At 11 minutes before the constitutionally appointed time yesterday, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was sworn in as the 46th president, along with Kamala Harris, who became America's first female and non-white VP, in the most peaceful transition possible two weeks after the deadly Capitol assault intended to prevent it. Protected by thousands of troops, Biden denounced the “uncivil war,” appealed for unity and declared that “democracy has prevailed.” At the White House, Biden began undoing President Donald Trump’s legacy, signing orders to rejoin the Paris climate agreement, mandating that masks be worn on federal property, stopping the country’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization and halting construction of Trump’s border wall.
Silenced on Twitter and isolated by most of Washington, President Trump made a low-key exit. Leaving the White House around 8 a.m., he held a mini-rally at Joint Base Andrews before boarding Air Force One for Florida. “We’ve accomplished so much,” he said, listing the appointment of three Supreme Court justices, a strong pre-pandemic economy and rapid vaccine development. Trump, who President Biden said had left a “generous” letter in the Oval Office desk, wished the “new administration great luck and great success” — enabled by his good work. He promised, “We will be back in some form.”
3. Britain Isn’t Giving EU Envoy Ambassador Status
Brexit may not actually be over. Brussels is upset because U.K. officials aren’t affording its envoy, João Vale de Almeida, full diplomatic privileges and immunities, treating him as a representative of an international body, not a national ambassador. EU envoys are treated as ambassadors in 142 other countries, but European officials fear some of them may follow London’s example. But Vale de Almeida may as well take a number: Hauling firms are rejecting U.K. business over increased import taxes, and musicians including Elton John and Ed Sheeran are protesting London’s refusal to negotiate visa-free European travel.
It’s no time to be stingy. At least that’s what officials from Rome to Hamburg are saying about Pfizer, which unexpectedly restricted European supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with Germany’s BioNTech. Those administering vaccines were pleased to discover a five-dose vial could be stretched to six doses, but Pfizer, which hasn’t addressed the complaints, cut vial shipments to reflect that. Now inoculators are coming up short, and they want their bonus doses back. The controversy’s also reached Canada, where Ontario Premier Doug Ford says Pfizer’s CEO should be chased “with a firecracker.”
Not sure what to make of this moment in history? Catch up now on the 2021 Inauguration Aftershow, brought to you by OZY and The Carlos Watson Show. Dive into important questions about the country's future: Is national unity possible or a pipe dream? Would four parties be better than two? Join Carlos and special guests Megyn Kelly, Patti Solis Doyle, Joy Villa, Jon Fortt and more — plus panels of the general public on all sides of the aisle for a frank and honest discussion you won't find anywhere else.Watch now.
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Not many people knew America even had a youth poet laureate. But at a critical moment in U.S. history, 22-year-old Gorman, the first to fill that role, let everyone know. Her spirited recitation at President Biden’s inauguration of “The Hill We Climb” — penned partly during the Capitol riot — captured a wounded nation’s imagination as she declared, “The new dawn blooms as we free it.” It’s also a proud moment here: Gorman was an OZY Media Genius Award recipient who created a virtual reality museum where young people’s accomplishments could inspire the world. Today Gorman herself is doing just that.
Privacy might be hurting them. The social network had been scanning messages for images of sexual abuse until it said it stopped to comply with EU privacy rules. But one British children’s protection group argues that those regulations aren’t even finalized, and stopping is enabling abusers. While other online giants said “the only responsible approach” is to continue to scan for abuse, Facebook has emphasized its “pivot to privacy” — which child advocates say indicates that business decisions, rather than regulatory worries, prompted the change. Facebook maintains it still has tools to detect abuse.
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3. She Survived the War on Democracy
Aside from the anticipation of affirming the Electoral College’s votes, Jan. 6 “was a normal day,” writes Lisa Quigley, chief of staff for Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, for OZY. What followed was a seven-hour lockdown and “total security meltdown” that included a friend texting to ask if the group had a gun. “No, but we have a banjo!” Cooper offered, as staffers barricaded the door and armed themselves with heavy books. They were lucky, and despite the long ordeal, Quigley remained at the Capitol until 3:45 a.m. to see the democratic process, bowed but not broken, fulfilled.
4. Stars, Fireworks and Poetry Celebrate America’s Transition
Yesterday’s inauguration was packed with a star-studded tribute to America’s symbolic rebirth under a new president. Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks sang during the Capitol ceremony before the prime-time “Celebrating America” event emceed by Tom Hanks. It featured a host of entertainers including John Legend, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Justin Timberlake and Jon Bon Jovi, and ended with Katy Perry singing “Firework” by rockets’ red glare. Critics lauded its opening: Bruce Springsteen singing “Land of Hope and Dreams” at the Lincoln Memorial. “Tomorrow there'll be sunshine,” he sang, “and all this darkness past.”
Just ask the old GOATs. Cristiano Ronaldo can now say he’s history’s greatest soccer scorer after netting his 760th career goal yesterday for Juventus. That puts him one up on Czech legend Josef Bican. But it’s not so simple, old-timers say. Bican’s 759 total excludes 27 for lower-level teams, plus there’s a data gap in 1952. And there are Brazilians Romário and Pelé, with 772 and 767, respectively, who claim more than 1,000 goals each. There’s also the issue of official vs. exhibition goals — so maybe we should just measure the most caveats for records claimed.