Whirlwind in the White House

The COVID Diaries – 272 21st January

The Independent newspaper has published a list of things Joe Biden’s administration has done in the whirwind first 24 hours of his presidency:

  1. Rejoined the World Health Organization and announced Dr. Anthony Fauci would serve as the head of the US delegation
  2. Ended the previous administration’s travel restrictions on several Muslim majority countries
  3. Swore in nearly 1,000 new administration appointees via Zoom
  4. Cancelled permits for the Keystone XL oil pipeline
  5. Created a new presidential appointee role, the COVID-19 Response Coordinator to assist with national vaccine distribution efforts
  6. Launched the “100 Days Mask Challenge,” including an executive order mandating mask wearing on federal grounds and encouraging Americans to wear masks for 100 days
  7. Extended the nationwide eviction and foreclosure moratorium until at least the end of March
  8. Strengthened the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program via executive order
  9. Avril Haines confirmed as the first woman to lead USIC as the new director of national intelligence
  10. Rescinded the 1776 Commission, created under the Trump administration to help reshape how public schools teach the history of slavery
  11. Rejoined the Paris Climate Accord via executive order
  12. Reversed components of immigration enforcement expansion under previous administration via executive order
  13. Paused student loans payments and the accruing of interest on all federal student loans until at least the end of September
  14. Ordered a regulatory review at the Office of Management and Budget to undo the previous administration’s regulatory approval process
  15. Halted the construction of new border security installations along the US-Mexico border
  16. Announced new executive orders for school and business reopening plans
  17. Ordered the inclusion of non-US citizens in the Census
  18. Implemented new ethics pledges for executive branch employees
  19. Signed executive order preventing workplace discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation
  20. Extended work authorizations and deportation deferrals for select immigrants until at least June 2022
  21. Attended the Virtual Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service alongside the first lady, vice president and second gentleman
  22. Held the first White House press briefing led by Press Secretary Jen Psaki
  23. Announced new executive orders to expand Covid-19 testing
  24. Renovated the Oval Office, replacing interior decorations and adding a bust of Latino civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, as well as a portrait of Benjamin Franklin
  25. Implemented White House Covid-19 precautions including mask wearing, frequent testing and new social distancing measures.
  26. Transportation Secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg began nomination hearings with the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee
  27. Delivered additional calls for national unity with speeches by president and vice president at inauguration night concert
  28. Created plans to host congressional leaders this week from both parties at the White House
  29. Scheduled themed days for the next week to focus on specific policy priorities, including “economic relief,” “Buy America,” “Equity,” “Climate,” “Health Care,” “Immigration” and “Restoring America’s Place in the World.”
  30. Prepared plans to overturn key Trump administration abortion policy restricting funding for overseas abortion providers
  31. Redesigned the White House website to be more inclusive, with language translations and additional accessibility options
  32. Ended the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols Policy, otherwise known as the Remain in Mexico policy
  33. Sent a comprehensive immigration bill to Congress to further undo the previous administration’s legacy
  34. Placed a moratorium on oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
  35. Added gender-neutral pronoun options to the online White House contact form
  36. Fired Trump-appointed labor board general Peter Robb
  37. Established interagency group on societal impact of carbon pollution
  38. Asked Environmental Protection Agency to immediately reconsider methane regulations
  39. Announced intention to revoke transgender military ban
  40. Designated Domestic Policy Council Susan Rice to spearhead “robust, interagency” effort towards “rooting out systemic racism” in federal agencies.
  41. Proposed new Covid-19 national strategy
  42. Encouraged Congress to grant special waiver for Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd J. Austin III
  43. Named acting Cabinet members until nominees slate can ben confirmed

“That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived.”

The COVID Diaries – 271 20th January

Today it seems appropriate to simply record some of the highlights from Joe Biden’s inspirational inaugural speech as President of the United States:

“Few periods in our nation’s history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we’re in now. A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country. It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of world war II. 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. And now, a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.

“To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.

“Let us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our 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.

“May this be the story that guides us. The story that inspires us. The story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history. We met the moment. That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived.

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

1,610 Covid-19 deaths

The COVID Diaries – 270

Public Health England has confirmed that yesterday 1,610 people died in the United Kingdom following a positive Coronavirus test. This is the highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic.

The rate of increase in deaths is not expected to decline significantly for several weeks.

Johnson told not to cut benefit

The COVID Diaries – 269

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is at the centre of a major row concerning the potential removal of financial support for millions of families in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A £20-per-week increase in benefits is due to expire at the end of March. The £6 billion measure was intended to alleviate financial pressures on low-paid families. The House of Commons voted 278-0 in favour of a non-binding Labour motion urging the government to continue with the extra payments.

Very serious risk of violence

The COVID Diaries – 268 17th January

As President-Elect Joe Biden prepares for his inauguration to office this week, states are preparing for the possibility of violence.  Former FBI director James Comey has warned of a “very serious” risk of violence coinciding with the inauguration after Trump supporters rioted at the US Capitol last week. 

There are signs that attitudes to Donald Trump are changing within his own Republican Party as his approval rate has plummeted, with one poll showing his approval rating has fallen to just 29 %.

Trump wants ‘military style’ send off

The COVID Diaries – 267 16th January

It is being reported that Donald Trump is trying to arrange a ‘military-style’ send off when he flies to Palm Beach on the morning of his last day in office as president, enquiring about the possibility of a 21-gun salute and a fly past by the Air Force.

Meanwhile Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is effectively allowing members of his party to vote to convict the US president, by telling colleagues to vote with their conscience during Trump’s impeachment hearing.

Border frictions “obvious and inevitable”

The COVID Diaries – 265 14th January

Europe’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said that the frictions causing disruption to trade between the United Kingdom and the European Union are an “obvious and inevitable” consequence and can be expected to be permanent.

Meanwhile the Scottish fishing industry is reeling from the impact of the new border delays, with much of its exported catch going to waste.

Gaps on supermarket shelves

The COVID Diaries – 263 12th January

Gaps are appearing on supermarket shelves due to the combined impact of new Brexit red tape hitting imports and staff sickness arising from the coronavirus. Fresh fruit and vegetables are being particularly affected.  

More disruption is expected as delays occur at borders and uncertainty over new trading rules causes confusion. Online supermarket Ocado has warned of shortages of some products this week