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Today, Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States. The day will look a lot different than inaugurations past. The National Mall has been shut down for safety, most celebrations will be virtual and the outgoing President and first lady will be nowhere in sight. Here's what to expect: President and Melania Trump are expected to leave the White House this morning. Biden will take the oath of office during the swearing-in ceremony at the US Capitol just before noon ET. Biden and his wife and Kamala Harris and her husband will then participate in a pass in review with members of the military, signaling the peaceful transfer of power to a new commander-in-chief. Biden also plans to take a bunch of executive actions, including rejoining the Paris climate accord, ending Trump's travel ban for predominantly Muslim countries and imposing a mask mandate on federal property. He'll also unveil a sweeping immigration plan to send to Congress.
More than 400,000 people in the US have now died of Covid-19. That's more than the number of Americans who died in World War I, the Vietnam War and the Korean War combined and nearly as many Americans as died in World War II. The death tolls in other countries are barely comparable. US officials say they need more vaccine doses to do what they can to slow down the deaths and illnesses, especially with new variants complicating the situation. Sixty countries have now reported imported cases or community transmission of the UK coronavirus strain. Limited vaccine supply isn't just a big headache in the US, either. Pfizer told Canada it would not receive any vaccine doses next week because of manufacturing disruptions, leading to frustration and anger among officials there.
3. Presidential pardons
As expected, President Trump took sweeping clemency action during his final hours in office, issuing 73 pardons and 70 commutations. The vast majority of the people on Trump's clemency list are people whose cases have been championed by criminal justice reform advocates, including those serving lengthy sentences for low-level offenses. But also, there's Steve Bannon, Trump's former strategist and political hype man who's pleaded not guilty to defrauding donors through a border wall fundraising campaign. Several other donors and allies got pardons or commutations, as did rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black. Not among those granted presidential mercy? The President himself or any of his family members. Trump still has until noon ET to make those happen if he wants, though questions linger over whether Trump, who is about to face an impeachment trial, is even allowed to pardon himself.
The US State Department has officially accused China of committing genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghur Muslims and ethnic and religious minority groups who live in the country's northwestern region of Xinjiang. Up to 2 million Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minority groups have been detained in a sprawling network of internment camps in the region, the State Department estimates. China has denied such human rights abuses, saying the so-called "reeducation camps" are necessary to prevent religious extremism and terrorism. Although the US declaration won't trigger any immediate penalties for China, human rights advocates say it will have a powerful symbolic impact, since the word "genocide" isn't taken lightly.
5. Soldier arrest
A US Army soldier has been arrested on terrorism charges after he allegedly tried to assist ISIS' efforts to plan attacks on targets in New York City and on US soldiers in the Middle East. Prosecutors allege 20-year-old private Cole Bridges, of Ohio, communicated with an FBI employee posing as an ISIS supporter who claimed to have contact with ISIS fighters. Bridges allegedly gave training and guidance to these purported fighters, including handing over portions of a US Army training manual and diagramming specific military maneuvers. Bridges also allegedly gave advice about possible targets in New York, such as the 9/11 Memorial. He's due in court tomorrow, and CNN is trying to reach his attorney.
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