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DEVELOPING | 'Democracy has prevailed': Biden becomes 46th American president

US President Joe Biden  kisses US First Lady Jill Biden after being sworn in as the 46th US President, on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the US. (SAUL LOEB / POOL / AFP)
US President Joe Biden kisses US First Lady Jill Biden after being sworn in as the 46th US President, on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the US. (SAUL LOEB / POOL / AFP)
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21 January 13:45

Biden: Trump's letter 'very generous' but he needs to talk to Trump before making contents public

President Joe Biden has said that a letter left to him by former President Donald Trump was "very generous," but that he would not make the contents public until he spoke to his predecessor.

Read here

21 January 09:51

Biden issues orders requiring masks in federal buildings

WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden signed an order on Wednesday requiring masks and physical distancing in all federal buildings and the development of a testing programme for federal employees for Covid-19, in a first step to combat a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 400 000 Americans.

Biden's order, the first one he signed at the White House hours after taking office, says federal employees, contractors and others in federal buildings or on federal lands should "wear masks, maintain physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures, as provided in (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines".

Biden directed agencies to "immediately take action...to require compliance with CDC guidelines" and for employees to wear masks and engage in social distancing.

In October, Biden vowed to require masks on airplanes and on interstate transportation, but he did not take that action on Wednesday. The transportation order is expected Thursday, officials said.

 - REUTERS

21 January 09:10

READ | Full text of US President Joe Biden's inaugural address

US President Joe Biden'S 22-minute inaugural address acknowledged the dystopian circumstances of the moment and emphasised many of the themes of his presidential campaign, including uniting a divided America, "healing the soul" of the nation, and being laser-focused on defeating the pandemic and recovering from the economic damage it has caused.

READ IT HERE

21 January 09:09

Biden rejoins Paris climate accord and WHO on his first day, while revoking Trump's travel ban

Just hours after he was sworn into office, US President Joe Biden signed executive orders that underscored his intentions to take a drastically more cooperative and multilateral approach to foreign affairs than his predecessor. 

Biden rejoined the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organisation, which former President Donald Trump took steps to withdraw the US from with separate actions in 2017 and 2020. He also revoked Trump's controversial travel ban that primarily impacted predominately Muslim countries. 

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21 January 07:04

Biden demands decency, promising staff 'I will fire you on the spot' if they disrespect others

President Joe Biden is pledging to restore dignity to the US government, telling his new staff that they will have to find another line of work if he finds them treating others poorly.

"I'm not joking when I say this: If you're ever working with me and I hear you treat another with disrespect, talking down to someone, I will fire you on the spot," Biden said Wednesday. "On the spot. No ifs, ands, or buts."

<p><strong>Biden demands decency, promising staff 'I will fire you on the spot' if they disrespect others</strong></p><p>President Joe Biden is pledging to restore dignity to the US government, telling his new staff that they will have to find another line of work if he finds them treating others poorly.</p><p>"I'm not joking when I say this: If you're ever working with me and I hear you treat another with disrespect, talking down to someone, I will fire you on the spot,"&nbsp;Biden said Wednesday. "On the spot. No ifs, ands, or buts."<strong></strong></p>
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21 January 07:03

TAKE A LOOK | Biden's South African daughter-in-law at his inauguration

The new US president has a South African daughter-in-law, and she had a prominent place at his inauguration on Wednesday.

Melissa Cohen, who hails from Johannesburg, sat behind Joe Biden during the ceremony at the US Capitol in Washington.

<p><strong>TAKE A LOOK | Biden's South African daughter-in-law at his inauguration</strong></p><p>The new US president has a South African daughter-in-law, and she had a prominent place at his inauguration on Wednesday.</p><p>Melissa Cohen, who hails from Johannesburg, sat behind Joe Biden during the ceremony at the US Capitol in Washington.<strong></strong></p>
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20 January 22:23

Joe Biden on Wednesday became the 46th president of the United States with a call to unity, vowing to bridge deep divides and defeat domestic extremism two weeks after a mob attack tried to undo his election victory.

On a frigid but sunny day at the very Capitol building that was assaulted on 6 January, Biden swore the oath of office moments after Kamala Harris, who became America's first woman vice president, turning the page on Donald Trump's tumultuous four years.

"Democracy is precious, democracy is fragile and at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed," Biden said before a National Mall that was virtually empty due to the ultra-tight security and a raging Covid-19 pandemic that he vowed to confront immediately.

"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 we're willing to stand in the other person's shoes."

"Together we shall write an American story of hope, not fear, of unity, not division, of light, not darkness. A story of decency and dignity, love and healings and goodness."

But Trump, who falsely said that he was cheated out of a second term and egged on his supporters before their rampage at the Capitol, broke 152 years of tradition by refusing to attend his successor's inauguration.

Biden appealed to Trump's supporters, pledging to listen to all sides after four years of deep polarization in which Trump belittled minority groups and tried to cast doubts on basic facts.

READ HERE

20 January 20:29

WATCH | Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman reads The Hill We Climb

20 January 19:44

Outgoing US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen attended the inauguration of new President Joe Biden on Wednesday after skipping both a farewell ceremony for Donald Trump and the usual protocol of welcoming his successor to his home at the Naval Observatory.

Pence, whom some of Trump's supporters during the deadly 6 January assault on the US Capitol had threatened to hang for refusing to try to overturn Biden's Electoral College win in Congress, applauded the next vice president, Kamala Harris, as she arrived at the US Capitol.

Trump skipped the inauguration.

Pence, the Republican former Indiana governor, and his wife on Wednesday will fly home to Columbus, Indiana, where they will be greeted by a group of supporters and friends, according to a source familiar with the plans.

The couple plans to move back to Indiana later this year.

Pence was a loyal lieutenant throughout Trump's four-year term. But he found himself shunned by the outgoing president for days for not supporting his quest to overturn Biden's victory based on false claims of widespread voting fraud and irregularities, although the two men sought to repair their ties before leaving office.

Pence spoke with Harris last Thursday, marking the highest-level contact between the outgoing and incoming administrations.

The father of a Marine Corps F-35 pilot, Pence and his wife thanked troops for their service during a final visit to US troops at military bases in California and New York over the weekend.

Pence also met with National Guard troops guarding the Capitol, vowing to ensure a safe transition of power.

-Reuters

20 January 19:42

Pope Francis told US President Joe Biden on Wednesday that he was praying that God would guide his efforts to bring reconciliation in the United States and among the nations of the world.

In a message sent shortly after the second Catholic US president was sworn in, Francis also said he hoped Biden would work towards a society marked by true justice, freedom and respect for the rights and dignity of every person, especially the poor, the vulnerable and those with no voice.

-Reuters

20 January 19:28

How world leaders are reacting to Joe Biden's inauguration

British Prime Minister speaking in Parliament

"I look forward to working with him (Biden), and with his new administration, strengthening the partnership between our countries and working on our shared priorities: from tackling climate change, building back better from the pandemic and strengthening our transatlantic security."

European commission president Ursula Von Der Leyen, in a tweet

"The United States is back. And Europe stands ready. To reconnect with an old and trusted partner, to breathe new life into our cherished alliance. I look forward to working together with @JoeBiden."

German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in a video statement

"Today is a good day for democracy. In the United States of America, it has faced tremendous challenges – and endured. Despite the attempts to tear at America’s institutional fabric, election workers and governors, the judiciary and Congress, have proven strong. I am greatly relieved that, today, Joe Biden is being sworn in as president and will be moving into the White House. I know many people in Germany share this feeling."

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, speaking at a public event

"The (election) victory of Biden represents the victory of democracy over the ultra-right and its three methods, the massive deception, the national division and the abuse, even violent, of democratic institutions... Five years ago, we thought Trump was a bad joke, but five years later we realized he jeopardized nothing less than the world's most powerful democracy."

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, speaking in parliament on Tuesday

"We are looking forward to the Biden presidency, with which we will start working immediately in view of our presidency of the G20. We have a strong common agenda, ranging from the effective multilateralism that we both want to see ,to climate change, green and digital transition and social inclusion."

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, on extending the new start arms control treaty, speaking to reporters

"Russia and its president are in favour of preserving this agreement... If our American colleagues will in fact demonstrate a political will to preserve this pact by extending it, this can only be welcomed."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a statement

"Congratulations President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on your historic inauguration. President Biden, you and I have had a warm personal friendship going back many decades. I look forward to working with you to further strengthen the US-Israel alliance, to continue expanding peace between Israel and the Arab world, and to confront common challenges, chief among them the threat posed by Iran."

Palestinian Islamist Group Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum

"There are no regrets at the departure of Trump, as he has been the biggest source and sponsor of injustice, violence and extremism in the world and the direct partner of the Israeli occupation in the aggression against our people.”“U.S. President Joe Biden must reverse the course of misguided and unjust policies against our people and lay the foundations for security and stability in the region.”

20 January 19:19

Biden to join Covax, which will supply SA with vaccines, after Trump refused to be a part of it

US President Joe Biden will rejoin the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its Covax scheme, a global initiative that ensures equal distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. 

South Africa expects to get vaccines for 10% of its population  via Covax, for a payment of R2.2 billion.

Anthony Blinken, Biden's nominee for secretary of state, made the announcement Tuesday.

READ HERE

20 January 19:18

President Joe Biden on Wednesday will immediately reset the nation's response to the Covid-19 crisis when he heads to the Oval Office after being sworn in to lead a country reeling from its worst public health crisis in more than a century.

As part of a first sweep of executive actions, Biden will order that all federal employees wear masks and make face coverings mandatory on federal property.

He will establish a new White House office to coordinate the coronavirus response and halt the withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organization, a process initiated by the outgoing president, Donald Trump.

The orders signal that Biden aims to fulfill his campaign promise to make Covid-19 relief a top priority and will mark a sharp divergence from the Trump administration's pandemic response, which critics say was ineffectual, uncoordinated and at least partly responsible for the death of more than 400 000 Americans.

He will begin work on his executive actions after a scaled-back inauguration ceremony unlike any other in US presidential history, with the National Mall covered in a "field of flags" instead of the typical crowds, who were not permitted because of the risk of contagion.

"We can overcome the deadly virus," Biden said in his inaugural address, which called for unity in a nation gripped by tense political divide.

-Reuters

20 January 19:15

PHOTOS | Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez perform at the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

<p><strong>PHOTOS | Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez perform at the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris</strong></p><p><strong></strong></p>
SEE HERE

20 January 19:10

We will get through this TOGETHER, says Biden speaking about the coronavirus pandemic.

He quotes the Bible: "Weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning".

He asks for a moment of silence for those who lost their lives, those left behind and for the US.

20 January 19:06

US President Joe Biden, following his oath of office, on Wednesday celebrated his incoming administration not as a celebration of a candidate but a victory for US democracy, saying more work must be done to heal the nation.

"At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed," Biden said in his inaugural speech.

"Today we celebrate the triumph, not of a candidate, but of a cause. The cause of democracy."

-Reuters

20 January 19:05

Biden says "my whole soul" is in putting America back together, uniting the country and calls for fresh start after period of bitterness, extreme division.

20 January 19:02

Biden says we must confront rise of white supremacy, domestic terrorism.

"In unity is the path forward, and we must meet this moment as the United States of America.

"Let's start afresh, all of us," says Biden.

20 January 18:52

Joe Biden on Wednesday became the 46th president of the United States, vowing a "new day" for the United States after four years of tumult under Donald Trump who in an extraordinary final act snubbed the inauguration.

Two weeks to the day after Trump supporters violently rampaged at the US Capitol to overturn the election results, Biden took the oath on the same very steps alongside Kamala Harris, who was sworn in moments earlier as the first woman vice president.

Biden, putting his hand on a family Bible, repeated after Chief Justice John Roberts the presidential oath - that he will "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

"It's a new day in America," Biden wrote on Twitter before the inauguration as, in a sign of his push for unity, he prayed alongside congressional leaders at a Roman Catholic church.

Biden, who at 78 is the oldest president in US history and only the second Catholic, took office amid enormous challenges with the still-raging Covid-19 pandemic having claimed 400 000 lives in the United States.

Central Washington took on the dystopian look of an armed camp, protected by some 25,000 National Guard troops tasked with preventing any repeat of the January 6 attack that left five dead. 

-AFP

20 January 18:50

Joe Biden has taken his oath of office and is sworn in as America's president.

20 January 18:49

Kamala Harris made history on Wednesday when she was sworn in as Joe Biden's vice president, becoming the first woman, the first Black American and the first Asian American to hold the second highest U.S. office.

Looking ahead, Harris, 56, is seen as an obvious contender for the Democratic Party's 2024 presidential nomination should Biden, 78, decide not to seek a second term.

Harris has yet to weigh in publicly on such speculation.

A U.S. senator from California the past four years, Harris has shattered many a glass ceiling. She served as San Francisco's first female district attorney and was California's first woman of color to be elected attorney general.

Harris has resigned her Senate seat, but she still will play a prominent role in the chamber. The U.S. vice president serves as Senate president, casting any tie-breaking votes in the 100-member chamber. With it split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, Harris gives her party control of the Senate.

Her background in criminal justice could help the new Biden administration tackle the issues of racial equality and policing after the country was swept by protests last year. She is expected to be a top adviser on judicial nominations.

Harris is the daughter of immigrants, with her mother coming to the United States from India and her father from Jamaica.

She had her sights set on becoming the first woman U.S. president when she competed against Biden and others for their party's 2020 nomination. Harris dropped out of the race after a campaign hurt by her wavering views on healthcare and indecision about embracing her past as a prosecutor.

Biden looked beyond some of the harsh words she had for him in that campaign to name Harris as his running mate last August. She has proven to be a valuable and polished stand-in, appealing especially to women, liberals and voters of color.

Harris developed a deep fundraising network during her Senate and White House bids. She was instrumental to Biden's raking in record sums of money in the closing months of the campaign against Republican incumbent Donald Trump. Her selection sparked a burst of excitement in the Democratic voter base and among the party's donors.

-Reuters

20 January 18:43

Kamala Harris has taken her oath of office and is sworn in as Vice President of America.

20 January 18:41

Incoming President Joe Biden on Wednesday will immediately reset the nation's response to the COVID-19 crisis after he is sworn in to lead a country reeling from its worst public health crisis in more than a century.

As part of a first sweep of executive actions, Biden will order that all federal employees wear masks and make face coverings mandatory on federal property. He will establish a new White House office to coordinate the coronavirus response and halt the withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organization, a process initiated by the outgoing president, Donald Trump.

The orders signal that Biden aims to fulfill his campaign promise to make COVID-19 relief a top priority and will mark a sharp divergence from the Trump administration's pandemic response, which critics say was ineffectual, uncoordinated and at least partly responsible for the death of more than 400 000 Americans.

-Reuters

20 January 18:38

Supreme Court faces bomb threat during Biden's inauguration

The Supreme Court faced a bomb threat on Wednesday as congressional lawmakers and prominent political figures gathered in Washington, DC, for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. 

The building was closed to the public on Wednesday due to Covid-19, and was not evacuated, CNN reported, despite initial reports suggesting otherwise. 

MORE HERE

20 January 18:37

Kamala Harris will be sworn in on a Bible that belonged to the first Black Supreme Court justice

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will use the Bible of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice, when she is sworn in as vice president on Wednesday.

Harris will also involve a Bible that belonged to Regina Shelton, a family friend whose house she and her sister Maya visited every day after school. She previously used Shelton's Bible to swear in as California attorney general and a US senator.

READ HERE

20 January 18:23

Joe Biden arrived Wednesday to be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, vowing a "new day" for the United States after four years of tumult under Donald Trump who in an extraordinary final act snubbed the inauguration.

Two weeks to the day after Trump supporters violently rampaged at the US Capitol to overturn the election results, Biden headed to the same very steps alongside Kamala Harris, who will become the first woman vice president.

"It's a new day in America," Biden wrote on Twitter before the inauguration as, in a sign of his push for unity, he prayed alongside congressional leaders at a Roman Catholic church.

Biden, who at 78 will be the oldest president in US history and only the second Catholic, takes office amid enormous challenges with the still-raging Covid-19 pandemic having claimed 400 000 lives in the United States.

Central Washington has taken on the dystopian look of an armed camp, protected by some 25,000 National Guard troops tasked with preventing any repeat of the January 6 attack that left five dead. The Supreme Court reported a bomb threat Wednesday morning.

With the general public essentially barred from attending due to the pandemic, Biden's audience at the National Mall instead was 200,000 flags planted to represent the absent crowds.

"It's a day a lot of us have been trying to visualize for a long time. We couldn't have guessed that the visual would be quite like this," Pete Buttigieg, the former presidential contender tapped by Biden as transportation secretary, told reporters.

Biden, who was vice president under Barack Obama and first ran for president in 1987, plans to kick off his tenure with a flurry of 17 orders to turn the page on Trump's divisive reign.

-AFP

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