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Michael Flynn's brother was present on a call discussing the military response to the Capitol siege, despite the Army denying it for days: WaPo

20 hours 30 min ago  |  Clusterstock
Supporters of President Donald Trump wear gas masks and military-style apparel as they walk around inside the Rotunda after breaching the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 6, 2021.
  • The US Army falsely claimed that Michael Flynn's brother was not on a call discussing whether or not to dispatch the National Guard to the Capitol during the January 6 insurrection, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
  • Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, the Army's chief staff of operations, confirmed to The Post that he was present during the teleconference.
  • The Army did not immediately confirm why they made the false claim, even though someone in Flynn's role at the Pentagon would ordinarily be involved in the situation.
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The US Army falsely denied that Michael Flynn's brother was present during a meeting regarding the military response to the Jan. 6 Capitol siege, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, deputy chief of staff for operations for the US Army and brother of disgraced ex-national security advisor Michael Flynn, confirmed to The Post that he was involved on a call with Capitol Police and Washington, DC, officials discussing the possibility of dispatching the National Guard.

"I entered the room after the call began and departed prior to the call ending, as I believed a decision was imminent from the [then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy] and I needed to be in my office to assist in executing the decision," Flynn told The Post. McCarthy departed from his role following the Capitol riots.

An Army official wrote in a statement to The Post on January 12 that Flynn "WAS NOT IN ANY OF THE MEETINGS!"

The Army did not immediately confirm why they falsely claimed that Flynn was not privy to the teleconference regarding the siege, even though someone in such a role at the Pentagon would ordinarily be involved.

"Thank you for the opportunity to comment, however, we have nothing further to add," the Army told The Post via email.

Top Army officials were concerned about sending National Guard troops to the Capitol building during the insurrection due to the "visual" it could portray, according to The Post report.

Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned in the wake of the security failure at the insurrection, told The Post that Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, director of the Army Staff, told him and others on a call that he didn't "like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background."

Piatt denied making the comment in a statement to The Post.

"I did not make the statement or any comments similar to what was attributed to me by Chief Sund in The Washington Post article - but would note that even in his telling he makes it clear that neither I, nor anyone else from [the Department of Defense], denied the deployment of requested personnel," Piatt told The Post.

The insurrection that took place on January 6 resulted in five deaths - including one Capitol police officer - prompting lawmakers and former Vice President Mike Pence to take cover as Capitol police failed to keep rioters from breaching the US Capitol building.

The Army's reported denial of Flynn's presence on the call came after his brother Michael Flynn appeared on Newsmax to suggest that former President Donald Trump should declare martial law and use the US military to "rerun an election in" swing states where Trump believed he had won.

—Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 18, 2020


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New CDC Director Rochelle Walensky says that 'better, healthier days' are ahead and that agency will review all previous COVID-19 guidelines

20 hours 58 min ago  |  Clusterstock
President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Dr. Rochelle Walensky to head up the CDC.
  • Dr. Rochelle Walensky, previously an HIV researcher at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, is the Centers for Disease Control's new director.
  • With the national COVID-19 death toll surpassing 400,000 deaths, Walensky has acknowledged that rebuilding public trust and bolstering the vaccination plan will be top priorities.
  • The Trump administration often sidelined and discredited the CDC, and the agency has also been criticized for its own inconsistent guidelines throughout the pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As one of President Joe Biden's most critical appointments, new Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has begun to outline the agency's direction amid a raging pandemic.

Assuming the reigns from former director Robert Redfield, Walensky said, "Better, healthier days lie ahead. But to get there, COVID-19 testing, surveillance, and vaccination must accelerate rapidly." 

In the press release, Walensky expanded on the agency's first actions and focused on transparency. Walensky, previously an infectious-diseases specialist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, said the  "CDC will continue to focus on what is known - and what more can be learned - about the virus to guide America."

Addressing the inconsistent and at times controversial nature of guidances issued by the CDC during the pandemic and Trump's tenure, Walensky noted that the  CDC's Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat "will begin leading a comprehensive review of all existing guidance related to COVID-19. Wherever needed, this guidance will be updated so that people can make decisions and take action based upon the best available evidence."

With the national COVID-19 death toll surpassing 400,000 deaths, Walensky has acknowledged that rebuilding public trust in the agency will be a top priority. Throughout the pandemic, the CDC was routinely sidelined by the Trump administration, and at times, directly challenged and politicized. 

In February 2020, the CDC came under fire for sending flawed COVID-19 test kits to states. Weeks later, the agency's experts were phased out of COVID-19 press briefings for sharing scientific guidance, which clashed with the Trump administration's version of reality. 

Early in the pandemic, the CDC recommended only sick people or those caring for sick people should wear masks. They later reversed that advice and called for the widespread wearing of masks, but the change in direction fomented distrust.   

The CDC also removed guidance that called for limiting church choir rehearsals and performances as studies showed a high risk of transmission with groups singing indoors for long periods of time. Later, under Redfield's leadership, the agency rolled back a guideline calling for people who came into contact with an infected person to get tested, but reinstated it after pressure from the scientific community. 

Walensky becomes director as the tracking of COVID-19 statistics has largely been taken over by universities and researchers with more effective and reliable dashboards than the CDC's.

Prior to his inauguration, Biden indicated that he would request $160 billion in funding for vaccinations and other programs, with the ambitious goal of expanding the public health workforce by 100,000 jobs.

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The Trump-appointed NSA general counsel installed the day before Biden took office is now on leave due to a Department of Defense probe

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 11:55pm  |  Clusterstock
Michael Ellis was installed as the NSA's general counsel just the day before President Biden was sworn in.
  • The Trump-installed General Counsel of the National Security Agency has been put on administrative leave a day after starting the role, due to a Department of Defense inspector general probe, CNN reported. 
  • Michael Ellis's installation just before President Joe Biden took office garnered criticism that the Trump administration was trying to burrow a loyalist in a civilian position. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Michael Ellis, the National Security Agency general counsel who was installed just a day before President Joe Biden took office, is now on administrative leave because the Department of Defense inspector general is investigating his appointment, CNN reported. 

Last week, acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller told the head of the NSA to install Ellis as general counsel by 6 p.m. on Saturday. The next day, the agency said it was moving forward with Ellis's installation and announced that he would start the day before Biden was sworn in. 

"Mr. Ellis accepted his final job offer yesterday afternoon. NSA is moving forward with his employment," an NSA official told Insider on Sunday. 

National security legal experts were critical of the effort to burrow Ellis in the role only a few days before a new administration took over. 

The NSA's general counsel position is not a political one but a civil servant role, which means it will be harder for the incoming Biden administration to fire him. However, the new president can easily reassign him to a less important job.

Read more: Biden's inauguration is unlike any before. Photos show how his ceremony compares to those of previous presidents.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was also critical of the move and on Monday sent a letter to Miller demanding he "immediately cease" Ellis's installation. 

"The circumstances and timing - immediately after President Trump's defeat in the election - of the selection of Mr. Ellis, and this eleventh-hour effort to push this placement in the last three days of this administration are highly suspect," Pelosi wrote.

On Wednesday, a DoD spokesperson told Insider they did not comment on open investigations, and an NSA spokesperson said they don't comment on personnel matters. 

Ellis's appointment came shortly after President-elect Joe Biden was projected to win the 2020 election in November. During that same month, the Washington Post reported that Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Jack Reed asked the Pentagon's inspector general to investigate Ellis's appointment on the grounds of "improper political influence."

Read more: I went inside the US Capitol's immense security bubble to cover the most surreal presidential inauguration of my lifetime. Here's what I saw.

"The combination of timing, comparative lack of experience of the candidate, the reported qualifications of the other finalists, and press accounts of White House involvement create a perception that political influence or considerations may have played an undue role in a merit-based civil service selection process," Warner and Reed wrote in a letter in November, CNN reported. 

Ellis's selection also came around when nearly a dozen senior government officials were fired, forced to resign, or resigned in protest, with outgoing President Donald Trump carrying out a political purge at the Defense Department. 

Ellis served as chief counsel to Rep. Devin Nunes, who is a Trump loyalist. The concerns over his installation relate to helping Nunes get access to intelligence documents in 2017 that aided Trump in politically attack Democrats, the Post reported. 


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China has imposed sanctions on Mike Pompeo, Alex Azar, and Steve Bannon, along with more than 2 dozen other former Trump officials

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 11:29pm  |  Clusterstock
Former Trump administration members Steve Bannon, Alex Azar, and Mike Pompeo are among more than two dozen former officials who have been sanctioned by China following the end of Trump's term.
  • China announced it would be imposing sanctions on nearly 30 former members of the Trump administration.
  • Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump operative Steve Bannon, and former Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar are among those who made the list.
  • In a statement, the foreign ministry chastened the Trump campaign for promoting and executing "a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China's internal affairs" and damaged US-China relations.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

WASHINGTON (AP) - China imposed sanctions on nearly 30 former Trump administration officials moments after they left office on Wednesday.

In a statement released just minutes after President Joe Biden was inaugurated, Beijing slapped travel bans and business restrictions on Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, and UN Ambassador Kelly Craft.

Read more: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's departing message to the US is that 'multiculturalism' is 'not who America is'

Others covered by the sanctions include Trump's economic adviser Peter Navarro; his top diplomat for Asia, David Stilwell; Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar; along with former national security adviser John Bolton and strategist Stephen Bannon. The sanctions are largely symbolic but underscore Beijing's antipathy toward a US administration it regarded as hostile.

"Over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice and hatred against China and showing no regard for the interests of the Chinese and American people, have planned, promoted and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China's internal affairs, undermined China's interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-US relations," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Read more: 'Floppy and weak': Iran has joined China and Russia in ridiculing the US on social media over the Capitol riots

On Tuesday, Pompeo announced that he had declared China's repression of the Uighur Muslim ethnic minority a "genocide," possibly opening the door to new US sanctions against Chinese officials.

The Trump administration had steadily ramped up pressure on China since last year, and especially in the past several months. During its last weeks in office, the administration had hit numerous officials with sanctions for their actions on Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the South China Sea.

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A 100-day moratorium on deportations starts on Friday, Biden administration announces

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 11:03pm  |  Clusterstock
Protesters against deportations interrupt Joe Biden during a town hall on November 21, 2019 in Greenwood, South Carolina.
  • The Biden administration will be imposing a 100-day moratorium on most deportations beginning January 22.
  • The pause is "to ensure we have a fair and effective enforcement system."
  • The move was announced Wednesday night by US Department of Homeland Security.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Biden administration will temporarily halt most deportations "to ensure we have a fair and effective immigration enforcement system," the Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday.

The pause will begin Friday and last 100 days.

President Joe Biden committed to the moratorium on removal proceedings last year while campaigning for the Democratic nomination. That marked a reversal for the candidate, who in 2019 clashed with an immigrant rights activist who had demanded just that.

In a statement, David Pekoske, acting secretary of the DHS, said the pause will allow the department "to review and reset enforcement polices."

It will also "allow DHS to ensure that its resources are dedicated to responding the most pressing challenges that the United States faces, including immediate operational challenges at the southwest border in the midst of the most serious global public health crisis in a century," he said.

The statement noted that the moratorium will only apply "for certain noncitizens." The department did not immediately respond to a request for clarification. During the campaign, Biden committed to halting "any deportations of people already in the United States."

The move is one of a slew of immigration-related announcements to come in the first hours of the Biden administration.

Earlier in the day, President Biden signed an executive order rescinding his predecessor's de facto ban on Muslim travelers. He also introduced a comprehensive immigration reform package that would offer permanent residency to migrant farm workers and a pathway to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented people, winning him early praise from activists and evangelical Christian leaders.

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Corporate America is pausing its financial support for the 147 GOP lawmakers who challenged Biden's victory. Here are all the S&P 500 companies who gave them money - and then stopped.

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 10:41pm  |  Clusterstock
  • S&P 500 companies gave $23 million to the 147 GOP lawmakers who contested Electoral College results.
  • After GOP efforts to overturn Biden's victory led to violence, some companies paused their support.
  • Here's a list of how much each corporate PAC had given and whether they've paused contributions.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

On January 6, Congress convened a joint session to formally certify President Joseph Biden's Electoral College victory, but it was quickly interrupted by a group of Republican objectors who argued, based on little more than conspiracy theories, that Congress shouldn't proceed because there had been widespread election fraud.

In total, 147 Republicans - roughly 55% of the GOP lawmakers in Congress - objected to certifying the results of at least one state's Electoral College vote.

But that long-shot effort to overturn democratic election results was itself interrupted by pro-Trump rioters who - citing the same election fraud conspiracies - stormed the US Capitol building in an attempt to violently keep Trump in power, forcing members of Congress to evacuate, leaving five dead and dozens injured.

In the wake of the failed insurrection, corporate America found itself facing backlash for its extensive financial support of Trump and the lawmakers whose repeated amplification of election fraud conspiracies helped fuel the violence.

Political Action Committees backed by S&P 500 companies gave more than $23 million to the 147 GOP election objectors during the most recent campaign cycles (2020 for House members; 2016 and 2018 for senators), according to an Insider analysis of Federal Election Commission data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Critics, from activists to shareholders to other executives, have argued the contributions helped those lawmakers get elected and stay in power, giving them the platform they used to undermine voters' faith in the election (which Trump's former top cybersecurity official called "the most secure in American history").

Read more: Democrats are plotting the death - and rebirth - of a hamstrung Federal Election Commission now that they'll control the White House and both chambers of Congress

But following reporting from Popular Information and other media outlets, many companies began rethinking their political contributions.

Companies' commitments have varied widely, however.

Few have permanently blacklisted election objectors, and as Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, the largest contributions typically happen right before, not after elections, leaving the door open for companies to resume their support once the public's attention has turned elsewhere. Others have paused all PAC contributions, potentially allowing them to benefit from the positive PR without having to explicitly condemn - or risk alienating - more than half of the Republicans in Congress.

Still, dozens have issued public statements or internal memos announcing they will at least pause contributions while they reevaluate how they use their money to influence politics.

Here's a list of the S&P 500 companies - some of the largest and most influential businesses in the US - how much they gave to the 147 election objectors in the latest election cycles through their corporate PACs, and whether they've pulled their support.

Do you work for one of these companies and have information about how they're responding to recent events? We'd love to hear how they're navigating the current political landscape. Contact this reporter using a non-work device via encrypted messaging app Signal ( +1 503-319-3213 ), email (, or Twitter (@TylerSonnemaker ). We can keep sources anonymous. PR pitches by email only, please. 

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Proud Boys are ditching Trump hours after he left the White House for good, calling him a 'shill' and 'extraordinarily weak'

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 10:28pm  |  Clusterstock
A member of the Proud Boys guards the front stage as another member of the proud boys gives a speech during a rally at Delta Park in Portland, Oregon, on June 26, 2020.
  • The Proud Boys once staunch allies of Trump are now walking away from him calling him a "shill" and "extraordinarily weak," The New York Times reported. 
  • The group is upset he didn't put up a bigger fight to stay in office. 
  • They are also frustrated he hasn't helped any of the members who have been arrested for their involvement in the January 6 siege of the Capitol. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Some members of the Proud Boys, who were staunch allies of former President Donald Trump, have walked away from him after leaving the White House for good on Wednesday, The New York Times reported. 

"Trump will go down as a total failure," the Proud Boys said in a Telegram channel on Monday.

The group had stood behind the president for years and were especially re-energized after saying: "Proud Boys - stand back and stand by" during a presidential debate last year. 

Trump was responding after being asked to denounce white nationalist organizations. 

Some Proud Boys were in attendance on January 6 when a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol. After Trump lost the election in November, the group encouraged members to attend protests and baselessly echoed his claims that he'd lost due to fraud. 

"Hail Emperor Trump," the Proud Boys wrote in a private Telegram channel on November 8, the Times reported. 

Read more: Biden's inauguration is unlike any before. Photos show how his ceremony compares to those of previous presidents.

However, as Trump left office, some Proud Boys were disappointed that he didn't put up more of a fight to stay in power, and that he later condemned the violence that ensued during the Capitol siege, which led to five deaths. 

Some members called Trump a "shill" and "extraordinarily weak," and have since urged others not to attend any more Trump events or even those from the Republican party, The Times reported. 

Members are angered that Trump didn't help the Proud Boys arrested for their involvement in the January 6 siege. 

On Wednesday, Joseph Biggs, a leader of the group, was arrested on charges of obstruction of a proceeding, entering restricted grounds, and disorderly conduct, CNN reported. 

Read more: I went inside the US Capitol's immense security bubble to cover the most surreal presidential inauguration of my lifetime. Here's what I saw.

He is at least the fifth member of the Proud Boys to be arrested in connection to the deadly Capitol riot, the Times reported. 

According to reporting from Insider's Rachel Greenspan, members of the far-right group QAnon have also begun disavowing the president. The group flaunted a baseless conspiracy theory that alleged Trump was fighting a "deep state" cabal of pedophiles and human traffickers. 


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Worth emulating,The Global Brand - Lijjat is an Indian women's cooperative involved in manufacturing of various fast-moving consumer goods

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 9:37pm  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
via Juggernaut
Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad, popularly known as Lijjat, is an Indian women's cooperative involved in manufacturing of various fast-moving consumer goods. The organisation's main objective is empowerment of women by providing them employment opportunities. Started in 1959 by seven women in Mumbai with a seed capital of only Rs.80 ($1.5), it had an annual turnover of more than Rs. 800 crore (over $109 million) in 2018. It provides employment to 43,000 (in 2018) women across the country...[more]

Trump reportedly granted Secret Service protections to all his adult children and 3 top officials before he left the White House. It will cost US taxpayers millions.

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 9:15pm  |  Clusterstock
Outgoing US President Donald Trump waves as he boards Marine One at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2021
  • Former President Donald Trump granted extended Secret Service protections to his four adult children and their spouses before he left the White House, The Washington Post reported.
  • Former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and former National Security Advisor Robert C. O'Brien will also receive the expensive, full-time security detail.
  • The extended security detail could cost taxpayers millions of dollars, especially given the amount of traveling that the Trump children do related to the family company.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Former President Donald Trump extended Secret Service protections for all of his adult children and their spouses, as well as three top administration officials, just before leaving the White House, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

The taxpayer-funded security will be extended to Trump's four adult children and their spouses - Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and wife Lara Trump, and Tiffany Trump, three people familiar with the president's request told The Post. Trump's grandchildren will also be included in the protections deriving from that of their parents.

Former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and former National Security Advisor Robert C. O'Brien were also granted Secret Service protections by the president, according to The Post report.

The extended security detail could cost taxpayers millions of dollars, The Post reported, especially given the amount of traveling that the Trump children do related to the family company, the Trump Organization.

"From 2017 to 2019, government records show, Trump family members took more than 4,500 trips that required the Secret Service to travel alongside them, costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars," according to The Post report.

Read more: Biden's inauguration is unlike any before. Photos show how his ceremony compares to those of previous presidents.

Typically, Trump and his wife Melania are automatically granted the expensive 24-hour protection for their lifetimes, and their 14-year-old son Barron will receive such protections until the age of 16. Former Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence are also entitled to full-time security detail post-administration for the next six months.

Trump isn't the first president to extend Secret Service protections to those who aren't automatically entitled to receive them. Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush granted security details to their college-age daughters for a period of time following their terms. Former President Barack Obama extended protections to his daughters Sasha and Malia after he left office, who were in high school and college respectively.

The news of the security detail extension comes on the heels of President Joe Biden being inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States just before noon on Wednesday. Just hours before, Trump and former First Lady Melania Trump left the White House aboard Marine One to Palm Beach, Florida.

The Secret Service is also prepping to grant protections to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and their families, including Biden's two adult children and Harris' two stepchildren.

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9 American greats Amanda Gorman referenced in her poem performed during Joe Biden's inauguration, from Maya Angelou to Barack Obama

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 9:04pm  |  Clusterstock
American poet Amanda Gorman reads a poem during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington DC on January 20, 2021.
  • Amanda Gorman paid homage to many American greats in her inaugural poem, "The Hill We Climb."
  • Gorman references the work of Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King Jr., Langston Hughes, and more. 
  • The 22-year-old poet preformed her poem at Joe Biden's presidential inauguration on Jan. 20.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Students and historians will study Amanda Gorman's inaugural poem "The Hill We Climb" following her breathtaking performance at the 2021 presidential inauguration. 

Gorman, a 22-year-old and the nation's first youth poet laureate, read her work after the swearing in of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Read more: Meet 14 Joe Biden family members who could be powerful surrogates - or potential headaches - for the new Democratic president's administration

In her six-minute performance, Gorman alluded to the works of great American writers and speakers like Maya Angelou, Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, and Abraham Lincoln. 

The poet told NPR she deeply researched her work by reading American literature and studying performances by other poet laureates.

"I think there is a real history of orators who have had to struggle, a type of imposed voicelessness, you know, having that stage at inauguration," Gorman said. "So it's really special for me."

Here are nine references Gorman's poem made to iconic American literature.

Gorman alluded to fellow inaugural poet Maya Angelou's poem, 'Still I Rise.' American poet Maya Angelou reciting her poem 'On the Pulse of Morning' at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.

Gorman referenced the Angelou poem "Still I Rise," about the poet overcoming prejudice as a Black woman, when she said: "We will rise through the golden hills of the West. We will rise from the windswept Northeast, where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states. We will rise from the sun-baked South."

Angelou, a Pulitzer Prize and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, preformed her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration. Gorman told Vogue she studied Angelou's work to prepare for her reading.

Famous lines from Martin Luther King Jr.'s address during the 1963 March on Washington appeared in the poem. CBS Television Network presents the interview program Washington Conversation with CBS News Correspondent Paul Niven and Reverend Martin Luther King (pictured). Image dated May 20, 1962. Washington, DC.

Gorman referenced lines from King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech when she said: "We are striving to forge our union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man."

King famously said during his speech, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Gorman nodded to Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Abraham Lincoln.

In 1863, Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address in part to inspire soldiers fighting the civil war by saying, "It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced."

Gorman nodded to Lincoln's "unfinished work" in her line: "Somehow we do it, somehow we've weathered and witnessed a nation that isn't broken but simply unfinished."

Gorman references two iconic Langston Hughes poems in a single line.

Toward the end of her poem, Gorman said: "In every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country, our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful."

The last three words pay homage to two iconic works — "I, Too" and "Still Here" — by fellow poet Langston Hughes. 

Hughes begins "Still Here" with, "I've been scared and battered. My hopes the wind done scattered." The poet ends "I, Too" with, "They'll see how beautiful I am and be ashamed — I, too, am America."

Gorman referenced a phrase used frequently by George Washington. In addition to being the first American president, George Washington was also the commander of the Continental Army, president of the Constitutional Convention, a fervent writer, and gardener.

George Washington used the biblical phrase "under their vine and fig tree" numerous times in correspondence, according to historian George Tsakiridis.

Gorman references this phrase when she said, "Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid."

Gorman references Barack Obama's campaign slogan "change we can believe in." Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Jill Biden, and Joe Biden wave after Barack's acceptance speech in November 2018.

Gorman said, "If we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children's birthright."

The nod to "change" brings back Obama's 2008 campaign slogan and acceptance address line, "change has come to America."

Gorman seemed to reference a famous saying from abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass.

When Gorman said, "Being American is more than a pride we inherit, it's the past we step into and how we repair it," she may have been referring to a famous saying by Douglass: "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."

The poet said she studied Douglass's work prior to her address.

Gorman nodded to Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner's work, "Intruder In the Dust." William Faulkner.

In "Intruder in the Dust," Faulkner's 1948 book that explores Jim Crow's effect on the American South, the author said Americans love nothing but their automobile, which they spend Sunday "polishing and waxing" and renews each year in "pristine virginity."

Gorman seemed to reference this work when she said, "And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn't mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect."

The title of her poem references the sermon of English settler John Winthrop. John Winthrop.

Gorman's poem title, "The Hill We Climb," seemed to call out the description Winthrop gave New England: a "city upon a hill" that would set an example for the rest of the world.

BONUS: Gorman made two references to Lin Manuel-Miranda's award-winning play, 'Hamilton.' Lin Manuel-Miranda.

Gorman said on Twitter she made two references to the Tony Award winning musical, "Hamilton."

—Amanda Gorman (@TheAmandaGorman) January 20, 2021

The first, "for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us," alludes to the song, "History Has Its Eyes on You." 

The second is in reference to Washington's saying, "under their vine and fig tree," which the character in "Hamilton" also called to in the play.

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3 US soldiers killed after a Black Hawk helicopter crashes in New York

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 9:04pm  |  Clusterstock
A UH-60 helicopter.
  • Three US soldiers were killed after an Army National Guard helicopter crashed in Mendon, New York, during a routine training mission in the evening, according to the state's National Guard.
  • The incident is under investigation.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Three US soldiers were killed after an Army National Guard helicopter crashed in Mendon, New York, during a routine training mission in the evening, according to the state's National Guard.

A UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter based at the Army Aviation Support Facility at Rochester International Airport was said to have crashed, the New York Division of Military and Naval Affairs said in a statement.

The incident is under investigation.

The UH-60, which has been used by the US military for over 40 years, plays numerous roles, including air-assault and medical evacuation missions. Its crew ordinarily consists of at least a pilot, co-pilot, and a crew chief.

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A billionaire New York hedge-fund CEO just dropped $20 million on a Miami Beach mansion as Wall Street firms plan moves to Florida

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 8:59pm  |  Clusterstock
A Google Maps street view of Loeb's new Miami Beach home.

New York hedge-fund executive Dan Loeb has picked up a Miami Beach mansion for $20 million, Katherine Kallergis reported for The Real Deal. 

Loeb, the founder and CEO of New York-based hedge fund Third Point, is worth about $3 billion, according to Forbes.

His new waterfront home has seven bedrooms and nearly 14,000 square feet of living space, according to the listing. It features a home theater, a rooftop deck, a private boat dock, and separate guest quarters. Loeb bought the house from developer Peter Fine, per the Real Deal.

Dan Loeb, left, speaks onstage alongside CNN's Van Jones at the launch of a criminal justice initiative in NYC in 2019.

The waterfront home sits on North Bay Road, a coveted residential area that millionaires and celebrities. Luxury real-estate agent Nelson Gonzalez, who calls it "the Park Avenue of Miami Beach," told Insider in 2019 that he's sold homes on the road to the likes of Cher and Billy Joel. Last summer, Karlie Kloss and Joshua Kushner paid $23.5 million for a home on North Bay Road. At the end of December, supermodel Cindy Crawford and husband Rande Gerber paid $10 million for a teardown.

Jills Zeder Group, who brokered the deal, declined to comment or share any photos of the property.

A spokesperson for Loeb's company, Third Point, also declined to comment.

Everyone is moving to Florida

South Florida has seen a flurry of real-estate activity during the pandemic, as politicians, celebrities, executives, and financial firms move to the Sunshine State.

Former President Trump and his wife Melania are reportedly moving to his Mar-a-Lago Club now that his term has ended. In December, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner bought a $32 million lot on Indian Creek, the private island known as Miami's "Billionaire Bunker." That same week, it was reported that Kushner's brother, Joshua Kushner, had bought a home in Miami Beach with wife Karlie Kloss earlier in the year. In January, Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen joined Trump and Kushner as homeowners on Indian Creek, paying $17 million for a home they plan on demolishing.

Loeb's reported purchase, which is about a 15-minute drive from Indian Creek, is the latest sign of an apparent finance migration from New York to Florida. 

As Insider recently reported, recent moves by finance industry giants indicate that a big chunk of Wall Street could be moving to Florida.

Manhattan-based hedge fund Elliott Management plans to move its headquarters from Manhattan to West Palm Beach, Bloomberg and the Financial Times reported in October. And last month it was reported that Goldman Sachs was considering shifting its asset management operations to Florida. Blackstone, the world's largest private equity firm, also plans to open an office near Miami. 

In December, an unnamed private equity executive from New York dropped $33 million on a Miami Beach penthouse, and a former Goldman Sachs executive paid $11 million for a Miami Beach home.

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Biden's White House press secretary Jen Psaki promises to bring 'transparency and truth' back to the briefing room

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 8:33pm  |  Clusterstock
White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki held the first press briefing of the new administration on Wednesday evening and pledged to bring "transparency and truth back to the briefing room." 
  • "There will be moments when we disagree ... but we have a common goal, which is sharing accurate information with the American people," Psaki said. 
  • Psaki announced during the 30-minute event that the administration will restore daily weekday press briefings as well as regular briefings with public health officials to discuss the pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki held the first press briefing of President Joe Biden's new administration on Wednesday evening and pledged to bring "truth and transparency back to the briefing room" in an indirect critique of the previous administration. 

"I have deep respect for the role of a free and independent press in our democracy and for the role all of you play," she said. "There will be moments when we disagree ... but we have a common goal, which is sharing accurate information with the American people." 

Psaki, a veteran of President Barack Obama's White House and State Department, added that Biden's "objective and his commitment is to bring transparency and truth back to government - to share the truth even when it's hard to hear and that's something I hope to deliver on in this role as well." 

Psaki announced during the 30-minute event that the administration will restore daily weekday press briefings as well as regular briefings with public health officials to discuss the pandemic.

The Biden administration is also implementing stricter rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the White House, including requiring daily testing for staffers, the use of N95 masks, and social distancing, Psaki said. These policies are a clear break from the Trump White House, which hosted numerous events that didn't require mask-wearing or social distancing and helped facilitate super-spreader events. 

"The issue [Biden] wakes up every day focused on is getting the pandemic under control," Psaki said. 

—CBS News (@CBSNews) January 21, 2021


Psaki began the briefing by reading out highlights from 15 executive orders Biden signed on Wednesday afternoon that included rejoining the Paris climate agreement, mandating mask-wearing on federal property, issuing a moratorium on evictions, and ending the travel ban on majority Mulism nations. 

The press secretary answered questions from every reporter in the room, beginning with the Associated Press, and allowed some reporters multiple rounds of questions. She revealed that Biden has no plans to talk with Trump, but said the president found the letter Trump left him in the Oval Office "generous and gracious."  

Psaki insisted that Biden would like his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill to have bipartisan support, but won't rely on GOP votes to pass the legislation. 

"We are in the middle of an urgent crisis in this country," she said. "We expect Republicans in Congress, and Democrats, too, to provide relief to the people they represent." 

When asked whether the Biden administration has "wiggle room" on the cost of the legislation, which Republicans have balked at, Psaki argued it would be hard to slash funds from any critical area. 

"Are you going to cut funding for vaccinations, are you going to cut money from unemployment insurance, are you going to cut money from reopening schools?" she said. 

She said Biden would leave "the mechanics" and timing of Trump's Senate impeachment trial up to Congress. 

"He has spoken very firmly and publicly about his views on the events of January 6," she said. 

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Evangelical leaders praise Joe Biden's efforts on immigration reform

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 8:08pm  |  Clusterstock
Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts as Jill Biden holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.
  • Evangelical Christian leaders are applauding President Joe Biden's day-one efforts to fix "our nation's broken immigration system."
  • Biden has rescinded his predecessor's "Muslim ban" and moved to preserve protections for immigrants brought to the US as children.
  • Biden is also proposing a path to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented people.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Joe Biden's immediate steps to undue his predecessor's nativist legacy is earning him praise from some evangelical Christian leaders who say he's acting as the Bible instructs.

Within hours of taking office on Wednesday, Biden signed an executive order overturning former President Donald Trump's ban on travel from largely Muslim countries such as Yemen and Libya. He also moved to preserve existing protections for immigrants brought to the US as children and proposed legislation that would immediately provide permanent residency to farm workers and others who fled natural disasters.

Chris Palusky, CEO of the nonprofit Bethany Christian Services, which assists in the resettlement of child migrants, praised the moves as restoring the United States' status as a "refuge for the overlooked and ignored."

"At a time of great division in our country, these proposed reforms and executive orders remind us that America can be both strong and compassionate," Palusky said in a statement released by the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition dedicated to immigration reform "consistent with biblical values."

Tom Lin, president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an evangelical campus ministry, said Biden was adhering to the golden rule and Biblical instruction to "not mistreat the foreigner."

"Public safety and a fair immigration system are not mutually exclusive; as a nation, America can and must do both," Lin said.

The National Association of Evangelicals, representing more than 45,000 churches across the US, also lauded the new president's more welcoming approach to immigration.

Galen Carey, the group's vice president of government relations, said he was "thrilled" by both the executive orders and Biden's immigration reform proposal. "This is an important step toward creating a sensible, bipartisan policy that is good for immigrants and good for America," he said.

Biden's predecessor enjoyed overwhelming support from many evangelical Christians due to his stated efforts to restrict abortion. But that support waned as the years went on, with some suggesting that a modest drop in that support caused Trump to lose the 2020 election.

In September 2020, several US evangelical leaders issued statements expressing horror over reports that women detained by the Trump administration were being subjected to unwanted surgeries, including sterilization.

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

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 8:07pm  |  Clusterstock
US President Joe Biden conducts a virtual swearing in ceremony for members of his new administration via Zoom just hours after his inauguration in the State Dining Room at the White House January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden became the 46th president of the United States earlier today during the ceremony at the US Capitol.
  • President Joe Biden is demanding that his staff treat others with dignity.
  • "If I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise I will fire you on the spot," he said.
  • The comments were made during a swearing-in ceremony for hundreds of new staffers.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

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."

The president's remarks came during a virtual swearing-in ceremony for hundreds of new government employees.

"You're engaged in and you're working with the most decent government in the world. And we have to restore the soul of this country, and I'm counting on all of you to be part of that," Biden said.

"The only thing I expect with absolute certitude is honesty and decency," he added.

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How a participant in the Capitol riot allegedly stole Nancy Pelosi's laptop

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 7:39pm  |  Clusterstock
The FBI used footage from ITV News, seen here, to track how Riley June Williams traveled through the Capitol to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office.
  • According to the DOJ, Riley Williams took a laptop from Nancy Pelosi's office during the Capitol riot.
  • Williams' former romantic partner told the FBI she had plans to sell it to Russia's equivalent of the CIA.
  • Her mother says she's been involved in far-right circles.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Department of Justice has publicly charged around 100 people with crimes related to the Capitol riot earlier this year, with more certain to come.

The insurrectionists, seeking to stop Congress's vote count confirming President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election, stormed in, broke windows, and trashed Congressional offices.

And one of them stole a laptop belonging to the most powerful woman in the history of the United States.

Read more: 'It was degrading': Black Capitol custodial staff talk about what it felt like to clean up the mess left by violent pro-Trump white supremacists

In court papers filed Sunday, federal prosecutors say Riley June Williams, a 22-year-old Pennsylvania resident, appeared to take a laptop belonging to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. One of her former romantic partners told the FBI she had plans to sell it to Russia's foreign intelligence service.

In footage captured by ITV News, Williams appeared to be one of the rioters guiding others further into the Capitol building and toward Pelosi's chambers, raising questions about how much planning she put into the events of January 6.

After initially fleeing, Williams was arrested Monday morning. It's still not clear what she's done in the two weeks between the alleged laptop theft and her arrest.

Here's what we know about Williams, how she got Pelosi's laptop, and exactly how the Russians fit into all of this.

So, who is this woman?

Williams was singled out in a segment from ITV News, a British news organization, as someone who stood out during the Capitol insurrection. She wore a long brown coat and a bright green shirt "with an alt-right slogan."

Unlike most of the insurrectionists milling about, Williams appeared to have a mission. She pushed other rioters in one direction, yelling "Upstairs, upstairs, upstairs!" according to the ITV footage.

The FBI used footage from ITV News to identify Riley Williams in the Capitol Building. The footage shows her telling people to go upstairs, where Pelosi's office is located.

ITV News later interviewed William's mother in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who said her daughter wasn't home. She said Williams had become involved in "far-right message boards" and frequently attended "rallies" about "wanting America to get the correct information." ITV also displayed a photo of her holding a military rifle while wearing a face mask bearing a skull illustration.

According to the FBI affidavit filed in court as part of the charges against Williams, her mother told Harrisburg police officers her daughter had left home and said she would "be gone for a couple of weeks" without saying where she would be going.

Jonathan Lund, the FBI agent who wrote the affidavit, said Williams had deleted her Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Telegram, and Parler accounts following the insurrection.

How did she know how to get Pelosi's laptop?

The degree to which Riley planned her incursion into the Capitol building remains unclear.

According to the FBI affidavit and ITV News video footage, Williams appears to have breached the Capitol building with a crowd and went to its southern wing, where the House of Representatives does its work.

She traveled through Statuary Hall to the Small House Rotunda (close to the Capitol Crypt) where she then brought a crowd up a flight of stairs and to Pelosi's office, the ITV footage and FBI affidavit shows.

Other footage of Williams shows her carrying a zebra print bag with something inside that's roughly the size of a laptop. You can see her at around the 10-second mark in the video below:

Another video, apparently from Snapchat, shows someone with a brown sleeve grabbing an HP laptop from the Capitol building. A screenshot is included in an updated FBI affidavit with the caption "they got the laptop."

In a series of Discord messages obtained by the FBI, a person who appears to be Williams wrote "I STOLE S--- FROM NANCY POLESI [sic]." 

An excerpt from the FBI affidavit. An excerpt from the FBI affidavit.

Pelosi's deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, said the laptop was "used only for presentations."

It's not clear what files were on the laptop, whether it has network access that allows it to access other files in Pelosi's office, and what steps have been taken to secure it. A representative for Pelosi didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

How did the FBI find her? Riley June Williams in a booking photograph obtained from the Dauphin County Prison in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. January 19, 2021. Footage of Williams first circulated broadly in an ITV News segment that aired on January 12. According to the FBI affidavit, a "former romantic partner" of Williams made several phone calls to the FBI's tip line for the Capitol riot after watching the segment and said their ex was there.

FBI agents then matched up the person in the footage with Williams's Pennsylvania divers license photograph and confirmed they were the same person. Harrisburg police officers also confirmed with Williams's mother that she was at the Capitol during the attack.

Are the Russians involved?

Williams's ex who called the FBI also said Williams had a plan to send the laptop to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell it to the SVR - the Russian equivalent of the CIA.

The ex also said the transfer "fell through for unknown reasons" and that Williams "still has the computer device or destroyed it," according to the FBI affidavit.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

The affidavit says the matter remains under investigation.

Williams appeared in a hearing Tuesday afternoon in a court in Dauphin County, which includes Harrisburg. She was charged with theft of government property and obstruction, which carry sentences that can total up to 20 years.

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How Biden plans to fight the pandemic: 100 million shots, large-scale vaccination sites, and the reopening of K-8 schools

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 7:38pm  |  Clusterstock
Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts.
  • President Joe Biden issued three coronavirus-related executive orders on his first day in office.
  • The orders aim to increase mask wearing, accelerate vaccine distribution, and restore the US relationship with the World Health Organization.
  • In the next 100 days, Biden plans to reopen the majority of K-8 schools and administer 100 million coronavirus shots.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Joe Biden took office Wednesday amid a deadly peak in the US coronavirus outbreak. Nearly 3,000 people are dying of COVID-19 every day, on average. At that rate, an estimated 42 Americans died of COVID-19 during Biden's 21-minute inauguration speech alone.

The president plans to take immediate action to vaccinate more Americans, reduce coronavirus transmission, and safely reopen schools and businesses. 

"We're entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus," he said in his inauguration speech. "We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation."

Among the 17 executive actions Biden took on Wednesday, three are directly related to the pandemic. Here's what to expect in the coming days, based on the president's long- and short-term goals to bring the nation closer to normal life.

Day 1: Biden issued a mandate that everyone must wear masks on federal property nationwide, and instituted a "100 Days Masking Challenge" for all Americans. Joe Biden holds up a mask at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on October 28, 2020.

The executive order requires face masks to be worn on federal land and in federal buildings. The order applies to any federal employee or contractor working in these locations and facilities. 

Since Biden does not have the legal authority to require every American to wear a mask, his order instead challenges the public to wear masks for 100 days. He has called on governors, mayors, and public-health officials to support him in the mission.

"This is a patriotic act," Biden said in a speech in Wilmington, Delaware, on January 15. "We're asking you. We're in a war with this virus."

Day 1: Biden appointed a new COVID-19 response team. Jeffrey Zients served several high profile roles during the Obama Administration.

Biden made Jeffrey Zients, who served as the director of the National Economic Council under the Obama administration, his COVID-19 response coordinator.

Zients is now in charge of managing the nation's production and distribution of vaccines, ensuring a consistent supply of medical equipment, and determining future travel restrictions, among other tasks. He does not have a medical or scientific background, but Obama-era officials considered Zients an effective problem-solver.

"What has been stunningly lacking over the past year is an organized response," Tom Frieden, former head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Financial Times on Wednesday. "You need someone to be the conductor of the orchestra. They don't need to know how to play every instrument, you just need to know what to do to get the best out of them."

Zients will also work closely with David Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, who will take over Moncef Slaoui's role as head of US vaccine rollout.

Biden also plans to restore an Obama-era National Security Council position, Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, which was dissolved during the Trump administration. In a Tuesday press briefing, Zients said the position would "play a critical role in stopping this pandemic and preventing future biological catastrophes."

The role will be filled by Elizabeth Cameron, a former White House national security official.

Day 1: Stop the US exit from the World Health Organization. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks with WHO Health Emergencies Program Director Michael Ryan during a briefing at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on March 6, 2020.

In April, President Donald Trump halted US funding for the WHO. His administration officially withdrew the US from the WHO in July, but the decision takes a year to finalize.

"America's withdrawal from the international arena has impeded progress on the global response and left us more vulnerable to future pandemics," Zients said on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Biden put a stop to the US withdrawal process. He has asked Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to represent the US at the WHO's annual meetings this week.

First Month: Get 100 federally supported vaccination centers up and running. Emily Alexander, 37, shows her COVID-19 vaccination card shortly after getting the vaccine in the parking lot of the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, on January 11, 2021.

The Trump administration gave states the responsibility to oversee their own vaccine rollouts, but many state health departments have said they lacked sufficient funding and staff to accelerate vaccinations. Only 16.5 million vaccine doses have been administered so far, though more than double that number has been distributed to states as of Wednesday.

Biden called the vaccine rollout "a dismal failure" last week. He has promised to enlist both the National Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help establish vaccination sites across the country, in places like school gyms, sports stadiums, and community centers, along with mobile vaccination units in hard-to-reach areas.

"By the end of our first month in office, we will have 100 federally supported centers across the nation that will ultimately vaccinate millions of people," Biden said last week. 

States that mobilize their own National Guards for vaccine distribution will be reimbursed by the federal government, according to Biden's plan.

First 100 Days: Allocate $1.9 trillion for coronavirus relief. Airline industry workers hold signs during a protest in Federal Plaza in Chicago, Illinois, on September 9, 2020.

Biden has proposed a package he calls the American Rescue Plan, which would include $400 billion to directly combat the pandemic.

Of that sum, $20 billion would go to a national vaccination program. Another $50 billion would go to making coronavirus tests more widely available; that includes purchasing more rapid tests and helping schools and local governments administer tests more frequently. 

Additional funds would be invested in new COVID-19 treatments, expanding the US ability to detect and identify new coronavirus strains, and increasing domestic manufacturing of medical supplies or protective gear. Biden also plans to fund 100,000 public health jobs to assist with contact tracing and administering vaccines.

First 100 days: Get 100 million coronavirus shots into arms. Pharmacy director Gayle Butler prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at St. John's Well Child & Family Center in Los Angeles, California, on January 7, 2021.

The Trump administration aimed to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of 2020, but fell short. Many states have recently reported vaccine shortages, which forced some to cancel vaccine appointments. Still, the speed of vaccinations has accelerated in recent weeks: The US is administering around 800,000 vaccine doses per day, on average. 

Biden hopes to quicken this pace by creating more vaccination sites, ramping up the production of vials and syringes, and increasing funding to state and local health departments. In December, he said his short-term goal was to administer 100 million doses in his first 100 days in office. That would require at least 1 million vaccinations per day.

"Some wonder if we're reaching too far for that goal," Biden said last week. "Is it achievable? It's a legitimate question to ask. Let me be clear. I'm convinced we can get it done."


First 100 Days: Reopen the majority of K-8 schools. A student at Rippowam Middle School on September 14, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut.

Biden's proposed coronavirus relief package includes $130 billion to help primary schools reopen safely. Schools can use the money to improve ventilation, reduce class sizes, hire more janitors, distribute personal protective equipment, or modify classroom layouts so students and teachers can socially distance.

Biden also hopes to add $30 billion to FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund, which could help schools expand their testing capacity.

"We can teach our children in safe schools," Biden said on Wednesday. "We can overcome the deadly virus."

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Senate confirms Biden's pick for spy chief hours after he's sworn into office

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 7:12pm  |  Clusterstock
Avril Haines was the deputy director of the CIA during the Obama administration.
  • The Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines.
  • Haines was the deputy CIA director and deputy national security advisor in the Obama administration.
  • She pledged during a confirmation hearing that she would keep politics out of intelligence.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed President Joe Biden's pick for US spy chief, Avril Haines, by a vote of 84 to 10.

Biden nominated Haines to serve as the director of national intelligence, a vast role overseeing 18 intelligence agencies that experienced an extraordinary level of politicization during the Trump era. She previously served as the deputy CIA director and deputy national security advisor under President Barack Obama.

Haines is the first woman to helm the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and she was the first Biden Cabinet pick to be confirmed. The development came just hours after Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the US.

At a confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, Haines pledged to keep politics out of intelligence.

"To be effective, the DNI must never shy away from speaking truth to power, especially when doing so may be inconvenient or difficult," she said in her opening statement.

She said that as DNI, she would prioritize crafting the US's response to China's aggression and preparing for the next pandemic.

"We should provide the necessary intelligence to support long-term bipartisan efforts to outcompete China - gaining and sharing insight into China's intentions and capabilities, while also supporting more immediate efforts to counter Beijing's unfair, illegal, aggressive, and coercive actions, as well as its human-rights violations, whenever we can," she said in her prepared remarks.

"At the same time, the DNI should see to it that the Intelligence Community's unique capabilities are brought to bear on the global COVID-19 crisis around the world, while also addressing the long-term challenge of future biological crises - enabling US global health leadership and positioning us to detect future outbreaks before they become pandemics," she added.

Haines also committed to assisting with putting out a public assessment of the domestic threat that the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory poses. She added that she would release an unclassified public report about the killing of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Haines went on to outline three "institutional" priorities, according to CBS News: rebuilding trust in the US intelligence apparatus' rank and file, using the intelligence community's resources to fight both traditional and nontraditional threats, and strengthening partnerships in the private and public sectors.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton initially said he would hold up Haines' confirmation until he got a written answer from her regarding a question at the confirmation hearing about the CIA's "enhanced-interrogation" program that was carried out under the Bush administration.

On Wednesday evening, Cotton lifted the hold and cleared the way for her confirmation after receiving a response.

Haines will take the reins of the US intelligence apparatus as it recovers from a period of unprecedented politicization under former President Donald Trump. He installed a longtime loyalist, former Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe, as the director of national intelligence in the final year of his presidency.

Former President Donald Trump.

While serving in that role, Ratcliffe made a number of controversial decisions regarding the declassification of sensitive intelligence related to Russia's interference in the 2016 US election and the FBI's investigation into the matter. Ratcliffe was widely criticized as weaponizing and selectively releasing intelligence to bolster Trump's false narrative that the Russia investigation was a "hoax" launched to undermine his presidency.

Ratcliffe also significantly curtailed his office's cooperation with Congress and stonewalled lawmakers on election-security briefings. Trump ousted Ratcliffe's predecessor, acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, after Maguire authorized an aide to alert Congress about Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2020 election in Trump's favor.

Maguire also ignited the former president's fury when he testified to Congress about a whistleblower complaint revealing the details of a July 25, 2019, phone call in which Trump tried to convince Ukraine's president to launch bogus political investigations targeting Biden ahead of the November election.

That phone call and the events surrounding it later became the basis of Trump's first impeachment on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The former president also forced out his first director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, following a period of fraught tension because Coats publicly contradicted Trump's conspiracy theories about Russia and his views on North Korea and Iran.

Coats praised Haines at her confirmation hearing this week, telling lawmakers, "After several conversations with Avril, there is no doubt in my mind that President-elect Biden has chosen someone who has all the capabilities and qualities, experience, and leadership to be the next director of national intelligence."

But Haines has had some controversies of her own, chief among them being the role she played in overseeing the Obama administration's drone program that resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths.

As Insider's John Haltiwanger reported, Haines also drew criticism for her role in the CIA's use of torture; for redacting the Senate Intelligence Committee's bombshell report on the use of torture; and for green-lighting a panel that decided not to punish CIA employees who were accused of spying on the committee's investigators.

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More Americans have now died from COVID-19 than the number of US troops killed during World War II

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 6:53pm  |  Clusterstock
American reinforcements arriving on the beaches of Normandy from a Coast Guard landing barge into the surf on the French coast on June 23, 1944, during World War II.
  • The US military saw 405,399 deaths during World War II, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • The number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths has surpassed that grim milestone.
  • As of Wednesday, 405,400 American coronavirus deaths had been reported.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The US has now recorded more COVID-19 deaths than the number of Americans killed during World War II, the bloodiest war in human history.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the US saw 405,399 deaths during World War II. As of Wednesday evening, 405,400 COVID-19 deaths had been reported in the US, based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The coronavirus pandemic had killed more Americans than the Vietnam War by late April.

And by about mid-May, the US COVID-19 death toll had already surpassed the combined number of Americans killed in battle in every major US war since 1945 - nearly 87,000. The number of Americans killed by COVID-19 is now equivalent to almost half of the total death toll in the Civil War - approximately 620,000 - which was the bloodiest war in American history.

The US has consistently recorded the most COVID-19 cases and fatalities in the world. Johns Hopkins' tally of cases surpassed 24.3 million as of Wednesday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in December noted that the US COVID-19 death toll was set to surpass the total number of US combat deaths during World War II. 

—Manu Raju (@mkraju) December 10, 2020

Pelosi at the time said that the war brought the country together but that former President Donald Trump was not a "unifying" president.

"We do not have a unifying president of the United States," she said. "In fact, we have a president in denial, delaying, and distorting, calling it a hoax. Many more thousands of people have died because of that."

Trump was widely criticized over his response to the US COVID-19 outbreak, and polling consistently found a majority of Americans disapproved of his handling of the pandemic.

The former president repeatedly downplayed the threat of COVID-19, which he was hospitalized for in early October, and gone against the recommendations of top public-health experts.

President Joe Biden was inaugurated on Wednesday. During his inaugural address, Biden uged the country to unite in order to defeat the virus. 

"We're entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus. We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation," Biden said.

Biden later signed a slew of executive actions, including several designed to bolster America's response to the pandemic.

The president issued a mask mandate on federal property, and rejoined the World Health Organization. He also signed an order establishing a COVID-19 response coordinator who reports directly to the commander-in-chief, which also reestablished the National Security Council's directorate for global health security and biodefense. Trump had scrapped the directorate, a move that was criticized by Dr. Anthony Fauci - America's top infectious disease official. 

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Borrowing from your 401(k) plan can be a fast, advantageous way to meet serious financial needs - here's everything you need to know about 401(k) loans

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 6:48pm  |  Clusterstock
If you need funds quickly, a 401(k) loan offers several advantages over other loans or 401(k) plan withdrawals - but there are many rules to follow.
  • Borrowing from a 401(k) means withdrawing funds from your plan that you later repay with interest.
  • A 401(k) loan avoids the taxes and penalties that come with outright withdrawals.
  • Borrowing from a 401(k) has drawbacks, like the suspension of contributions and overall loss of account growth.
  • Visit Business Insider's Investing Reference library for more stories.

Any financial expert will tell you it's best to keep your retirement savings tucked away until, well, retirement. That certainly holds true for one of the most common ways to save for those post-career years: employer-sponsored 401(k) plans

But life can get in the way of the best investment plans. And if you have an immediate need for cash, borrowing from your 401(k) may make the most financial sense. Especially when you compare that option to other loan alternatives - or withdrawing money entirely from the plan.

However, there are many rules, both from the IRS and individual employer plans, that apply to 401(k) loans. If those are not followed, you may end up paying taxes and penalties that can seriously hamper your finances. 

Understanding exactly what's entailed in borrowing from a 401(k) is key to determining if the strategy will suit you. Let's take a closer look.

What is a 401(k) loan?

In a 401(k) retirement plan, you make regular pre-tax contributions and the money grows tax-free. In return for those tax advantages, you must follow several IRS rules, chief among them, no withdrawals without penalties until age 59½. If you do withdraw early, you'll be subject to a mandatory 20% federal tax withholding and in most cases a 10% tax penalty.

Fast fact: In some situations, such as a disability or splitting up accounts in a divorce, early withdrawals won't be subject to the penalty. The IRS also allows for penalty-free hardship withdrawals when the money goes to certain expenses such as medical costs, eviction, college tuition, or the purchase of a primary residence.

A 401(k) loan is basically a way you can take money from your own account without paying these taxes or penalties. You don't get charged, because this is only a temporary withdrawal: You will be putting the money back, eventually. And you won't be depleting your retirement savings permanently.

You will pay interest on the sum you take out, but this money goes back into the plan account. So, in effect, you are both the borrower and lender of a 401(k) loan.

IRS regulations govern 401(k) plans overall, but there is also some flexibility for employers to impose their own rules and restrictions. Most employers that provide 401(k)s plans allow 401(k) loans, says Gregg Levinson, senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson. He estimates that about a third of 401(k)(k) participants borrow from their accounts at some point (not counting the COVID-19 pandemic year of 2020).

Will my employer know if I take a 401(k) loan?

Your employer has to be informed if you plan to borrow from your 401(k) loan - the withdrawal and repayment process is set up through them. This is not to say that the whole company or your immediate boss will necessarily know. Only, perhaps, the payroll department. 

How to borrow from a 401(k) 

Your first step when considering borrowing from your 401(k) is to contact your employer benefits department or your 401(k) plan provider to get details on how your plan's loans work (assuming, of course, they're offered in the first place). 

Here's what to look for in 401(k) loan rules:

  • Borrowing limits. The IRS mandates that you may borrow no more than 50% of your account value or $50,000, whichever is less. Some employers and plans will also impose a minimum loan amount, say, no less than $1,000.
  • Interest. Your interest rate is determined by your employer but must be "reasonable" and similar to the rate you'd find at a financial institution, according to IRS rules. In most cases employers charge prime plus one percentage point.
  • Repayment.  IRS rules call for full repayment of your 401(k) loan, with interest, within five years in equal payments that include principal and interest paid at least every quarter. Your own plan may follow those terms, or impose more stringent ones. Many employers use payroll deductions for repayments. Your employer may also allow for longer repayment limits, as recommended by the IRS, if you use the loan for a primary home purchase - sometimes as long as 25 years. 
  • Number of loans allowed. How many loans can you take from your 401(k) plan? Again, that depends on your employer. Most of them only allow for one at a time; you have to fully repay one sum before they'll allow you to borrow again. So weigh carefully how much you'll need. The IRS itself permits simultaneous loans, as long as the combined amount doesn't exceed the general limits. 
Financial update:  Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security  (CARES) Act employees were allowed to borrow up to $100,000 from their 401(k)s and take an extra year to pay back the borrowed money. These increases applied only to loans made in 2020 and have not been included in additional coronavirus relief legislation. "Interestingly, we didn't see a lot of employees taking advantage of that benefit," notes Gregg Levinson, senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson. "That may be why it wasn't renewed."

As long as you adhere to the mandates, all should go well. But if you don't, your loan could be considered a withdrawal, and tax payments and penalties will follow.

Is it smart to borrow from a 401(k) plan?

Compared to other financing methods, borrowing from a 401(k) plan has its advantages. On the plus side, a 401(k) loan offers:

  • No need for approval. It's your money, so you're getting it is automatic. No loan applications or credit checks. And borrowed 401(k) funds  do not show up on your credit report as a debt.
  • Quick access to funds. Often, you can get the money within two weeks.
  • Interest rates that are often lower than those charged by credit cards and many personal loans offered by banks
  • Benefits from the interest. You're paying yourself to borrow, instead of a lender. Because it goes into the account, the interest is sort of a boon, not just an expense. 
  • No prepayment penalty. Unlike some consumer loans, most plans don't charge a fee for loans repaid in full early. 
What are the downsides of borrowing from a 401(k)?

401(k)s loans have their drawbacks, too.  Downsides include:

  • Loss of tax-deferred earnings. Taking money out of your account shrinks it, obviously, and also its earning potential - especially if you take the full five years to repay the loan. The overall effect on your retirement savings will depend on how much you borrow, how long you take to pay it back, and the state of the stock market. Some plans don't allow you to make new 401(k) contributions until the loan is repaid, further hampering the compounding ability of retirement savings.
  • Double taxation. Loan repayments and interest are made with after-tax dollars, in contrast to the dollars used for contributions. But they're not distinguished within the account; everything goes back into the same pre-tax pot. So, when you eventually start taking regular distributions from your plan, you'll pay income tax on that money; in effect, you're being double-taxed on the interest. 
  • Sudden repayment. In most cases, if you leave your employer for any reason you will need to fully repay the loan usually within one to six months, depending on the plan rules and the date of your last payment. If you don't, your former employer and the IRS will consider the loan a distribution. You'll then owe income taxes on the amount and, if you are under age 59½, a 10% penalty. (For Roth 401(k)s, you likely won't owe taxes but you will be on the hook for the 10% penalty.)

"People often underestimate how long they will be with an employer and find themselves in the position of having to come up with the full amount outstanding on the loan or face a large tax bill and penalties," says Levinson.

The financial takeaway

Most financial experts agree taking a 401(k) loan should be a last resort. Employees of a certain age, who are beyond the penalty-incurring years, might find that taking a distribution might actually work better for them.

Still, borrowing from your 401(k) plan can be an option if you need funds quickly. It's certainly a better course than an outright withdrawal, especially if you're under 59½, which incurs penalties as well as taxes.  

Before you jump to borrow from your 401(k), it's important to consider the pros and cons. Understanding how 401(k) loans work, the consequences of leaving your employer or losing your job before repayment and the opportunity risks involved in tapping your retirement savings early are all key considerations. 

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