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Biden all set to be sworn in as 46th U.S President

Agencies

Washington, Jan 20: Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, while Kamala Harris will take oath as the first woman Vice President today (Wednesday), in the midst of growing concerns over the safety of the historic inauguration following the recent violent attack on the Capitol Hill by pro-Trump supporters.

Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the oath of office to Biden just after the clock strikes 12 (local time) at the West Front of the Capitol – the traditional location – under the unprecedented security umbrella of more than 25,000 National Guards, who have transformed the capital into a garrison city, mainly because of the threat of violent protest by Trump’s supporters.

Biden, 78, will take the oath on his 127-year-old family Bible, which will be held by his wife, Jill Biden.

Biden, who will be the oldest president in American history, will deliver his first presidential address to the country after taking oath shortly after noon. The historic speech, with the theme of unity and healing, is being prepared by his Indian-American speech writer Vinay Reddy.

Harris, 56, will make history as the first female, first Black and first South Asian American vice president when she will be sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina member of the Supreme Court. Sotomayor administered the oath to Biden as vice president in 2013.

She will be sworn in on two Bibles – one that belonged to a close family friend named Regina Shelton and another that belonged to Thurgood Marshall – the country’s first African American Supreme Court justice.

This year, however, the transition stands out for its acrimony. The process usually starts straight after the election, but it started weeks late after President Donald Trump refused to accept the result of the November 3 election won by Biden, a Democrat.

Trump has said he will not attend the inauguration. Trump, a Republican, will vacate the White House hours before the inauguration and is expected to travel to his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

The scaled-down inauguration is expected to begin around 11 a.m. with an invocation by Leo Jeremiah O’Donovan, a Jesuit priest who is a close friend of the Biden family. Andrea Hall, the first African American female firefighter to become captain of the Fire Rescue Department in South Fulton, Georgia, will recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Singer-dancer Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem and Amanda Gorman, who became the country’s first Youth Poet Laureate in 2017, will read a poem she has written for the occasion called ‘The Hill We Climb.’ She would be followed by a performance by actress-singer Jennifer Lopez.

Silvester Beaman, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware, will deliver a benediction.

After the swearing-in ceremony, Biden and Harris will attend a traditional Pass in Review with members of the military on the East Front of the Capitol, signifying the peaceful transfer of power to a new commander-in-chief.

Biden, Harris and their spouses will visit Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where they will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

After the wreath ceremony, they will head to the White House, where they will get a presidential escort. That will kick off the virtual ‘Parade Across America,’ featuring performances from all 56 states and territories.

Traditionally, when the new president arrives at the Oval Office and occupies the chair in front of the resolute desk, a letter from his predecessor awaits him. Given the circumstances that Trump is leaving, speculation is rife that there might not be any letter at all. Trump not only refused to concede the elections for more than two months but also did not invite his successor to the White House as is the custom here.

At night, Biden is forgoing the traditional inaugural balls because of the COVID pandemic, and he will instead take part in a television event called ‘Celebrating America.’

Biden enters the White House with the top challenge to lift the country from the devastation of a raging pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans and thrown millions into economic distress. Revival of the economy, which has been badly bruised by the pandemic, is another challenge that he faces.

Meanwhile, the American capital has been virtually turned into a garrison city, amidst multiple reports of threats and more armed violence by pro-Trump supporters to disrupt the events.

The area in and around Capitol Hill, a large part of Pennsylvania Avenue and the White House has been made out of bounds for the general public with eight-feet high iron barricades being erected.

The entire city is on high-alert as authorities are receiving multiple reports of violent threats from various groups at the level of the incident that happened on January 6 – when hundreds of supporters of Trump stormed Capitol Hill. At least five people, including a police officer, died in the incident.

In addition to converting downtown Washington D.C. into a fortress, security in and around 50 State Capitols has also been put on high alert to ensure a peaceful transition of power.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation in its internal bulletins has warned of the potential for violence in Washington DC and at all 50 state Capitols.

US defence officials say they are also worried about an insider attack or other threat from service members involved in securing Biden’s inauguration, prompting the FBI to vet all of the 25,000 National Guard troops deployed for the event.

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Over two million people died of drowning in last decade: WHO

(Asian News Hub) – The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that more than 2 million died due to drowning in the last decade, a number which exceeded fatalities caused by maternal conditions or protein-energy malnutrition.

Ahead of the first World Drowning Prevention Day to be marked on July 25, the WHO, in a statement released on Friday, said at least 236,000 people drown every year, and drowning is among the 10 leading causes of death for children and youth aged one to 24 years.

More than 90 per cent of drowning deaths occur in rivers, lakes, wells and domestic water storage vessels in low- and middle-income countries.

Half of all drowning deaths are in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, according to the WHO.

Rates of drowning deaths per 100 000 population are highest, however, in the Western Pacific region followed by the African region.

“Anyone can drown, no one should,” noted Etienne Krug, Director of the Department of Social Determinants of Health, World Health Organization (WHO).

“I welcome the opportunity of this first World Drowning Prevention Day to increase attention and hasten action by governments and their partners to avert the pain and suffering caused by drowning, a largely preventable killer.”

World Drowning Prevention Day was called for by member states through adoption in April 2021 of UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/75/273, which also invited the WHO to coordinate drowning prevention actions.

To mark World Drowning Prevention Day, WHO and partners will host a virtual event on July 28, entitled “Global, national and local reflections on World Drowning Prevention Day 2021”.

IANS

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Pakistan deploys Army at Afghan border amid deteriorating situation in Afghanistan

(Asian News Hub) – Amid the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan due to US drawdown, Pakistan’s regular army has been deployed at the border areas with the neighbouring country as a security measure.

“Now regular army troops are manning the border after replacing the paramilitary forces,” the Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed was quoted by the Dawn.

There are two key border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan; at Chaman in Balochistan and Torkham in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In recent weeks, large-scale violence has been on the rise as the Taliban stepped up its offensive since the start of US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Afghan government has repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban and preventing the Afghan forces from carrying out military operations against them.

The decision to deploy the army was made amid the uncertain situation in the war-torn country.

“Paramilitary troops including the Frontier Constabulary, Levies, Rangers are deployed at the borders to deal with regular issues including illegal border crossing, smuggling etc,” the Interior Minister said. “However, the current volatile situation (in Afghanistan) demands that regular military troops be deployed along the border.”

Afghanistan is witnessing clashes between the government and the Taliban who have seized significant territories throughout the country and launched an offensive against big cities.

The growing Taliban offensive has created a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan which is leading to a refugee problem. Meanwhile, the Pakistani government announced that it will no longer welcome Afghan refugees.

The ties between the two sides have further deteriorated since the daughter of the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan was briefly kidnapped on her way home in Islamabad on July 16. Thereafter, Kabul recalled its ambassador from Islamabad, demanding punishment for those responsible.

ANI

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1.5 million children worldwide lost parents, guardians due to COVID-19: Lancet

(Asian News Hub) – More than 1.5 million children around the world, including 1,19,000 from India, have lost at least one parent, custodial grandparent, or grandparent, as a result of COVID-19, according to a new study published in The Lancet.

Of those, more than 1 million children experienced the death of one or both parents during the first 14 months of the pandemic, and another half a million experienced the death of a grandparent caregiver living in their own home, the study estimates.

In India, the researchers estimate an 8.5-fold increase in the numbers of children newly orphaned (43,139) in April 2021 compared to March 2021 (5,091).

Children who have lost a parent or caregiver are at risk of profound short- and long-term adverse effects on their health, safety, and wellbeing, such as increasing the risk of disease, physical abuse, sexual violence, and adolescent pregnancy.

“For every two COVID-19 deaths worldwide, one child is left behind to face the death of a parent or caregiver. By April 30, 2021, these 1.5 million children had become the tragic overlooked consequence of the 3 million COVID-19 deaths worldwide, and this number will only increase as the pandemic progresses,” said lead author Dr Susan Hillis, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 Response Team.

“Our findings highlight the urgent need to prioritise these children and invest in evidence-based programmes and services to protect and support them right now and to continue to support them for many years into the future – because orphanhood does not go away,” he added.

The researchers estimated figures based on COVID-19 mortality data from March 2020 through April 2021, and national fertility statistics for 21 countries.

The countries with the highest numbers of children who lost primary caregivers (parents or custodial grandparents) included South Africa, Peru, United States, India, Brazil, and Mexico.

The countries with rates of COVID-19-associated deaths among primary caregivers (>1/1000 children) included Peru, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Iran, United States, Argentina, and Russia.
For almost every country, deaths were greater in men than women, particularly in middle and older ages. Overall, up to five times more children lost their fathers than lost their mothers.

The researchers call for urgent action to address the impact of caregiver deaths on children into COVID-19 response plans.

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