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President Biden orders masks on federal land and on board public transportation

Having been sworn in yesterday as the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden went to work immediately upon his inauguration by signing a series of executive orders, several of which are aimed at controlling the COVID pandemic. -19 and stop its continuation. scattered throughout the country.

One of these new orders requires both visitors and employees to “wear masks, maintain physical distance,” and adhere to COVID-19 guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) while they are. on federal lands or inside buildings. That includes places like national parks and federal monuments, like the Statue of Liberty in New York.

“It is the policy of my Administration to stop the spread of the coronavirus … relying on the best available data and science-based public health measures,” Biden wrote in his executive order. “Simply put, masks and other public health measures reduce the spread of disease, especially when communities make widespread use of such measures, thereby saving lives.”


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President-elect Joe Biden

Travel + Leisure reported that Biden plans to deliver on a campaign promise today by requiring that anyone traveling on public transportation wear masks, such as on buses, trains and planes, including at stations and airports. While airlines and train and bus companies have already instituted policies requiring all passengers to wear masks, a federal mandate carries more weight with the force of law behind it.

It was only earlier this month, following the deadly Capitol riots on January 6 and related incidents of pro-Trumpers and anti-maskers behaving in a threatening manner aboard flights, that the Federal Aviation Administration ( FAA) eventually stepped in, promising to prosecute those unruly and policy-violating passengers.

The FAA’s new law enforcement program applies to “passengers who assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crew member” or anyone else on board, and also extends to those who violate usage policies. of airline masks. Those who break the rules face penalties of up to $ 35,000 or possible imprisonment.

Previously, the only recourse for airlines to discipline passengers who refused to wear their masks on board had been to ban those customers from flying with them again. While many rule breakers have been added to the no-fly lists of various airlines during the course of the pandemic, that would not prevent such people from simply booking with another airline.


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In rural Montana, hope Biden will reopen the tracks

DEER LODGE, Mont. – For nearly a century, passenger trains rumbled three times a week through this vast, grass-rich mountain valley in central Montana, home to more cattle than people, until Amtrak stops taking on the north coast of Hiawatha in 1979.

But with a new president known as “Amtrak Joe” and Democratic control of both houses of Congress, a dozen counties across the sparsely populated state are hoping for a return to passenger train service through the towns of Billings. , Bozeman, Helena and Missoula, and Whistle Stops like Deer Lodge in between, is closer than it has been in four decades.

“Residents of very rural parts of the state have to travel 175 miles to catch a plane or to seek medical services,” said David Strohmaier, a Missoula County commissioner who is one of the people responsible for the new Big Sky. Passenger Rail Authority. fundraising and lobbying for a return to passenger rail in southern Montana. “Rural communities see it as an opportunity for economic development, but also a social lifeline for residents who may have no other way to travel long distances for necessities.

Traveling between Chicago and Seattle, the Hiawatha served the largest cities in Montana. Its absence has left a void in a state where cities and services are widely dispersed and public transportation is poor or nonexistent, especially for low-income residents.

The Empire Builder, a daily Amtrak train reduced to three times a week during the coronavirus pandemic, travels from Chicago to Seattle and Portland, Oregon, through northern Montana, serving only small towns in one of the regions the most remote in the state.

Defending Amtrak’s current route funding is an ongoing battle, so the notion of adding new ones is seen as a long road. This is less true now, some say, due to the new president and Democratic control of both chambers.

President Biden’s infrastructure plan, for example, promises to “spark the second great rail revolution.”

“Passenger rail transport is a vital part of the US transportation network,” new transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement to the New York Times. “I believe the department should promote, help develop and fund passenger rail transportation in order to bring US railways into the 21st century.”

Expanding the service to new cities “is a tough step for a lot of people,” said Sean Jeans-Gail, vice president of policy and government affairs for the Rail Passengers Association. “At the same time, it feels like the stars are starting to align. We could get an honest infrastructure bill from God and that could mean money for expansion.

Amtrak officials have said they “support” the efforts of local officials to expand the service. “There are many places in the country that could benefit from a service restoration or a new service,” said Marc Magliari, a spokesperson for the company.

There has been some encouraging news for passenger rail transport recently, including the newly renovated Moynihan Train Hall next to Penn Station in New York City and the new generation of Acela trains scheduled to enter service this year in the Northeast Corridor.

The pandemic, however, has wreaked financial havoc on Amtrak, as it has on other forms of transportation. Attendance fell by 80%. The railroad received $ 1 billion from the 2020 stimulus.

And once-ambitious plans for high-speed rail in California have been drastically curtailed amid skyrocketing cost overruns, which may hurt the cause of rail expansion.

The new long distance service in Montana, if it did occur, would not be high speed. Amtrak long-distance trains have a maximum speed of 79 miles per hour.

Small communities across the country see economic hope in an Amtrak connection. Northern Montana still has the Empire Builder, which according to recent analysis contributes up to $ 40 million a year to the small communities it serves. It is the busiest of Amtrak’s intercity routes and last year carried some 433,000 passengers.

A rough figure for the start-up cost of re-establishing new service along the southern Montana route, Mr. Jeans-Gail said, is $ 50 million for better signage, track upgrades and l improvement of the station.

Nostalgia is not a small part of supporting train travel. The history of the past 150 years in the West has been linked to railroads, the first mode of transportation to cross long distances on trips that took days rather than weeks or months. They brought a radically different world to a wild and isolated land – for better or for worse. Farmers, miners, buffalo hunters and others came to develop and plunder a rich landscape and occupy the land.

Railways were also instrumental in creating national parks and park infrastructure, which their designers saw as destinations for passengers.

The town of Deer Lodge was an integral part of the early days of the Montana railroad and is steeped in rail history. The North Pacific came into being in the 1880s, and in 1907 the now defunct Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, known as Milwaukee Road, established its headquarters here from the Rocky Mountain division.

“My grandfathers and my father were both locomotive engineers on Milwaukee Road,” said Terry Jennings, who lives at Deer Lodge and sits on the board of directors of the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority. “When Milwaukee Road pulled out, it financially destroyed the back of this city.

Since then, the city’s population has declined from nearly 5,000 to less than 3,000, and there is an aspiration to reclaim some of its rail past and support its tourist economy. Deer Lodge is home to the State Prison, and the imposing stone castle-like Territorial Prison, removed in 1979, is a tourist attraction. The Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site on the outskirts of town operated as a cattle ranch in the 19th century.

Even if rail service reverts to the southern route, Deer Lodge might not get service right away, although the train likely stops nearby. If the railroad gets here, it will need new infrastructure. The town’s two wood-frame railway stations are now the Depot Church and the Powell County Seniors Center.

While some towns in Montana have exploded in recent years, many small towns are in an existential battle. The long distances and the sparse population of parts of Montana, sometimes called the Big Empty, make travel difficult and expensive.

Flying from Missoula to Billings, for example, requires a flight to Salt Lake City or Seattle first and a connection; a return flight can cost $ 500 or more. The bus service is irregular. Spending hours behind a wheel is often the only alternative.

A new train service would open up isolated parts of the vast state. “There’s a lot of Montana that’s virtually untouched that can only be seen from the railroad,” Mr. Jennings said.

And with an aging population for whom driving long distances becomes more and more difficult, rail service seems more and more attractive. “My husband’s family lives in Terry, 400 miles east,” said Deer Lodge Mayor Diana Solle. “We’re 70 years old and it’s a long journey.”

Montana is just one of many countries working on a new long-distance train service. Research and planning is underway to provide Amtrak service along the Colorado Front Range; new service between Mobile, Ala., and New Orleans; and additional service between Chicago and St. Paul, Minnesota. Virginia is adding tracks to expand high-speed train service between Richmond and Washington, connecting to the Northeast Corridor.

Mr Strohmaier said officials in Montana would like to open a new rail service to connect to places like Salt Lake City and Denver, especially for people who cannot afford to fly.

“There are economic and social disparities” in travel, he said. “This is the definition of fairness in transportation. This would provide more affordable transportation for a larger portion of the public than what is currently served. “

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Biden administration removes Trump allies from US-funded media

WASHINGTON – The acting head of the United States Agency for World Media has sacked the heads of several federally-funded media outlets, as part of the Biden administration’s massive efforts to wipe out the allied agency from the President Donald J. Trump.

Interim chief Kelu Chao sacked the executives of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Network on Friday evening, according to two people familiar with the matter.

They were appointed in December by the agency’s chief executive at the time, Michael Pack, an ally of former Trump aide Stephen K. Banon, as part of a larger effort to eliminate this which he believed to be a partisan bias of the media. Many current and former agency employees accused Mr. Pack of trying to make him a spokesperson for the Trump administration.

A spokeswoman for the US Agency for World Media declined to comment.

The layoffs, previously reported by NPR and Politico, are the latest in a series of changes to the U.S. Agency for World Media and the federally funded news outlets it oversees under the Biden administration.

On Thursday, the director of Voice of America and his deputy were removed from their positions and the bureau chief of Cuba Broadcasting also resigned. A day before that, Mr Pack resigned at the behest of the Biden administration.

Ted Lipien, who ran Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, was once a senior VOA official and has become a harsh critic of the media agency. Stephen J. Yates, who ran Radio Free Asia, was previously president of the Republican Party of Idaho and also deputy national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. Victoria Coates, who ran the Middle East Broadcasting Network, was deputy national security adviser in the Trump administration.

Mr Biden was expected to make significant changes to the news agency. In the closing days of the Trump administration, Voice of America came under fire for reassigning a White House correspondent who attempted to ask a question of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at an event at headquarters of the media in Washington.

Following Mr. Pack’s resignation, the Biden administration quickly installed Ms. Chao, a long-time Voice of America employee, to replace him. Yolanda Lopez, who was director of the VOA news center, was also appointed acting director of Voice of America and succeeded Robert R. Reilly, who had been appointed by Mr Pack.

Mr. Pack’s tenure at the US Agency for World Media has been marked by significant upheaval. After taking over, he dismissed the directors general of four media outlets under his responsibility as well as their board of directors.

He was also accused of purging critical staff of his leadership; starve organizations under its core funding responsibility; and trying to deny visa clearances for at least 76 foreign journalists to Voice of America because he viewed them as a security risk.

In a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in September, lawmakers on both sides accused Mr Pack of undermining the agency’s mission, which includes fighting disinformation in countries like Russia, China, Hong Kong, North Korea, Iran, and Belarus. Mr. Pack ignored a subpoena from Congress to attend the hearing.

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Is President Biden ready for the new Senate?

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It was the senatorial version of a gold watch.

As the Obama administration drew to a close in December 2016, Joe Biden’s old buddies gathered around their water cooler – the Senate dais – and launched what passes for a retirement party in Congress.

The event was a bipartisan lovefest. Ten Republicans praised Mr. Biden as a “wonderful man,” “God fearing and kind,” “a true patriot” with “boundless energy and undeniable charm.”

Even Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, shared the love, telling tales of legislative wrangling and shared milestones, including one at a University of Louisville center founded by the Senate Minority Leader.

“You have been a true friend, you have been a trusted partner and it has been an honor to serve with you,” he said. “We will all miss you.”

Four years later, Mr. Biden’s former stamping ground has become a much less collegial and productive place. Just days after Mr Biden called for unity in his inaugural address, the Senate is already stuck in an impasse, with leaders on both sides unable to agree on the basic rules of operation.

“I look back with nostalgia at the way we worked together,” said Harry Reid, the former Democratic Majority Leader who retired from the Senate the same year Biden left Washington, thinking of Congress. 1970s and 1980s. “Now the Senate is doing nothing.

Much has been said about Mr. Biden’s extensive experience in government, a central part of his address to voters during the presidential campaign. After serving 36 years in the Senate and eight more in the White House, the new president comes in with a deeper understanding of the legislative process and politicians than any president since Lyndon Johnson, a former majority leader in the Senate.

The question is whether Mr. Biden’s legislative prowess is a bit sepia-toned. When Mr. Biden now speaks of bipartisanship, many Democrats in Washington calmly roll their eyes.

In the Senate, more than a quarter of seats have changed parties in the past four years – including five of Republicans who praised Mr. Biden at that 2016 event. Many of the new members are the product of the Trump era deeply polarized and have never served in a more functional Senate.

Some of Mr Biden’s closest associates believe the attack on Capitol Hill broke the fever within the Republican Party, creating space for its elected officials to work across the aisle. Still, there are many signs that former President Donald J. Trump’s influence over his party may persist.

While the former president’s approval rating dropped sharply among Republicans after the attack, Trumpism remains entrenched in the party’s firmament. Many Republican state officials, local leaders and voters still believe in Mr. Trump’s baseless allegations of voter fraud and view Mr. Biden as illegitimate. They threaten major challenges against Republicans who work with Mr Biden, complicating the political calculation of members of Congress, including several contenders for reelection next year, such as Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Lisa Murkowski of the ‘Alaska, who might be inclined to enter into legislative agreements.

Already, the $ 1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan proposed by Mr. Biden has received a skeptical response from Republicans, including several centrists who helped craft the economic package adopted in the end of last year. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, chairman of the Senate Republican Political Committee, called the proposal “non-partisan.”

“We just passed a program with over $ 900 billion,” Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney told reporters shortly after the inauguration. “I am not looking for a new program in the immediate future.”

And then there’s the issue of Mr. Biden’s own party. After four years of Mr. Trump, many Democrats are unwilling to compromise on their platform. A vocal part of the party is pushing to pass Mr. Biden’s bailout plan through a budget resolution that would allow the law to wipe out the Senate with just 51 votes, instead of the usual 60 votes.

Mr Reid urges Mr Biden not to waste much time trying to convince his former Republican colleagues. Like many Democrats, he would like Mr Biden to remove legislative obstruction – the 60-vote requirement for major bills – allowing Democrats to pass their agenda with their narrow majority.

It’s this very prospect that worries Mr McConnell, who refuses to sign an exploitation deal until Democrats guarantee they don’t change the rules – essentially disarming the new majority even before the big legislative battles take place. begin. While Democrats don’t have firm plans to clear the filibuster, many believe the threat of that possibility remains a powerful lever to force Republicans to compromise.

A staunch institutionalist, Biden has been wary of removing filibustering, although he has expressed some openness to the idea in the final months of his campaign. Mr McConnell’s opposition could change their mind, some Democrats say, as the new president grows frustrated with his stalled legislative agenda.

“Knowing Joe Biden as I do, he will be very patient and try to continue as the Senate once was,” said Mr. Reid. “I am not particularly optimistic.”

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Last week, 10 Republicans voted to impeach Mr. Trump. Now many are facing their own battles.

Trump allies, donors and political aides are rushing to support the main challenges against House Republicans who crossed paths with the former president.

“Wyoming taxpayers need a voice in Congress that will stand up to Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats, and not give them cover,” Senator Anthony Bouchard said in a statement. He is one of several Republicans believed to announce campaigns against Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who was the only member of the House Republican leadership to support the impeachment effort.

The main challenges are part of a wider push by Trump supporters to maintain control of the Republican Party, which now faces deep internal divisions over whether to stick to populist ideology and rhetoric who defined the party message under the Trump administration. Many establishment Republicans would like to adopt a more inclusive platform that could help them win back suburban voters who fled the party in the 2020 election.

Trump’s allies believe such a move would be a mistake, costing them the support of white working-class voters who have flocked to support the president.

In Michigan, a key battlefield state Mr Biden won in 2020, Trump allies are backing the candidacy of Tom Norton, a military veteran who challenges Rep. Peter Meijer in a rematch of their 2020 primary race.

“I said, ‘Peter, if you remove him, we’re going to have to go down this route again,” “Norton said on Steve Bannon’s podcast promoting his candidacy. “On the morning of the impeachment vote, he called me and said, ‘Tom, you might have to get your website back up. I vote for impeachment. ”

… That’s the number of executive orders, memoranda and proclamations Mr. Biden had on his first day in office.

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Senate leaders agree to postpone impeachment trial, leaving room for maneuver for Biden

WASHINGTON – Senate leaders reached a deal on Friday to delay the impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump by two weeks, giving President Biden time to install his cabinet and start proposing a legislative agenda before to start historical proceedings to try his predecessor.

The plan ensures that the trial, which promises to trace the horrific events of Mr. Trump’s last days in power and resurface deep divisions over his conduct, will feature prominently in Mr. Biden’s early days at the office. White House. But it will also allow the president to put in place crucial members of his team and push forward a coronavirus aid program that he has said is his top priority.

Democrats had started to fear that these measures would be encompassed by the rush to try Mr. Trump.

“We all want to leave behind this terrible chapter in our nation’s history,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and majority leader. “But healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability. And that’s what this trial will provide.

Mr. Trump, the first president to be indicted twice and the only one to stand trial after leaving office, is charged with “incitement to insurgency.” The House approved the charge with bipartisan support last week after Mr. Trump agitated a crowd of his supporters who stormed the Capitol in a violent rampage on January 6.

President Nancy Pelosi announced on Friday that House impeachment officials would cross Capitol Hill into the Senate at 7 p.m. Monday, and Mr. Schumer said senators would be sworn in as jurors the next day. But by virtue of its deal with Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, the chamber will then take a recess until the week of February 8 to give the prosecution and defense time to draft and exchange. written legal briefs.

“During this period, the Senate will continue to do other business for the American people, such as cabinet appointments and the Covid relief bill, which would provide relief to millions of Americans suffering during this pandemic,” said Mr. Schumer.

The deal did not spell out how a trial would unfold once pleadings begin on February 9, but both sides have indicated they are looking to compress it into days, potentially allowing senators to deliver a verdict by here. the end of the week.

The delay represented a compromise between the two party leaders in the Senate, who have struggled since Mr Biden’s inauguration to agree on how the evenly divided chamber works. Still, the broader disagreement persisted on Friday, hampered by a dispute over filibuster, which allows a minority to block the legislation.

For Mr. McConnell, who has indicated he is prepared to condemn Mr. Trump and has said privately that he believes the former president has committed unpeasable crimes, the postponement agreement has political advantages. This allowed him to make the case that the process was fair, giving the former president enough time to make his case, and gave him and other Republicans more time to weigh how they would vote.

“Senate Republicans believe strongly that we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defense and the Senate can properly address the factual, legal and constitutional issues at stake,” McConnell said.

Democrats weighed in on competing interests, including Mr. Biden’s agenda, a desire to quickly get rid of his predecessor’s trial, and to force Republican senators to officially declare Mr. Trump’s actions as memories of the riot were still fresh.

They accepted the delay after Mr Biden said on Friday he was in favor of doing so, in order to keep the Senate focused on confirming members of his administration and to start work on the next round of federal aid to coronaviruses. He tried to avoid the merits of the trial.

“The more time we have to get going to deal with these crises, the better,” Biden said at the White House.

As part of the deal, Mr Schumer said the Senate would vote to confirm Mr Biden’s candidate for Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen just before the impeachment article arrived on Monday night.

It is virtually unthinkable that the Senate could pass Mr Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan – a complex bill likely to face substantial Republican opposition – before the trial begins. But Democrats were hoping to remove several procedural hurdles needed to do so.

Mr McConnell had originally proposed to delay the impeachment trial for a week, until February 15. She cited the need for Mr. Trump’s legal team, which was just hired on Thursday, to prepare to give a full defense. Doug Andres, spokesman for Mr. McConnell, called the deal a “victory for due process and fairness.”

Mr Trump, now based at his private club in Palm Beach, Florida, had struggled to field a legal team willing to defend him, eventually settling on South Carolina’s Butch Bowers.

While Mr. Trump has been defended in his first trial by White House attorney, private attorneys, and leading constitutional experts, Mr. Bowers appears to be taking on the task more or less on his own for now and must quickly get acquainted with the matter. He has little high profile experience in Washington, but has defended several Republican governors in his home state, including Mark Sanford when faced with a possible impeachment in 2009.

Preparing for a potentially swift trial, House officials have said their case will be relatively straightforward, particularly compared to Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial. This process resulted in a long and complex presidential pressure campaign on Ukraine which took place largely out of public view.

“Much of what led to this incitement to violence was done in public view – both in the president’s conduct, the words and the tweets – and it played out in real time for the American people on television, “said Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island, one of the directors, said in an interview.

Mr. McConnell was reprising a role he played in Mr. Trump’s first trial, representing defense interests. But this time around, he made it clear that he did not want to be acquitted.

The Republican leader said this week that the former president had “provoked” the crowd that stormed the Capitol. And while Mr McConnell has yet to say how he would vote in the impeachment trial, he has privately indicated that he sees the process as a potential way to rid the Republican Party of its former standard bearer.

Yet with many members of his party already lining up against conviction and the right-wing party crying out for his resignation, Mr McConnell was proceeding cautiously.

It would take 17 Republicans joining the 50 Democrats to condemn Mr. Trump. If they did, they could then proceed to disqualify him from any future position on a simple majority vote.

Several Republicans have already pointed to the speed of the process to advocate for Mr. Trump’s release, saying the House impeachment decision – which came exactly one week after the Jan.6 rampage – was too rushed.

“This is a serious problem, but it is not a serious effort to comply with the due process requirements of the Constitution for impeachment,” said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas.

Senate Democrats were just as keen as Mr. McConnell was to ensure that the trial was seen as fair, especially among Republicans who they believed could eventually agree to convict Mr. Trump. They listened intently when Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, one of the former president’s most vocal critics who hailed the impeachment of the House, said she found Mr McConnell’s suggestion of delay. “Eminently reasonable”.

Other Republicans have argued that it is unconstitutional for the Senate to try a former president because the Constitution explicitly only provided for the removal of current office holders. Many jurists disagree with this position, as does the Senate itself when, in the 1870s, it discovered that it had the power to try a former Secretary of War.

Mr Schumer, anticipating their objection, said the argument had been “outright repudiated, debunked by constitutionalists on the left, right and center, and defy basic common sense.”

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Biden joins public outcry after Guardsmen rest in parking garage

WASHINGTON – President Biden telephoned the National Guard bureau chief on Friday to express dismay after troops deployed to protect his inauguration were ordered a day earlier to rest in an unheated garage after being evicted of the Capitol, administration officials said.

Photographs of dozens of guards resting in parking lots created a public relations debacle in the early days of Mr Biden’s tenure, with some governors demanding that their states’ troops be sent home.

During a phone call with General Daniel R. Hokanson, head of the National Guard bureau, Biden asked what he could do about the situation, officials said. The two men also spoke of Mr. Biden’s personal connection to the Guard; Mr. Biden’s son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015, served as a major in the Delaware National Guard.

Officials said the White House may also organize an appeal with state officials to thank them for their state’s contributions to deploying more than 25,000 National Guard members to the nation’s capital to provide security before and during Wednesday’s inauguration.

Early Friday morning, the DC National Guard said the soldiers had been driven back to the Capitol from the parking lot. Guard officials said troops were temporarily moved out of Capitol Hill Thursday afternoon at the request of Capitol Police due to increased foot traffic as Congress was back in session.

But photographs of the soldiers resting on the parking lot floor, coupled with reports that they had access to scarce toilets and were breathing car exhaust fumes, sparked public outcry.

The scene contrasted starkly with photographs taken of Guard soldiers sleeping on the ground or in cradles inside the Capitol just before Mr Biden’s inauguration, which led to a surge of support for the soldiers.

The number of Guard soldiers mobilized to provide security for the inauguration rose sharply after the January 6 attack on Capitol Hill, reaching 15,000 on January 12 and finally exceeding 20,000 on January 20. A spokesperson for the Bureau of the National Guard said Thursday that the DC Guard was responsible for their accommodation.

A joint statement from the National Guard Office and Capitol Police released Friday afternoon did not explain why soldiers were sent to a parking lot, but suggested it would not happen again.

The statement by Major Matthew Murphy, a spokesperson for the National Guard, said the two organizations were coordinating their efforts to ensure that members of the Guard stationed on Capitol Hill were given “appropriate spaces in Congress buildings” to “duty breaks”.

“Soldiers who are not on duty are housed in hotel rooms or other comfortable accommodation,” said Major Murphy.

About 19,000 troops deployed in Washington have started packing and returning to their home countries, a process that will take about five to ten days, officials said.

The remaining soldiers – around 7,000 of them – are expected to stay in Washington at least until the end of January to provide support to federal agencies and guard against the possibility of another riot on Capitol Hill.

As images of the parking lot spread on social media Thursday afternoon, lawmakers on both sides quickly condemned the situation and vowed to bring the soldiers back to Capitol Hill. Some have offered to let the Guards take breaks in their private Senate and House offices.

With the troops safely back on the Capitol building on Friday morning, several lawmakers – including Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, the Majority Leader, and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the senior Republican – were keen to meet with soldiers on Friday. .

“I have told those in charge of Capitol Hill security that this can never happen again and I promise every member of the National Guard that it will never happen again,” Schumer said in a delivered speech.

“It breaks your heart,” Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota told reporters. “I mean, these are people who are here to serve the country, protect us, protect our freedom and our democracy and there is absolutely no excuse for that.

In a speech to the Senate, Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the situation was the result “of a uniformed policeman who issued an order without authorization or passing through the order chain. “

“It’s not a blame game,” he added. “But I want to know what happened to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Ahead of a meeting with Kentucky National Guard troops, McConnell called for finding “the right balance between the unacceptable failures of three weeks ago and the extraordinary short-term measures that have been put in place since. And in the meantime, we need to make sure that we take care of the men and women who care for us.

After 2 p.m. on Friday, First Lady Jill Biden visited the Guard soldiers at the Capitol and gave them a basket of chocolate chip cookies. Dr Biden thanked them for protecting her family, which she said was a National Guard family.

“The National Guard will always hold a special place in the hearts of all Bidens,” said Dr Biden, who took a group photo with some of the soldiers before returning to the White House.

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Video: Biden calls coronavirus aid an ‘economic imperative’

new video loaded: Biden calls coronavirus aid an ‘economic imperative’



Biden calls coronavirus aid an ‘economic imperative’

President Biden signed two executive orders on Friday directing more federal aid to Americans struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic and laying the groundwork for instituting a $ 15 minimum wage for federal employees.

We remain in a once-in-a-century public health crisis that has led to the most unequal economic and occupational crisis in modern history. And the crisis is only getting worse, it is not getting better. It deepens. We cannot, will not let people go hungry. We cannot let people get kicked out for nothing they have done themselves, and we cannot see people losing their jobs. And we must act. We must act now. It is not just about upholding the moral obligation to treat our fellow Americans with the dignity and respect they deserve. It is an economic imperative. I sign a whole-of-government executive order, a whole-of-government effort, to help millions of Americans who are gravely suffering – demands that all federal agencies do what they can to help families , small businesses and communities. . And in the days to come, I expect the agencies to act. Let me talk about two ways in which these actions can help change the lives of Americans. The Agriculture Ministry will consider taking immediate action to make it easier for the most affected families to register and claim more generous benefits in the essential area of ​​food and nutrition assistance. I expect the Ministry of Labor to guarantee the right to refuse a job that will jeopardize your health, and if so, you may still be eligible for insurance. It is a judgment. the labor department will do. We are in a national emergency. We must act as if we are in a national emergency. So we have to move with everything we have. We have to do it together. The first is economic relief linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. The second is the protection of the federal workforce.

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Video: Watch live: Biden makes remarks on the economy

TimesVideoWatch Live: Biden delivers speech on economy President Biden is set to discuss his administration’s economic relief plans, per The New York Times.

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What Jerry Brown Could Teach Joe Biden

President Biden moved into the White House this week, replacing a leader whose constant need for attention has left millions of Americans exhausted from the uninterrupted spectacle and facing a seemingly unprecedented set of challenges.

But ten years ago and 3,000 kilometers away, there was actually something analogous: Another career politician in his seventies and former statesman took over after the tumultuous tenure of a political foreigner . It was Jerry Brown, and his second act as governor of California, in which he pledged a return to stability after Arnold Schwarzenegger, offers Mr. Biden a road map.

“I’ve been around as long as Joe Biden,” Mr. Brown, now 82, said in an interview this week. “Somehow it comes to the mind of a politician. Tenth year? Twentieth year? Thirtieth year? Definitely in his 40th year in politics.

“The exhibit,” he says, “is a mixed blessing.

He was talking about the need for selective public statements – the strategy of saying less, being heard more that he deployed with great effect in the sunset years of his career, a strategy that, according to the famous former governor philosopher, would serve Mr. Biden well now. .

“The essence of any kind of creation is that there are limits, and you have to understand the limits,” Mr. Brown said. “You need content, but you need form. You don’t want information. Episodic and fragmentary public presentations – this is not leadership. “

“Either way, it’s like policy 101,” he volunteered.

Few figures in American politics have the durability and longevity to match Mr. Brown, who won the first statewide post in 1970, or Mr. Biden, who won his Senate seat in 1972. Mr. Brown was both California’s oldest and youngest governor in modern times; Mr. Biden is the oldest US president and was one of the youngest senators to ever serve.

And voters returned the two men to executive power, in 2011 and 2021, at perilous and precarious times.

For Mr Brown, it was such a crushing budget crisis that California had resorted to issuing iies to stay solvent. Acclaimed state historian Kevin Starr lamented it risked becoming the “country’s first failed state”.

For Mr Biden, this is a coronavirus pandemic that has claimed 400,000 lives in the United States, precipitated an economic and unemployment crisis and exacerbated and exposed racial and social inequalities. He also inherits a nation so ideologically divided that supporters of former President Donald J. Trump besieged the Capitol building in a violent riot this month.

Yesterday and today, voters were tired and exhausted.

“There is a real parallel,” said Steve Glazer, Mr. Brown’s 2010 campaign manager and senior policy adviser early in his term as governor. “Arnold was in front of the camera all the time – and Trump with his tweets.”

So when Mr. Brown took over, he kept a relatively limited public presence from the start. The few statements he made – banning government-produced loot, curbing the use of state cellphones, limiting taxpayer-funded cars – were more symbolic than financial. They were aimed at restoring confidence that the government could function.

“You can’t project leadership with a full dinner,” Mr. Brown said. “You have to be focused.”

Mr Biden had already embraced restraint as a political tactic for much of 2020. He stuck to a limited schedule for months amid intense doubts from fellow Democrats over his strategy of lying during the pandemic. And even once he returned to the track after Labor Day, Mr. Biden was happy to let Mr. Trump’s self-sabotage reduce his approval ratings by hogging the spotlight.

Mr Brown had faced his own Democratic run-ins in the 2010 race. He let Meg Whitman, his billionaire Republican rival, run millions of dollars in unanswered TV commercials that summer, only to emerge this fall, from completely counter-intuitive, like a new face for voters sick of the Flood.

“He didn’t have the millennial urge to make everyone watch their every breath and movement,” said Ace Smith, longtime political adviser to Mr Brown who also worked with the vice -President Kamala Harris, until recently a senator from California. “It was refreshing in California, and it’s going to be incredibly refreshing for a completely exhausted country.”

Mr. Brown and Mr. Biden are very different politicians, but both are flashbacks. They share a love for a good quote. Mr. Biden prefers Irish poetry; Mr. Brown prefers Latin proverbs.

Despite their decades of overlapping, they are not particularly close, having worked on different coasts and in different institutions. “Very good,” Mr. Brown said, summing up their relationship. “I get on well with him. They combined to make six presidential candidates – covering half of the presidential elections since 1976 – but never once have they overlapped as rivals.

Since the November election, Mr. Brown has had contact with Ms. Harris, but not Mr. Biden. In a twist, Mr Biden recently spoke to Mr Schwarzenegger, who has become a wasting Republican critic of Mr Trump and whose recent video denouncing him and the Capitol crowd has been viewed over 38 million times. . on Twitter.

“They are not waiting for my essay on the state of the world,” Brown said seriously. (Yet he recently sent Mr Biden a public letter about the urgency of prioritizing nuclear disarmament talks with Russia; Mr Brown is executive chairman of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, better known as the ‘operators of the Apocalypse clock.)

In Sacramento, Mr Brown has earned a reputation for his willingness to deny the most progressive wishes of the Democratic-controlled state legislature – a moderating role Mr Biden has been called upon to play over the next two years. years given Democratic control of Congress.

But Mr Brown warned Mr Biden should not shy away from big goals, particularly on climate change and the economy. He called for a “Rooseveltian” level of public investment and suggested that aiming too low would pose a much more serious risk than aiming too high.

“It’s terribly difficult when you only have 50 votes to have a lot of overtaking,” he said of the equally divided Senate. “I think the sub-range is a bigger challenge.”

While this seems to come as a surprise from a governor who has defined his tenure with austerity gestures, Mr Glazer said it should not be, as the two action plans are two sides. with the same medal: restoring public confidence.

“It’s not about right-to-left spending versus frugality,” Glazer said. “It creates that bond of concentration.”

Perhaps the clearest lesson from Mr. Brown’s second term as governor, which was not without flaws, is that successfully leading government to jurisdiction can create its own political momentum. After two years of budget austerity, he championed a voter-approved tax hike.

He left office in 2019 with a huge surplus and a rainy day fund – a total reversal of the crisis he inherited.

In the White House, the Biden team is well aware that no volume of public speeches or press releases will substitute in the long run for accelerating coronavirus vaccination rates or reducing unemployment.

By the end of the high-profile interview, it seemed like Mr. Brown was focusing on his own defining theme for the task ahead for the Biden administration. “We have big changes to make,” he said, “but they’re all in the direction of stability.”

“Stability and courtesy,” Mr. Brown said with an almost palpable sense of satisfaction. “It would be good.”

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Banned by Trump but brought back by Biden, Fauci aims to ‘let science speak’

On Thursday morning, just hours after Mr Biden’s inauguration, Dr Fauci addressed the executive board of the World Health Organization, telling the body that the United States would not follow through on the asks Mr. Trump to leave the group in the middle. pandemic.

“The United States stands ready to work in partnership and solidarity to support the international Covid-19 response, mitigate its impact on the world, strengthen our institutions, advance epidemic preparedness for the future, and improve health and well-being of all. the world, ”Dr. Fauci said in a video appearance.

During the Trump administration, Dr. Fauci’s appearances in the White House briefing room were often preceded by rambling and controversial meetings in the Oval Office with Mr. Trump and his aides, many of whom prompted optimistic scenarios or misleading data.

On Thursday, Dr Fauci described a different scene.

“One of the things that was very clear about 15 minutes ago, when I was with the president, is that one of the things that we are going to do is to be completely transparent, open and honest,” he said. he declares. “If things go wrong, not point the finger at it but fix it and make sure everything we do is based on science and evidence.”

Dr Fauci stopped, as if to marvel at what he had just said.

“I mean, it was literally a conversation I had 15 minutes ago,” he says. “And he said it several times.

A reporter noted that Dr Fauci – who last appeared in the briefing room in November – had largely disappeared from public view late last year after angering Mr Trump at de too many times.

Are you back now, he asked her.

He smiled and looked at Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary.

“I think so,” he said.