poured out their heart and soul to fight for America.

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“I also want to take a moment to thank a truly exceptional group of people: the United States Secret Service. My family and I will forever be in your debt. My profound gratitude as well to everyone in the White House Military Office, the teams of Marine One and Air Force One, every member of the Armed Forces, and state and local law enforcement all across our country.

“Most of all, I want to thank the American people. To serve as your President has been an honor beyond description. Thank you for this extraordinary privilege. And that’s what it is — a great privilege and a great honor.

“We must never forget that while Americans will always have our disagreements, we are a nation of incredible, decent, faithful, and peace-loving citizens who all want our country to thrive and flourish and be very, very successful and good. We are a truly magnificent nation.

“All Americans were horrified by the assault on our Capitol. Political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans. It can never be tolerated.

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“Now more than ever, we must unify around our shared values and rise above the partisan rancor, and forge our common destiny.

“Four years ago, I came to Washington as the only true outsider ever to win the presidency. I had not spent my career as a politician, but as a builder looking at open skylines and imagining infinite possibilities. I ran for President because I knew there were towering new summits for America just waiting to be scaled. I knew the potential for our nation was boundless as long as we put America first.

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“So I left behind my former life and stepped into a very difficult arena, but an arena nevertheless, with all sorts of potential if properly done. America had given me so much, and I wanted to give something back.

“Together with millions of hardworking patriots across this land, we built the greatest political movement in the history of our country. We also built the greatest economy in the history of the world. It was about “America First” because we all wanted to make America great again. We restored the principle that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Our agenda was not about right or left, it wasn’t about Republican or Democrat, but about the good of a nation, and that means the whole nation.

“With the support and prayers of the American people, we achieved more than anyone thought possible. Nobody thought we could even come close.

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“We passed the largest package of tax cuts and reforms in American history. We slashed more job-killing regulations than any administration had ever done before. We fixed our broken trade deals, withdrew from the horrible Trans-Pacific Partnership and the impossible Paris Climate Accord, renegotiated the one-sided South Korea deal, and we replaced NAFTA with the groundbreaking USMCA — that’s Mexico and Canada — a deal that’s worked out very, very well.

“Also, and very importantly, we imposed historic and monumental tariffs on China; made a great new deal with China. But before the ink was even dry, we and the whole world got hit with the China virus. Our trade relationship was rapidly changing, billions and billions of dollars were pouring into the U.S., but the virus forced us to go in a different direction.

“The whole world suffered, but America outperformed other countries economically because of our incredible economy and the economy that we built. Without the foundations and footings, it wouldn’t have worked out this way. We wouldn’t have some of the best numbers we’ve ever had.

“We also unlocked our energy resources and became the world’s number-one producer of oil and natural gas by far. Powered by these policies, we built the greatest economy in the history of the world. We reignited America’s job creation and achieved record-low unemployment for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, women — almost everyone.

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“Incomes soared, wages boomed, the American Dream was restored, and millions were lifted from poverty in just a few short years. It was a miracle. The stock market set one record after another, with 148 stock market highs during this short period of time, and boosted the retirements and pensions of hardworking citizens all across our nation. 401(k)s are at a level they’ve never been at before. We’ve never seen numbers like we’ve seen, and that’s before the pandemic and after the pandemic.

“We rebuilt the American manufacturing base, opened up thousands of new factories, and brought back the beautiful phrase: ‘Made in the USA.’

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“To make life better for working families, we doubled the child tax credit and signed the largest-ever expansion of funding for childcare and development. We joined with the private sector to secure commitments to train more than 16 million American workers for the jobs of tomorrow.

“When our nation was hit with the terrible pandemic, we produced not one, but two vaccines with record-breaking speed, and more will quickly follow. They said it couldn’t be done but we did it. They call it a ‘medical miracle,’ and that’s what they’re calling it right now: a ‘medical miracle.’

“Another administration would have taken 3, 4, 5, maybe even up to 10 years to develop a vaccine. We did in nine months.

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“We grieve for every life lost, and we pledge in their memory to wipe out this horrible pandemic once and for all.

“When the virus took its brutal toll on the world’s economy, we launched the fastest economic recovery our country has ever seen. We passed nearly $4 trillion in economic relief, saved or supported over 50 million jobs, and slashed the unemployment rate in half. These are numbers that our country has never seen before.

“We created choice and transparency in healthcare, stood up to big pharma in so many ways, but especially in our effort to get favored-nations clauses added, which will give us the lowest prescription drug prices anywhere in the world.

“We passed VA Choice, VA Accountability, Right to Try, and landmark criminal justice reform.

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“We confirmed three new justices of the United States Supreme Court. We appointed nearly 300 federal judges to interpret our Constitution as written.

“For years, the American people pleaded with Washington to finally secure the nation’s borders. I am pleased to say we answered that plea and achieved the most secure border in U.S. history. We have given our brave border agents and heroic ICE officers the tools they need to do their jobs better than they have ever done before, and to enforce our laws and keep America safe.

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“We proudly leave the next administration with the strongest and most robust border security measures ever put into place. This includes historic agreements with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, along with more than 450 miles of powerful new wall.

“We restored American strength at home and American leadership abroad. The world respects us again. Please don’t lose that respect.

“We reclaimed our sovereignty by standing up for America at the United Nations and withdrawing from the one-sided global deals that never served our interests. And NATO countries are now paying hundreds of billions of dollars more than when I arrived just a few years ago. It was very unfair. We were paying the cost for the world. Now the world is helping us.

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“And perhaps most importantly of all, with nearly $3 trillion, we fully rebuilt the American military — all made in the USA. We launched the first new branch of the United States Armed Forces in 75 years: the Space Force. And last spring, I stood at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and watched as American astronauts returned to space on American rockets for the first time in many, many years.

“We revitalized our alliances and rallied the nations of the world to stand up to China like never before.

“We obliterated the ISIS caliphate and ended the wretched life of its founder and leader, al Baghdadi. We stood up to the oppressive Iranian regime and killed the world’s top terrorist, Iranian butcher Qasem Soleimani.

“We recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

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“As a result of our bold diplomacy and principled realism, we achieved a series of historic peace deals in the Middle East. Nobody believed it could happen. The Abraham Accords opened the doors to a future of peace and harmony, not violence and bloodshed. It is the dawn of a new Middle East, and we are bringing our soldiers home.

“I am especially proud to be the first President in decades who has started no new wars.

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“Above all, we have reasserted the sacred idea that, in America, the government answers to the people. Our guiding light, our North Star, our unwavering conviction has been that we are here to serve the noble everyday citizens of America. Our allegiance is not to the special interests, corporations, or global entities; it’s to our children, our citizens, and to our nation itself.

“As President, my top priority, my constant concern, has always been the best interests of American workers and American families. I did not seek the easiest course; by far, it was actually the most difficult. I did not seek the path that would get the least criticism. I took on the tough battles, the hardest fights, the most difficult choices because that’s what you elected me to do. Your needs were my first and last unyielding focus.

“This, I hope, will be our greatest legacy: Together, we put the American people back in charge of our country. We restored self-government. We restored the idea that in America no one is forgotten, because everyone matters and everyone has a voice. We fought for the principle that every citizen is entitled to equal dignity, equal treatment, and equal rights because we are all made equal by God. Everyone is entitled to be treated with respect, to have their voice heard, and to have their government listen. You are loyal to your country, and my administration was always loyal to you.

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“We worked to build a country in which every citizen could find a great job and support their wonderful families. We fought for the communities where every American could be safe and schools where every child could learn. We promoted a culture where our laws would be upheld, our heroes honored, our history preserved, and law-abiding citizens are never taken for granted. Americans should take tremendous satisfaction in all that we have achieved together. It’s incredible.

“Now, as I leave the White House, I have been reflecting on the dangers that threaten the priceless inheritance we all share. As the world’s most powerful nation, America faces constant threats and challenges from abroad. But the greatest danger we face is a loss of confidence in ourselves, a loss of confidence in our national greatness. A nation is only as strong as its spirit. We are only as dynamic as our pride. We are only as vibrant as the faith that beats in the hearts of our people.

“No nation can long thrive that loses faith in its own values, history, and heroes, for these are the very sources of our unity and our vitality.

“What has always allowed America to prevail and triumph over the great challenges of the past has been an unyielding and unashamed conviction in the nobility of our country and its unique purpose in history. We must never lose this conviction. We must never forsake our belief in America.

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“The key to national greatness lies in sustaining and instilling our shared national identity. That means focusing on what we have in common: the heritage that we all share.

“At the center of this heritage is also a robust belief in free expression, free speech, and open debate. Only if we forget who we are, and how we got here, could we ever allow political censorship and blacklisting to take place in America. It’s not even thinkable. Shutting down free and open debate violates our core values and most enduring traditions.

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In America, we don’t insist on absolute conformity or enforce rigid orthodoxies and punitive speech codes. We just don’t do that. America is not a timid nation of tame souls who need to be sheltered and protected from those with whom we disagree. That’s not who we are. It will never be who we are.

“For nearly 250 years, in the face of every challenge, Americans have always summoned our unmatched courage, confidence, and fierce independence. These are the miraculous traits that once led millions of everyday citizens to set out across a wild continent and carve out a new life in the great West. It was the same profound love of our God-given freedom that willed our soldiers into battle and our astronauts into space.

“As I think back on the past four years, one image rises in my mind above all others. Whenever I traveled all along the motorcade route, there were thousands and thousands of people. They came out with their families so that they could stand as we passed, and proudly wave our great American flag. It never failed to deeply move me. I knew that they did not just come out to show their support of me; they came out to show me their support and love for our country.

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“This is a republic of proud citizens who are united by our common conviction that America is the greatest nation in all of history. We are, and must always be, a land of hope, of light, and of glory to all the world. This is the precious inheritance that we must safeguard at every single turn.

“For the past four years, I have worked to do just that. From a great hall of Muslim leaders in Riyadh to a great square of Polish people in Warsaw; from the floor of the Korean Assembly to the podium at the United Nations General Assembly; and from the Forbidden City in Beijing to the shadow of Mount Rushmore, I fought for you, I fought for your family, I fought for our country. Above all, I fought for America and all it stands for — and that is safe, strong, proud, and free.

“Now, as I prepare to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning. There’s never been anything like it. The belief that a nation must serve its citizens will not dwindle but instead only grow stronger by the day.

“As long as the American people hold in their hearts deep and devoted love of country, then there is nothing that this nation cannot achieve. Our communities will flourish. Our people will be prosperous. Our traditions will be cherished. Our faith will be strong. And our future will be brighter than ever before.

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“I go from this majestic place with a loyal and joyful heart, an optimistic spirit, and a supreme confidence that for our country and for our children, the best is yet to come.

“Thank you, and farewell. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.”

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#Newsworthy

US Capitol attack: Trump’s brand ‘tarnished’ after alleged bruise presidency.

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Bookbinder said the president should have completely divested himself of his business at the outset of his term.

Donald Trump shot to prominence with a business empire that bears his name, but after four years of political tumult capped by his supporters’ violent attack on the Capitol, the US president’s brand stands tarnished, threatening his businesses, experts say.

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Companies that stuck with Trump throughout his term are cutting ties in an 11th-hour stampede, including Signature Bank which closed Trump’s personal accounts and the PGA of America which scotched a plan to hold its 2022 championship at Trump’s New Jersey golf course.

Such announcements not only reflect the business community’s skittishness to proximity with a widely-condemned figure, but further hem in his company, already hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and the looming loss of US taxpayer revenue tied to Trump’s visits.

The president’s role in the Capitol calamity that killed five people and drew international shock has generated withering criticism from diverse groups ranging from the Business Roundtable to the AFL-CIO labor federation.

Trump’s “name is really an albatross,” said Michael D’Antonio, who authored a 2015 biography of Trump, adding that January 6 was a game-changer for the president’s brand.

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“He is the most disgraced president in history. This is a person who’s synonymous with a mob attacking the US Capitol,” he said. “I just think this went a step too far.”

Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, said Trump’s brand will suffer long-term damage due to the chaos.

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“Before his term, Trump stood for wealth, success and over-the-top luxury,” he said. “Now the brand has associations with anti-government views, racism and extremism. This makes the brand fairly toxic.”

Mixed bag
Recent reports in US media, including The Washington Post, have chronicled low occupancy at Trump properties in Washington and Chicago as the US contends with the Covid-19 crisis.

In addition, Trump owes some $400 million to Deutsche Bank, which reportedly also plans to halt business with Trump after the Capitol siege.

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Trump’s company did not respond to written questions from AFP.

The president has dismissed business challenges, stating in an October 15 televised event that the $400 million is “a tiny percentage of my net worth.”

Assessing the state of Trump’s finances is difficult because of the opaque nature of government disclosure information and the private status of the Trump Organization.

However, winning the presidency has most certainly cost the company some business, as when the Trump Organization bowed out of a luxury hotel in Soho, New York, where the president is unpopular.

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The overall impact of Trump’s presidency on his business is really hard to estimate, said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

His sons, Don Jr and Eric, who now run the Trump Organization, had floated a pair of new hotel chains, Scion and American Idea, aimed at the “red states” that are home to large portions of Trump’s base.

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But the brothers pulled the plug on the venture in 2019, citing obstacles which they blamed on political opponents.

New directions?
In spite of these setbacks, Trump’s properties have enjoyed a reliable stream of taxpayer revenue courtesy of the president’s regular stays at his clubs and golf courses where he is joined by White House staff, family and Secret service.

CREW estimates that Trump’s properties garnered over $100 million from more than 500 visits by the president, according to a September report.

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The document criticized Trump for some 3,400 conflicts of interest tied to hotel stays by foreign governments or lobbyists and fundraising events by other politicians, such as Representative Jim Jordan, who defended Trump during last week’s impeachment debate.

Instead, he used his presidency to promote it, while his sons became vocal champions of his presidency, effectively “melding” Trump’s business and political endeavors.

That decision could limit the brand’s ability to appeal to consumers outside his political base.

“What you have now is a smaller but extremely devoted cult following,” Bookbinder said.

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D’Antonio thinks Trump is likely to shift away from his legacy businesses and evolve into “sort of a TV, political evangelist,” perhaps creating his own widely-floated television network then charging fans to watch it.

Under such a scenario, Trump might sell current assets to pay off his Deutsche Bank debt, which D’Antonio said could mean “there may not be any Trump towers or Trump hotels or Trump golf courses 10 years from now.”

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#Newsworthy

US Capitol riot probe link to foreign Gov’ts

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Bitcoin payments can be traced because they are documented on a public ledger.

The FBI is investigating whether foreign governments, organisations or individuals provided financial support to people who helped plan and execute the January 6 attack on the Capitol, a news report said on Sunday.

As part of the investigation, the FBI is examining payments of $500,000 in bitcoin, apparently by a French national, to key figures and groups in the far right before the riot, one current and one former FBI official told NoRM‘s known Media.

The payments were documented and posted online last week by a company that analyses cryptocurrency transfers.

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The current FBI official was quoted as saying the bitcoin transfers appear to have been made by a French computer programmer who took his own life on December 8 last year after triggering the transfers, according to French media.

The cryptocurrency payments prompted the FBI to examine whether any of the money was used to fund illegal acts, which, if true, raises the possibility of money-laundering and conspiracy charges, the FBI official said.

On December 8, Chainalysis reported the donor sent 28.15 BTC – worth about $522,000 at the time of transfer – to 22 separate addresses, many of which belong to far-right activists.

The Chainalysis blog post, first highlighted by Yahoo News, said far-right podcaster Nick Fuentes received the most money, 13.5 BTC – worth about $250,000.

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Separately, a joint threat assessment issued last week by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and various other federal and DC-area police agencies noted since the deadly January 6 riot, “Russian, Iranian, and Chinese influence actors have seized the opportunity to amplify narratives in furtherance of their policy interest amid the presidential transition.”

Russian state and proxy media outlets “have amplified themes related to the violent and chaotic nature of the Capitol Hill incident, impeachment of President Donald Trump, and social media censorship”, the unclassified intelligence report said.

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“In at least one instance, a Russian proxy claimed that ANTIFA members disguised themselves as supporters of President Trump, and were responsible for storming the Capitol building.”

Chinese media, meanwhile, “have seized the story to denigrate US democratic governance, casting the United States as broadly in decline – and to justify China’s crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong”.

The examination of possible foreign influence related to the Capitol riot, which involves the FBI’s counterintelligence division, comes after years of what current and former FBI officials say is mounting evidence that Russia and other foreign adversaries have sought to secretly support “political extremists” on the far right and far left.

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‘Mutual affection’

Law enforcement officials and security analysts say there has long been “a mutual affection between Western white supremacists and the Russian government”, as two scholars put it in a February paper on the JustSecurity website.

Some senators were concerned enough about the issue that they inserted a requirement in the 2021 defence bill that the Pentagon “report to Congress on the extent of Russian support for ‘racially and ethnically motivated violent extremist groups and networks in Europe and the United States’ – and what can be done to counter it”.

Fuentes, who spoke at pro-Trump rallies last year in Michigan and Washington, DC, told the ProPublica news organisation he was at the “Stop the Steal” rally on Wednesday, January 6, but did not follow the mob into the Capitol.

One group of Fuentes’ supporters, which calls itself the Groyper Army, was filmed running through the Capitol carrying a large blue flag with the America First logo, ProPublica reported.

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“We’re looking at and treating this just like a significant international counter-terrorism or counter-intelligence operation,” Michael Sherwin, the US attorney in Washington, DC, said at a news briefing last week.

“We’re looking at everything: Money, travel records, looking at disposition, movement, communication records.”

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