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President Joe Biden ordered the Department of Justice on Tuesday to end its reliance on private prisons and acknowledge the central role government has played in implementing discriminatory housing policies.In remarks before signing the order, Biden said the U.S. government needs to change “its whole approach” on the issue of racial equity. He added that the nation is less prosperous and secure because of the scourge of systemic racism.”We must change now,” the president said. “I know it’s going to take time, but I know we can do it. And I firmly believe the nation is ready to change. But government has to change as well.”Biden rose to the presidency during a year of intense reckoning on institutional racism in the U.S. The moves announced on Tuesday reflect his efforts to follow through with campaign pledges to combat racial injustice. Housing policiesBeyond calling on the Justice Department to curb the use of private prisons and address housing discrimination, the new orders will recommit the federal government to respect tribal sovereignty and disavow discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community over the coronavirus pandemic.Biden directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development in a memorandum to take steps to promote equitable housing policy. The memorandum calls for HUD to examine the effects of Trump regulatory actions that may have undermined fair housing policies and laws.Months before the November election, the Trump administration rolled back an Obama-era rule that required communities that wanted to receive HUD funding to document and report patterns of racial bias.Stop ‘profiting off of incarceration’The order to end the reliance on privately-run prisons directs the attorney general not to renew Justice Department contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities. The move will effectively revert the Justice Department to the same posture it held at the end of the Obama administration.”This is a first step to stop corporations from profiting off of incarceration,” Biden said.The more than 14,000 federal inmates housed at privately-managed facilities represent a small fraction of the nearly 152,000 federal inmates currently incarcerated.The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) had already opted not to renew some private prison contracts in recent months as the number of inmates dwindled and thousands were released to home confinement because of the coronavirus pandemic. Criticism of Biden moveGEO Group, a private company that operates federal prisons, called the Biden order “a solution in search of a problem.””Given the steps the BOP had already announced, today’s Executive Order merely represents a political statement, which could carry serious negative unintended consequences, including the loss of hundreds of jobs and negative economic impact for the communities where our facilities are located, which are already struggling economically due to the COVID pandemic,” a GEO Group spokesperson said in a statement.David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, noted that the order does not end the federal government’s reliance on privately-run immigration detention centers.”The order signed today is an important first step toward acknowledging the harm that has been caused and taking actions to repair it, but President Biden has an obligation to do more, especially given his history and promises,” Fathi said.The memorandum highlighting xenophobia against Asian Americans is in large part a reaction to what White House officials say was offensive and dangerous rhetoric from the Trump administration. Trump, throughout the pandemic, repeatedly used xenophobic language in public comments when referring to the coronavirus.This memorandum will direct Health and Human Services officials to consider issuing guidance describing best practices to advance cultural competency and sensitivity toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the federal government’s COVID-19 response. It also directs the Justice Department to partner with AAPI communities to prevent hate crimes and harassment. 
 

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The top federal prosecutor investigating the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol said on Tuesday he expects indictments will be handed down as soon as this week, as the FBI works to track down more than 400 suspects in the sprawling investigation. More than 135 people have been arrested in connection with the January 6 breach, which left five people dead and sent members of Congress rushing to safety, Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin told a news briefing. The vast majority of the suspects to date were arrested on criminal complaints, which serve as a placeholder that allows the government to build a criminal case until it can be presented to a grand jury. A person cannot be convicted solely on a criminal complaint in federal court. FILE – In this Jan. 6, 2021, photo, supporters of President Donald Trump are confronted by U.S. Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol in Washington.To date, only a handful of indictments have been returned against the more than 100 people charged with a range of crimes, from minor trespassing offenses to more serious allegations such as assault on police officers and conspiracy charges. “We’re continuing to build the evidence related to these charges,” Sherwin said. “The individuals that were charged via the federal criminal complaints will then be indicted in the very near future to include this week.” The FBI is investigating whether groups of people may have plotted in advance to storm the Capitol, and Sherwin said on Tuesday he expects some will be facing seditious conspiracy charges. Earlier this month, his office charged three members of the far-right anti-government militia known as Oath Keepers with conspiring ahead of the Capitol siege. No indictment has been made public yet in that case. Sherwin said the investigation is starting to turn towards more deep-dive investigations given that the FBI has already managed to track down many of the “internet stars” who bragged about their actions on social media. “We are going to reach a plateau,” he said. “The plateau will involve … looking at the more complicated conspiracy cases.” Federal officials also said on Tuesday the investigation into the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick and the planting of two pipe bombs at the Democratic and Republican headquarters offices is still going on. 
 

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The U.S. Senate’s confirmation of U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has raised hope on the other side of the Atlantic. Yellen said the U.S. administration remains committed to working to resolve digital taxation disputes, a remark that Europeans are reading optimistically.In this file photo taken on Dec. 1, 2020, Janet Yellen speaks during a cabinet announcement event at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware.Overall, Yellen explained that the new administration supports the call for tech companies to pay more taxes, a statement that won praise from French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who spoke at the World Economic Forum.“I think it is very good news that the new Secretary for the Treasury Janet Yellen just explained that she was open about the idea of thinking about a new international taxation with the two pillars: First of all, digital taxation and, of course, also a minimum taxation on corporate tax,” Le Maire said. “I think we are on the right track. There is a possibility of finding an agreement on this new international taxation system by the end of this spring 2021.”German Finance Minister and Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz addresses a press conference following talks via video conference with Germany’s state premiers in Berlin on Dec. 13, 2020.The comments echoed those by German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. He told Reuters on Tuesday he hopes an international agreement on digital taxation will happen by summer.Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon are dubbed as GAFA in France by those who criticize what they say are the multinationals’ longstanding avoidance of European taxes.For years, former U.S. president Donald Trump had opposed any proposal to tax the tech giants.The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) hosted the international talks over digital taxation. Members postponed a deadline for an agreement into 2021 after the U.S. pulled out of talks in June last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.The French finance minister said it is a matter of fairness.“The winners of the economic crisis are the digital giants,” Le Maire said. “How can you explain to some sectors that have been severely hit by the crisis and that are paying their due level of taxes that the digital giants will not have to pay the same amount of taxes? This is unfair and also inefficient from a financial point of view.”Last October, the OECD warned that tensions over a digital tax could trigger a trade war that could wipe out one percent of global growth every year.

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Britain’s health department reported Tuesday the nation’s death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 100,000 people.  
In a televised news briefing from his office, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “It’s hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim statistic, the years of life lost, the family gatherings not attended, and for so many relatives the missed chance, even to say goodbye,”   
The health department said more than 100,000 Britons have died within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test. The government figures show Britain has the fifth highest death toll globally and reported a further 1,631 deaths and 20,089 cases on Tuesday.  
Britain is the fifth country in the world to record 100,000 virus-related deaths, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, and is by far the smallest in terms of population.
The U.S. has recorded more than 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, the world’s highest total, but its population of about 330 million is about five times Britain’s. Worldwide, more than 2.1 million people have died from COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Britain is speeding up its vaccine distribution with more than 6.8 million people receiving their first dose of vaccine and more than 472,000 receiving both doses as of Monday.

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Police and protesters in the Netherlands clashed for a third consecutive night Monday after the government imposed a curfew to slow the spread of COVID-19.
At least 150 people were arrested across the country Monday as protests turned to rioting with demonstrators in some areas setting fires, throwing rocks and looting stores.
In the city of Rotterdam, police responded with tear gas and similar scenes played out in Amsterdam, where water cannons were used on rioters. Unrest was reported in smaller municipalities as well, including Haarlem, Geleen and Den Bosch. Officials say 10 police officers were injured in Rotterdam.
The protests began Saturday after the government imposed the first curfew since World War II.  Officials took the action following a warning by the National Institute for Health (RIVM) regarding a new wave of infections due to a more easily transmissible variant strain of the coronavirus, originally identified in Britain.  
But many argued the steps were not necessary as the nation has seen steady overall declines in new infections over the last several weeks.
Monday, Prime Minister Mark Rutte condemned what he called the “criminal violence” “What we saw has nothing to do with fighting for freedom. We didn’t take all these measures for fun, we did so because we are fighting against the virus and it’s the virus which is actually robbing our freedom.”
Schools and non-essential shops in the Netherlands have been closed since mid-December, following the closure of bars and restaurants two months earlier.
More than 966,000 confirmed cases and 13,600 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the Netherlands since the start of the pandemic.

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Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, resigned Tuesday after weeks of turmoil in his ruling coalition, leaving Italy rudderless as it battles the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
He tendered his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella, the effective head of state in in Italy. Through his general secretary, who formally announced the resignation, Mattarella invited Conte to stay on in a caretaker capacity pending discussions on what happens next.
Mattarella’s office says the president will begin consultations with party leaders late Wednesday to determine the next steps.
Conte lost his absolute majority in Italy’s Senate, despite winning two votes of confidence in parliament last week.
The defection of a crucial ally, former premier Matteo Renzi, greatly stymied the government’s ability to effectively manage the pandemic and its effect on the country’s already weak economy.
For 15 months, Conte headed the European country in collaboration with its largest party in parliament, the 5-star Movement, and Matteo Salvini’s League party. But bickering led to the withdrawal of Salvini after he failed to win the premiership and that first government collapsed.
President Mattarella has reiterated the need for strong leadership as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and a weak economy.  
Italy has the fourth-highest number of infections in Europe, at more than 2.4 million, and the second-highest number of deaths, at more than 85,000, behind Great Britain, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Mattarella could decide to find someone else to form the coalition he needs in parliament. He also has the option to dissolve parliament paving the way for fresh elections two years early, according to the Associated Press.
Another former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who heads a centrist opposition party, could supply crucial support for the next government.
In a statement, Berlusconi called for a “new government that would represent substantial unity of the country in a moment of emergency.” The statement also suggested early elections.
But Conte still enjoys support from the Democratic Party, which is lobbying for a reappointment despite the inability to work with the 5-Star Movement.

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The patter of paws is being heard in the White House again following the arrival of President Joe Biden’s dogs Champ and Major. The two German shepherds are the first pets to live at the executive mansion since the Obama administration.
Major burst onto the national scene late last year after Biden, then president-elect, broke his right foot while playing with the dog at their home in Wilmington, Delaware.FIRST DOGS Major and Champ Biden @firstdogsusa have moved into the White House. There has not been a pet in the WH since the Obamas departed four years ago; fmr. President Trump was the first in 100+ years not to have a pet in office. Pics by WH/Adam Schultz pic.twitter.com/uzY7ksNvyg— FIRST DOGS CHAMP & MAJOR BIDEN (@firstdogsusa) January 25, 2021The Bidens adopted Major in 2018 from the Delaware Humane Association. Champ joined the family after the 2008 presidential election that made Joe Biden vice president.
The dogs moved into the White House on Sunday, following Biden’s inauguration last week.
“The first family wanted to get settled before bringing the dogs down to Washington from Delaware,” said Michael LaRosa, spokesperson for first lady Jill Biden. “Champ is enjoying his new dog bed by the fireplace and Major loved running around on the South Lawn.”
The dogs were heard barking outside near the Oval Office on Monday as Biden signed an executive order lifting the previous administration’s ban on transgender people serving in the military.
Last week, the Delaware Humane Association cosponsored an “indoguration” virtual fundraiser to celebrate Major’s journey from shelter pup to first dog. More than $200,000 was raised.
Major is the first shelter dog to ever live in the White House and “barking proof that every dog can live the American dream,” the association said.
The Bidens had promised to bring the dogs with them to the White House. They plan to add a cat, though no update on the feline’s arrival was shared on Monday.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki predicted, while on video answering questions from members of the public, that the cat will “dominate the internet” when it arrives.
Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, a self-described germaphobe, does not own any pets and had none with him at the White House.
Just like they do for ordinary people, pets owned by the most powerful people in the world provide their owners with comfort, entertainment, occasional drama and generally good PR.
“Pets have played an important role in the White House throughout the decades, not only by providing companionship to the presidents and their families, but also by humanizing and softening their political images,” said Jennifer Pickens, author of a book about pets at the White House.
Pets also serve as ambassadors to the White House, she said. Pickens added that she hoped the Bidens’ decision to bring a rescue dog to the White House might inspire others to adopt.
President Theodore Roosevelt had Skip, who is described by the White House Historical Association as a “short-legged Black and Tan mongrel terrier brought home from a Colorado bear hunt.” Warren G. Harding had Laddie Boy, who sat in on meetings and had his own Cabinet chair.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had his beloved terrier Fala. At night, Fala slept in a special chair at the foot of the president’s bed.
More recently, George H.W. Bush’s English springer spaniel Millie was featured on “The Simpsons” and starred in a bestseller, “Millie’s Book: As dictated to Barbara Bush.” Hillary Clinton followed Bush’s lead with a children’s book about family dog Buddy and cat Socks: “Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets.”
When he declared victory in the 2008 presidential race, Barack Obama told his daughters: “You have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.” Several months later, Bo joined the family, a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy. A few years later, fellow Portuguese water dog Sunny arrived.
Among the stranger White House pets was Calvin Coolidge and first lady Grace Coolidge’s raccoon Rebecca. She was given to the Coolidge family by a supporter who suggested the raccoon be served for Thanksgiving dinner, according to the White House Historical Association. But instead she got an embroidered collar with the title “White House Raccoon” and entertained children at the White House Easter Egg Roll.
Some notable pets belonged to first kids, including Amy Carter’s Siamese cat, Misty Malarky Ying Yang, and Caroline Kennedy’s pony Macaroni. The Kennedy family had a veritable menagerie, complete with dogs, cats, birds, hamsters and a rabbit named Zsa Zsa.
President Harry Truman famously said that “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog” — and many successors have followed Truman’s advice. The first President Bush once said, “There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog to help you get through the rough spots.”

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Less than one week into the administration of President Joe Biden, much of the talk in Washington is focused on the dysfunction on Capitol Hill, a spate of executive orders from the new president, and the looming impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. None of the three bodes well for bipartisan cooperation so pessimism might seem justified.   However, when experts look at the major policy areas that Biden identified in last week’s inaugural address, there are at least some areas where agreement across the aisle is a real possibility.    Coronavirus rescue package The Biden administration came out of the gate with a request for $1.9 trillion in spending on various programs related to the coronavirus pandemic, including major economic stimulus spending and a large investment in federal infrastructure to get the vaccine to as many Americans as it can, as quickly as it can.   FILE – Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, left, and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer are seen during a joint session of Congress in the House chamber in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.Republicans on Capitol Hill were quick to label the proposal “dead on arrival” because of its price tag, but some observers believe their initial reluctance might be overcome by the reality of the country’s economic situation.   “I think that even though people are calling it dead on arrival, there’s a lot in this bill that’s probably going to make it,” said Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow in the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. Few lawmakers, he said, are going to want to stand in the way of programs meant to get people inoculated against the virus, and while there will probably be some arguing about the size of stimulus payments, the popularity of that part of the proposal will make it difficult to kill off entirely.   On tax policy specifically, Gleckman believes there is considerable bipartisan agreement on a number of proposals that might turn up in the relief package or a follow-on bill. There is support for expanding the tax credit that filers receive for children under their care and for expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to childless workers.   Gleckman said that Biden’s Made In America tax credit, meant to spur domestic manufacturing, will also likely have bipartisan support.   Immigration policy As with trade policy, Biden will confront a GOP that has made a sharp change of course on matters of immigration over the past several years. The Republican establishment had, for decades, been largely supportive of immigration, seeing it as a driver of economic demand and a source of lower-cost labor.   That began to change even before Trump, but the party took an even more aggressive anti-immigration stance under the former president.    FILE – Demonstrators with the New York Immigration Coalition rally asking President Joe Biden to prioritize immigration reform, Nov. 9, 2020, in New York.However, Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, believes there are still a number of pro-immigration Republicans who have been silent during the Trump years, but who could support some of the changes Biden is proposing.    For example, the Biden proposal would seek to streamline and expand the process for bringing skilled workers into the country — a move that could earn support from Republicans with ties to the business community.    Those less enthusiastic about immigration might support other initiatives, such as a proposal to allow the Department of Homeland Security to vary the number of green cards issued each year depending on economic conditions.   “This is actually something that the Migration Policy Institute has been advocating for years, because it doesn’t make sense that our immigration [volume] is set by law,” Pierce said. “It should be flexible and maintain a relationship with market conditions within the United States.”   Another Biden proposal, to increase the wages paid to temporary workers, could appeal to some who have opposed guest worker programs on the theory that migrant labor tends to drive down the wages of competing U.S. workers. 
 
Potential bipartisan agreement on immigration reform has limits, however. Biden’s most ambitious proposal, an eight-year path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, mirrors efforts that withered and died in Congress during both the former Obama and George W. Bush administrations.   Climate change With the exception of a few outliers, Republicans in the House and Senate oppose most of the major climate initiatives that Biden and the majority of the Democratic Party are advocating. The announcement that on his first day in office Biden had recommitted the U.S. to the Paris Climate Agreement, for instance, was met with angry denunciations from multiple Republican members of Congress.   FILE – Then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry holding his granddaughter, Isabelle Dobbs-Higginson, signs the book during the signature ceremony for the Paris Agreement at the United Nations General Assembly Hall, April 22, 2016, in New York.However, the GOP’s objections to dealing with climate change are regularly overridden when they conflict with national security interests, said Erin Sikorsky, deputy director of the Center for Climate and Security.   “In the past four years, you’ve actually seen that the House and Senate have passed pragmatic climate security legislation, usually through the National Defense Authorization Act each year, and so I think that’s definitely an area where the Biden administration can find bipartisan consensus with Congress,” she said.   This will be cold comfort to most environmental activists, however, as the measures are largely reactive rather than proactive, including steps like making military bases more resistant to extreme weather and funding programs that allow climate scientists to interact with the intelligence community.   Trade policy The debate over trade has shifted dramatically in the four years since Joe Biden last served in the White House as vice president. Under Trump, the GOP radically reshaped its position on trade, following the former president’s lead by supporting tariffs and protectionism. That, perhaps surprisingly, makes trade one of the areas ripest for bipartisan cooperation.   “Trade is an issue on which, in terms of actual policy, the incoming Biden administration is closer to Trump than on most other, or maybe nearly all other, issues,” said Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.    Within the Biden administration, he said, the prevailing view is that “the goal of trade should not be foremost to follow the law of comparative advantage and try to enlarge two-way commerce, but rather to advance labor, environmental and human rights and, as needed, protect jobs.”   FILE – Visitors chat near American and Chinese flags displayed at a booth for an American company promoting environmental sensors during the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, Nov. 7, 2019.Biden has appointed Katherine Tai, a trade attorney who speaks Mandarin and has a history of challenging the trade practices of the Chinese government, as U.S. Trade Representative. Her past support for tough-on-China policies has earned her bipartisan support in Congress. Early indications also suggest that the Biden administration may believe, as many trade economists do, that the center of power in international trade has moved away from the World Trade Organization and toward a network of individual trade agreements, many of them bilateral.   A lingering question will be the U.S. position with regard to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a pact that creates a massive free trade zone in the Pacific region. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the accord, which had been largely negotiated by the Obama administration, a move that was supported by many Democrats.   However, now the United Kingdom and China are both looking to join the CPTPP. The participation of two more major U.S. trading partners in the accord — and especially China — may leave Biden’s team wondering whether it wouldn’t be preferable to have a seat at the table as a counter to Chinese influence. 

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