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Biden inaugurated as 46th U.S. president amid tight security

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Biden inaugurated as 46th U.S. president amid tight security

…As Trump pardons former strategist Steve Bannon, 72 others***

Joe Biden was today Wednesday inaugurated as the 46th president of the U.S., capping off a chaotic election season in a country still divided by Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of voter fraud.

The inauguration ceremony will start at 10:30 am (1530 GMT) with Biden and incoming Vice President Kamala Harris sworn into office at noon.

Hundreds of thousands of people usually attend the ceremony, but this time around there was only be a small crowd due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has now killed more than 400,000 Americans.

Security precautions have also been bolstered after rioters supporting outgoing President Trump stormed the Capitol earlier this month.

More than 25,000 National Guard troops will be working in Washington to secure the inauguration.

In a break with tradition, Trump will not attend Biden’s swearing-in and subsequent gathering of all living presidents.

Vice President Mike Pence will be in attendance.

Also read:  Biden to mount federal vaccination campaign

Trump will leave the White House early and plans to hold a small ceremony at a nearby military base before heading to Florida, where he is expected to take residence at his Mar-a-Lago Resort.

A Jesuit priest, Leo O’Donovan, will start the inauguration ceremony and pop star Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem.

Other celebrities including singer Jennifer Lopez will participate.

Biden will give the traditional inaugural address, a key speech that marks his first formal address to the nation as president and is seen as a key chance to set the tone of his term.

In the meantime, President Donald Trump pardoned his former Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, as part of a last-minute clemency spree before he leaves office.

The White House announced that Trump was pardoning Bannon and 72 others early Wednesday, just hours before president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony was set to begin.

Trump also commuted the sentences of 70 people.

Bannon was arrested in the summer and is accused of defrauding people who donated to a campaign to privately build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.

He pleaded not guilty and was released on bail. A trial was planned for May.

“Prosecutors pursued Mr Bannon with charges related to fraud stemming from his involvement in a political project.

“Mr Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen,” the statement issued on behalf of Trump said.

Bannon joined Trump’s team in 2016 and took charge of the campaign.

The 67-year-old is credited with playing a significant role in Trump’s surprising success at the time.

After winning the election, Bannon became Trump’s chief strategist, but only served for seven months.

In recent weeks he has already pardoned a slew of long-time associates and supporters, including his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort and Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law; his longtime friend.

Others are adviser Roger Stone and his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

 

 

 

dpa

 

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U.S. strikes 2 targets in Syria in response to ‘continued attacks’

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The U.S. military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to “continued attacks” against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

The strikes were conducted against a training facility in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a brief statement.

The U.S. struck similar targets in eastern Syria in October and earlier in November.

Pro-Iranian militias have intensified their attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as a response to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The security situation in the entire region has been particularly tense since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants staged deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israel is responding with an overwhelming air and ground offensive in Gaza.

As a deterrent, the U.S. has moved more weapons systems, warships and air squadrons to the Eastern Mediterranean, and is deploying several hundred troops to the Middle East to support US units there.

U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered Sunday’s action to make it clear that the U.S. was defending itself, its personnel, and its interests, Austin stressed.

The U.S. is prepared to take further necessary measures to protect its own people and interests.

  • dpa
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Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin

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Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

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U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel

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A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

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