Biden to Reverse Many of Trump’s Actions with Executive Orders

President Joe Biden signed three documents in the President’s Room at the U.S. Capitol shortly after his swearing-in ceremony, his first official act as the 46th president. 
 
Biden signed the Inauguration Day Proclamation and documents for nominations to Cabinet and sub-Cabinet administration positions. 
 
The signings were part of his campaign promise to reverse many of former President Donald Trump’s actions over the past four years by signing a series of executive orders on his first day in office.   
 
In a statement Wednesday, Biden’s transition team said some of those issues include addressing the coronavirus crisis, immigration and climate change. Almost immediately after taking the oath of office at the U.S. Capitol, aides said Biden would end the ban on travel from some Muslim-majority countries, halt construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization.  ‘Democracy Has Prevailed’ – Biden, Harris Lead New US Administration President Joe Biden seeks to unify a divided nation in inaugural addressTransition team officials also said Biden would order federal agencies to review policies that reinforce systemic racism, require the federal government not to discriminate on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation and revoke a Trump order to exclude non-citizens from the U.S. Census.Biden also plans to fulfill his campaign promise to help financially distressed Americans cope with effects of the coronavirus pandemic. He will extend a federal freeze on evictions and ask federal agencies to extend a suspension on foreclosures on federally guaranteed mortgages.The new president will also provide relief to students with large education loans by continuing a suspension on federal student loan interest and principal payments for the next eight months.Aides said Biden would take dozens of other executive actions in the next 10 days, as he seeks to quickly redirect the country without waiting for congressional approval.White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would revoke the Defense Department’s ban on transgender people serving in the armed forces as well as a policy that prohibits U.S. funding for international groups that perform abortions or help women get abortion services.Only two recent presidents signed executive orders on their first day in office, and each signed just one. But aides said as Biden faces a worsening coronavirus pandemic, he is determined to act with a sense of urgency. 

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France’s Macron: No Repentance Nor Apologies for Algeria Occupation During Independence War

French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that France is neither regretful nor apologetic about the atrocities committed in its former colony, Algeria, ahead of a key report on France’s colonial past. 
 
Between 1954 and 1962, Algerian revolutionaries and French forces engaged in a bloody war in which both sides committed war crimes but that ultimately led to the independence of the North African country. 
 
Macron said France has “no repentance nor apologies” for its occupation of Algeria or its actions during the eight-year war. He said the French government instead will undertake “symbolic acts” to make up for its past deeds. 
 
Nearly 60 years on, the war continues to strain French-Algieran ties, prompting France to put in efforts at restoring cordial relations. 
 
So far, Macron has been the only French president to recognize France’s criminal involvement in colonial Algeria. 
 
During his presidential campaign in 2017, he described France’s 132-year colonization of Algeria as a “crime against humanity” during an interview with an Algerian television channel. Macron’s comment caused a stir in France and was widely criticized by the far right. 
 
In 2018, he acknowledged that French forces used torture during the Algerian war — the first time any French leader had made such an admission. 
 
He tasked a French historian, Benjamin Stora, to assess the European country’s dealings in Algeria and propose ways of reconciliation. The report is expected to be published later Wednesday. 
 
The Elysee Palace said Macron will take part in a three-day commemorative event next year to mark the 60th anniversary since the end of the war in Algeria. 
 

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Bangladesh Expects Rohingya Repatriation to Myanmar in June

Bangladesh officials say they expect to begin a third effort to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees to their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in June.The target date – seen as premature by many Rohingya – emerged from this week’s talks between the two countries under Chinese mediation.“We proposed beginning the repatriation by March. But Myanmar said that for some logistical reasons they would need some more time,” said Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, who led the Bangladeshi side in the tripartite meeting Tuesday.“Following our meeting, it appears, we would be able to begin the repatriation by June,” Momen told reporters in Dhaka.Bangladesh Relocates 2nd Group of Rohingya Refugees Officials say more than 1,800 Rohingyas arrived at Bhasan Char aboard several ships, a day after leaving overcrowded, squalid camps in Cox’s Bazar districtMyanmar’s deputy minister for international cooperation U Hau Do Suan and China’s vice foreign minister Luo Zhaohui represented their respective countries in the 90-minute virtual meeting.But many Rohingya in the sprawling refugee camps around Cox’s Bazar say they are unwilling to return to Myanmar before a series of long-standing demands are met.“Myanmar has to guarantee to return the full citizenship rights to all Rohingya — this is our main demand,” said Jan Mohammad, a Rohingya refugee who fled to Bangladesh in 2017 and lives in the Balukhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar.“We all want to return to our native villages in Rakhine. Violent crimes were committed against the Rohingya in Rakhine that led to our exodus from Myanmar. All perpetrators have to be held accountable for their crimes, he told VOA. “And, there must be a neutral international security force to ensure our safety in Rakhine.”HRW: 200 Homes Burned in Rakhine, MyanmarRakhine faces another mass destruction of homes amid refugee crisis He added, “I am sure no Rohingya will be ready to go back to Rakhine if Myanmar does not care to fulfill our demands.”Subjected to ethnic violence in Myanmar, minority Rohingya Muslims have for decades escaped persecution and economic hardship in Myanmar by fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh, where more than 1.2 million of the refugees now live, mostly in congested shanty colonies.After some 750,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh following a brutal military-led campaign in Rakhine in 2017, international pressure forced Myanmar to agree that it would take back the Rohingya refugees.But efforts at repatriation failed in 2018 and 2019, when the Rohingya refused to return home, saying they still felt unsafe in Rakhine, and that Myanmar had not assured them of full citizenship rights.China subsequently offered to help the two countries find a solution, beginning with a tripartite meeting in New York in January 2020. Tuesday’s meeting was a continuation of that effort.Bangladesh has repeatedly said the congested country is overburdened with Rohingya refugees. Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, said some weeks ago that “there is no other alternative” to the Rohingya crisis except repatriation.At Tuesday’s meeting, Bangladesh proposed that representatives from the international community, including the United Nations, be present in Rakhine to oversee the repatriation. China and Myanmar reportedly welcomed the proposal, but no concrete decision was taken.  Bangladesh also proposed that the populations of whole villages in Rakhine be returned together, which could make them feel safer. Myanmar officials said they would like to begin with 42,000 Rohingya, whose identities have already been verified from a list of 840,000 refugees previously provided by Bangladesh.Bangladesh also proposed that Myanmar send a delegation to Cox’s Bazar to interact with Rohingya refugee community leaders and try to persuade them to return. Foreign Secretary AK Abdul Momen said his nation is doing its best to begin the repatriation as soon as possible.“We could not succeed to begin the repatriation on two attempts in the past. But we have learned some lessons in the process. We are trying our best to be successful this time,” he said.The foreign secretary noted that 90,000 Rohingya children have been born in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps in the past three years.“The Rohingya population is growing in Bangladesh. The growth of the population will give rise to new complications. For us there is no alternative to begin the repatriation on a fast track,” the foreign secretary said.“We have put our heart and soul into this process to begin the repatriation as soon as possible.”

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British Government Looks Forward to Working with Biden

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labor Party opposition leader Keir Starmer expressed good wishes Wednesday to U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on his Inauguration Day.  Speaking in Parliament during his weekly question time with lawmakers, Johnson said he is looking forward to working with Biden and with his new administration “strengthening the partnership between our countries and working on our shared priorities.” Johnson mentioned climate change, pandemic recovery and “strengthening our transatlantic security” as shared priorities between the two nations. Starmer also stood to welcome Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, calling their upcoming inauguration “a victory for hope over hate and a real moment for optimism in the U.S. and around the world.” In an editorial Wednesday in the British Daily Mail newspaper, former British Prime Minister Theresa May said Biden and Harris give Britain “partners for positive action to make the world a safer place.” May used the same editorial to sharply criticize Johnson, her successor as prime minister, saying his government had “abandoned global moral leadership.” 
 

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Death Toll Rises From West Darfur Fighting

The death toll in West Darfur state climbed to 159 Tuesday, with more than 200 people injured after more than three days of fighting between different ethnic communities, according to the Committee of West Darfur Doctors. The committee says the violence began Friday when a member of the African Masalit tribe killed a member of an Arab tribe. Arab militiamen organized revenge attacks the following day, which targeted the Kirendig IDP camp where Masalit tribesmen resided. Since then, there have been accusations and counteraccusations of ethnic targeting of civilians.More Than 80 People Killed in West Darfur Attack Armed militia killed more than 80 people in West Darfur state’s capital Saturday and Sunday after a dispute between two people, according to the governor of West Darfur stateSeparately Monday, members of the African Fallata tribe and members of the Arab Rezegat tribe clashed in South Darfur state, leaving more than 50 people dead. Dozens of others were wounded, according to the official Sudan News Agency.Mohamed Raja, an internally displaced person (IDP) who lived at the Kirendig camp when it came under attack Saturday, said Tuesday that despite fresh clashes that broke out the day before, things are relatively calm in West Darfur state.  But he added that thousands of IDPs who were forced to flee the camp need food and shelter.   Raja told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus that armed militiamen were still occupying the camp Tuesday. “The whole camp is occupied by militia, they burned all our crops and settled there, as we speak, we cannot return to the camp nor can the police or army go in there. Some of the dead bodies are still lying inside the camp — we cannot retrieve them,” Raja said.He said IDP’s were forced to take shelter inside schools and other buildings in El Genena.  “We are now occupying around 46 schools and centers because they are located at the heart of the city, but we still are not 100 percent safe. Militia infiltrate the area every now and then and we can still hear gunshots from where we are,” Raja told VOA.Behind the attacksIsmael Ibrahim, a professor at the Institute of African and Asian Studies at the University of Khartoum, said it is difficult to attribute the violence in West Darfur to any single individual or entity.Death Toll Rises in West Darfur The death toll has risen to 159 in West Darfur state after three days of clashes between different communities and fresh fighting broke out in South Darfur stateHe said the repeated episodes of violence are a legacy of the war in Darfur and the policies of former president Omar al-Bashir’s administration, which pitted Arab and African communities in Darfur against one another.“The government right now has inherited a very fragile social situation where the situation is full of tribal and ethnic conflicts. One of the most important aspects of the past regime was the policy of divide and rule and one aspect of that policy was creating antagonism and accentuating already existing conflicts between different tribes or ethnic groups, particularly in Darfur,” Ibrahim told South Sudan in Focus.He said it’s very easy for any kind of misunderstanding to escalate between individuals from different tribes in Darfur.“That kind of misunderstanding ends up in killing an innocent person and then it’s very easy also for that incident to get transformed in a very short time into some sort of armed conflict between two tribal or ethnic groups,” added Ibrahim.UN mission withdrewThe United Nations-African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) recently withdrew from West Darfur state as its mandate came to an end on December 31.  Adam Rijal, a spokesperson for IDPs in West Darfur, said their withdrawal was a mistake.  “We warned the government and even the U.N. Security Council about the decision to withdraw UNAMID forces from Darfur. At least when they were here, they could report the violence accurately and independently which made the militia somewhat restrained, but now they are emboldened by what they see as weakness and security vacuum,” Rijal told South Sudan in Focus.UNAMID spokesperson Ashraf Eissa said Sudan’s protection force was supposed to take over when UNAMID’s mandate ended in Darfur.“We don’t have a mandate; our mandate has ended. If you were to ask me before midnight 31st of December, I would have happily opined about it — now I can’t,” Eissa told VOA.

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EU Welcomes Biden Inauguration

Leaders of the European Union Wednesday hailed the inauguration of Joe Biden as a “new dawn” in America.
Speaking at the European Parliament in Brussels, ahead of Biden’s swearing-in as the 46th president of the United States, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, “This time-honored ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol will be a demonstration of the resilience of American democracy and the resounding proof that once again after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.”
European Council President Charles Michel was equally effusive but frank about how the U.S.-EU relationship changed under President Donald Trump. He said, “Today is more than a transition; today is an opportunity to rejuvenate our transatlantic relationship, which has greatly suffered in the last four years.”    
The European Council is the E.U.’s political arm. Michel invited Biden to attend the council’s “extraordinary council meeting in Brussels, that can be in parallel to a NATO meeting.” He said European leaders want to work with the U.S. on boosting multilateral cooperation, ending the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling climate change, and joining forces on security and peace, among other issues.
The European leaders acknowledged the events of the last two weeks in Washington – the siege on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters. Michel said Biden’s inauguration is evidence the attackers failed and called on Biden to work with Europe.
“On the first day of his mandate I address a solemn proposal to the new U.S. president: let’s build a new founded pact for a stronger Europe, for a stronger America and for a better world,” he said.

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Largest Tuition Strike in US History Highlights Financial Challenges of Pandemic

Student loan debt in the U.S. accounts for over $1.7 trillion, a figure higher than the GDP of countries like Canada, Russia, and South Korea. Now, students at one of the United States most prestigious universities say they will withhold their tuition payments unless the school meets their demands. VOA’s Keith Kocinski in New York City with more.Camera: Nick JastrzebskiProduced by: Henry Hernandez 

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Kamala Harris Makes History as First Black and Indian American Woman Vice President

Vice president-elect Kamala Harris made history when she became the first woman ever to win election on a presidential ticket.  VOA’s Congressional Correspondent Katherine Gypson reports on the path that brought Harris to the second most powerful position in the U.S. government.Camera: Adam Greenbaum
Producers: Katherine Gypson,  Jesse Oni  

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