This won’t be easy. When President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office today, he will face a country in turmoil. There’s the pandemic that has so far killed 400,000 Americans, whom Biden memorialized at the first such national ceremony last night. And there are millions of Americans who falsely believe the election was stolen from President Donald Trump — some so much so that authorities removed them from National Guard units protecting the inauguration. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blamed Trump for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that disrupted Biden’s electoral confirmation, setting up Trump’s impeachment trial, which could stoke further divisions.
2. President Pardons Pals, Rappers — But No Trumps
The list is in. While it’s traditional for outgoing presidents to issue a spate of last-minute pardons, today’s White House list is noteworthy — it contains no less than 143 commutations and full pardons. Trump’s former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, charged with defrauding border wall donors, topped a list that included major GOP fundraiser Elliot Broidy and rapper Lil Wayne. But it didn’t name Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, the subject of a federal probe, or Trump family members. That leaves the biggest question: Whether or not he will become the first president to pardon himself — something legal scholars say might be valid — but he still has until noon EST.
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3. Pompeo: China Guilty of Uighur Genocide
On his last full day in office, the outgoing secretary of state went where no other nation dared: He issued an official declaration saying China was committing genocide in its northwestern region of Xinjiang. Many officials in various nations, including President-elect Joe Biden, acknowledge Mike Pompeo’s declaration: More than 1 million mainly Muslim Uighurs and other Xinjiang minorities have been rounded up for brainwashing, reportedly against their faith and ethnic identities, and have faced forced sterilization and torture. But saying so can alienate a major trading partner, a concern that likely aided the narrow defeat in Britain’s Parliament of a measure to tighten trade requirements with nations found to be perpetrating genocide.
Teleconferencing with a group of teachers today, Chinese billionaire and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma made his first public appearance since his October falling-out with Beijing officials, easing concerns that he’d gone missing. Those concerns were ramped up earlier this month with the announcement that he was being replaced as a judge on a reality TV show. His governmental troubles began when he criticized China’s regulatory system. Authorities then halted Alibaba’s plans for a $37 billion stock offering for Ant Group, a financial services affiliate. Investors were cheered by the appearance, rocketing Alibaba shares up 8.5 percent in Hong Kong trading.
Election Update: In a video posted on YouTube, President Trump gave a farewell address in which he wished the new administration well, but did not acknowledge his Nov. 3 loss or his role in the Capitol assault and declared that “the movement we started is only just beginning.”
As eyes across the globe turn to Washington, D.C., today for the Biden inauguration — and the end of the Trump era — OZY gives you a break from the stale talking heads on cable news. Tune in to The Carlos Watson Show YouTube channelat 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT for a live inauguration aftershow, featuring fresh insights and hot takes from politicians, celebrities and most importantly, you, the American public.Subscribe now and set your YouTube notifications to “on.”
And for breaking news updates earlier in the day,tune in to our partners at Cheddar for special all-day inauguration coverage from the National Mall starting at 7 a.m. ET.
It’s the final countdown. Until 11:59 a.m. and 59 seconds EST today, President Trump will have sole authority to launch a U.S. nuclear strike. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still waiting for reassurance from the Pentagon that it won’t happen, following the president inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol. Normally, the “nuclear football,” an oddly-shaped briefcase containing launch equipment and information needed to trigger Armageddon, is handed off during the inauguration, but Trump’s not attending. Luckily, there are multiple footballs, so one military aide with one case will accompany Trump to Florida this morning, and another will hand over a second case, transferring authority to Biden at the Capitol at noon. Now exhale.
It doesn’t take an epiphany to know that it’s really, really cold. But it does take the Russian Orthodox holiday of the same name to coax people into near-freezing water. It was the perfect occasion for Russian President Vladimir Putin, 68, to cleanse himself of rumors that his health is failing. On a video released yesterday, staying true to tradition, he stepped into a cross-shaped pool near Moscow and crossed himself in front of a cross made of ice. Also on ice? Putin rival Alexei Navalny, in 30-day pretrial detention after recovering from poisoning he blames on the Kremlin, and returning to Moscow last Sunday.
Developed for anxious cosmonauts, it might be good to leave it up in space. A supplement the Food and Drug Administration is beginning to pay attention to, this Eastern European party drug can still be bought on the web, OZY reports. But … phenibut is way more effective than it is safe. Almost unheard of before 2016, it’s now the subject of some 300 poison control hotline calls a year. Effects range from rough hangovers to seizures to psychosis suffered by those weaning themselves off of it. So if you need to chill, put on some Norah Jones and look at the stars.
America has recovered its voice. After A-listers almost all shunned White House events and some musicians even sued President Trump’s campaign for playing their songs, they’re pouring out their love for soon-to-be-President Joe Biden. Grammy-winning artist Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem for the swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol, where Jennifer Lopez will also perform in person, while Bruce Springsteen and other artists will offer remote appearances. Later that day, Tom Hanks will host a pandemic-safe virtual inaugural ball of sorts, including performances by Justin Timberlake and Jon Bon Jovi among others. And for the outgoing celebrity-styled president, The Washington Post reports, it’s been particularly upsetting.
5. India Celebrates Historic Cricket Win vs. Australia
“Nothing comes close to this.” Indian national cricket team head coach Ravi Shastri spoke for millions of fans, ebullient after their team beat Australia on their home turf. In the five-day version of cricket, no other nation had beaten the Aussies in the “Gabba” stadium in Brisbane for some 30 years. And it wasn’t easy: Players had to follow strict pandemic protocols, adjust to losing Indian captain Virat Kohli to paternity leave and deal with racist taunts from local fans. Other players missed births and deaths back home rather than let the side down — a sacrifice fans will no doubt remember for many years to come.
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