Wednesday morning news – January 20, 2021

Biden set to take oath of office at noon today » At noon Eastern today, Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the oath of office, swearing in Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the 46th president of the United States.

On Tuesday, Biden spoke to reporters as he boarded a plane in Delaware en route to Joint Base Andrews. 

BIDEN: I’m truly honored to be your next president and commander in chief, and I’ll always be a proud son of the state of Delaware. 

At 11 a.m. this morning, President-elect Biden will arrive at the U.S. Capitol. 

The inauguration program will begin a short time later with the invocation and Pledge of Allegiance. Singer Lady Gaga will perform the national anthem. 

After the ceremony, President Biden will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He’s expected to arrive at the White House with a military escort around 3:30 this afternoon. 

Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton will attend today’s ceremony. 

Vice President Mike Pence will stand in for President Trump who will not attend.

White House posts Trump farewell address » President Trump did wish Biden well in a video message on Tuesday, while not mentioning him by name. 

TRUMP: This week we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous. We extend our best wishes. 

In his recorded farewell address, Trump reiterated that political violence has no place in our country and he touted the accomplishments of the last four years. 

TRUMP: I stand before you truly proud of what we have achieved together. We did what we came here to do and so much more. 

Among the accomplishments he highlighted were tax cuts, a booming pre-pandemic economy, the creation of the Space Force, eliminating terrorist leaders, and the rapid development of coronavirus vaccines. 

The president also condemned censorship and said “Shutting down free and open debate violates our core values and most enduring traditions.”

Biden nominees testify in confirmation hearings » Senators grilled several of Biden’s top nominees during confirmation hearings on Tuesday. 

Tony Blinken is the nominee for secretary of State. He told lawmakers that he’s prepared to engage a rapidly changing world. 

BLINKEN: A world of rising nationalism, receding democracy, growing rivalry from China and Russia and other authoritarian states, mounting threats to a stable and open international system, and a technological revolution. 

Retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin would be the next Secretary of Defense. 

But as a recently retired general, he will need a waiver from Congress to fill what is designed to be a civilian role. He worked to reassure lawmakers on Tuesday. 

AUSTIN: If confirmed, I will carry out the mission of the Department of Defense always with the goal to deter war and ensure our nation’s security. And I will uphold the principle of civilian control of the military as intended. 

Nominee for Treasury Secretary, former Fed Chair Janet Yellen, said she’s on board with Biden’s proposals to spend big on the U.S economy and other priorities.

YELLEN: Right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is to act big. In the long run I believe the benefits will far outweigh the costs. 

A Senate impeachment trial of President Trump could complicate efforts to quickly confirm some of Biden’s nominees.

Pompeo says China’s policies on Muslims amount to ‘genocide’ » In his final hours at the State Department, outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared China guilty of crimes against humanity. 

POMPEO: We now have conducted an exhaustive review of the facts and made the determination that in fact, the Chinese Communist Party has committed these crimes against humanity and is continuing to try and deny these people, not just the Uyghurs Muslims but other faiths as well, the simply capacity to continue to exist.  

Pompeo said those crimes include forced labor, forced sterilizations, and forced abortions. 

He added that officials under control of the Chinese Communisty Party have committed genocide against minority groups in the Xinjiang region. Pompeo said “I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs.”

The Trump administration has taken a range of actions against senior Chinese Communist Party leaders and state-run enterprises over abuses in Xinjiang.

The rarely used “genocide” designation is sure to provoke an angry response from Beijing.

Biden and members of his national security team have expressed support for such a designation in the past.

Panel: China, WHO should have acted quicker to stop pandemic » Meantime, a panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization is criticizing China for not moving to curb the outbreak of the coronavirus sooner. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin reports. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The independent panel reviewing the virus response said it found “lost opportunities” in the early stages of the outbreak.

Their report stated that the Chinese government could have applied public health measures “more forcefully” last January.  

CHUNYING: [Speaking Mandarin]

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying pushed back. 

She said “As the first country to sound the global alarm against the epidemic, China made immediate and decisive decisions.”

Two former heads of state led the panel investigation: former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The experts also questioned why the WHO did not declare a global public health emergency sooner. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.

(AP Photo/David Phillip) A security team patrols in front of the White House as preparations continue ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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