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Joe Biden’s first year: Covid, climate, the economy, racial justice and democracy

Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP One year ago on Thursday, Joe Biden took the oath of office as the 46th president at the US Capitol in an inauguration ceremony devoid of the usual crowds due to pandemic restrictions.

Biden identified four crises facing America: the coronavirus, the climate, the economy and racial justice. He could have added a fifth: a crisis of democracy in a divided nation where, just two weeks earlier, the Capitol had been overrun by insurrectionists.

How has he fared on all five counts? Coronavirus

Biden took office pledging to lift the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, which he called “a raging virus” that “silently stalks the country”. And there was a period of his presidency when it appeared he had.

Last summer vaccination rates soared as the virus receded and the economy rebounded. Touting the administration’s progress at an Independence Day celebration, Biden declared that the US was “closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus”.

But then came the arrival of the Delta variant, followed by the extremely transmissible Omicron variant. Biden rushed once again to restrict travel but it did little to slow the spread. In recent weeks, Covid-19 cases have reached record levels . Deaths are rising nationally and the number of Americans hospitalized with the disease is higher now than at any previous point during the pandemic.

Long lines to obtain Covid tests and low availability of at-home tests have sparked criticism of the White House’s preparedness, while shifting guidelines and muddled messaging from federal public health officials left a disease-weary public confused and frustrated. Public confidence in Biden’s handling of the pandemic has dropped significantly , weighing down his overall approval ratings.

Biden responded by ordering 1bn at-home coronavirus tests and is requiring private insurance companies to cover the cost of up to eight of these tests a month. Biden also announced plans to make “high-quality” masks available to Americans free of charge and deployed military medical units to help hospitals overwhelmed by a shortage of staff and beds. Leveraging the Defense Production Act, the administration is working with pharmaceutical companies to increase the supply of antiviral pills.

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Rand Paul asks if YouTube will ‘kiss my ….’ and apologize after CDC revises mask guidance

Rand Paul ripping Fauci is an ’embarrassment’ for the chief medical adviser: Tammy Bruce 00:00

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Autoplay U.S. Sen. Rand Paul hit back at YouTube "censors" on Saturday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged that cloth masks do not work as well against the coronavirus as N95 makes.

The Kentucky Republican wondered if YouTube would be apologizing for suspending him earlier this year for saying the same thing.

"Does this mean snot-nosed censors at YouTube will come to my office and kiss my … and admit I was right?" Paul wrote. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., questions Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical adviser and director of the NIAID, during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine the federal response to COVID-19 and new emerging variants on Jan. 11, 2022 at Capitol Hill in Washington. In a New York Times article cited by Paul, who is a certified physician, the CDC revised its previous position on masks, saying that "loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection" and recommended surgical masks instead. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is seen on Capitol Hill, Jan. 11, 2022. (Getty Images) In August, YouTube suspended Paul over a three-minute video questioning the effectiveness of cloth masks, which several studies have shown are not effective in stopping the spread of viruses like the coronavirus.

YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News. A medical doctor gives an injection for making antibodies to combat the coronavirus. (iStock) The CDC has been blasted for misleading guidance in recent weeks, notably its confusing update on the amount of time those infected with the coronavirus or one of its variants should quarantine and the efficacy of rapid testing . The agency was previously hit for changing guidance on masking, and it continued to add to the confusion this week after the agency recommended that people opt for N95 or KN95 masks for protection against the highly contagious omicron variant.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has chalked up the CDC’s fluctuating health guidance to simply following the science. But her explanation hasn’t stopped even mainstream media from asking her why Americans should "trust" the agency.

Fox News’ Cortney O’Brien contributed to this report.

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Steve Bannon claims Trump rally will prompt Arizona to decertify Biden’s 2020 election victory. The vote cannot be decertified in any way.

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon arrives at the FBI Washington Field Office, Monday, Nov., 15, 2021, in Washington. Steve Bannon said that speakers at Donald Trump’s rally will decertify Joe Biden’s electors in Arizona.

Law professors told Poynter there is no legal mechanism for decertifying the 2020 election results.

Some Republicans want Arizona’s election results decertified despite audits affirming Biden’s win.

On Saturday, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon released a new episode of his "War Room" podcast in which he claimed that the former president’s rally on Saturday would serve as a precursor to the decertification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election win.

"It’s the kickoff of 2022. A huge speech in front of a massive crowd by Donald J. Trump and, of course, they’re all melting down about who’s on stage with him. They’re all people that are going to get to the decertification of the 2020 Biden electors," Bannon said. Several individuals are slated to speak at the "Save America" rally in Florence, Arizona, including Mike Lindell , Paul Gosar , Andy Biggs , and several candidates running for public office in the state who have received Trump’s endorsement.

The event was scheduled after Trump canceled his January 6 speech at Mar-a-Lago, which his advisers said would result in bad press coverage and urged him against doing.

"I want to make sure Jamie Raskin, Bennie Thompson, all you guys write this down. Take your No. 2 pencils out. We’re going to decertify, I didn’t say we were going to certify Trump electors, but we’re going to decertify Biden electors in Arizona, in Wisconsin, in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and in the great state of Georgia," Bannon said on his podcast.

Law professors from Arizona State University told Poynter there is no legal mechanism to undo the appointment of electors or change a certification once a president has been sworn into office. Multiple GOP-led audits in the state also confirmed Biden’s presidential win over Trump.

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McCarthy outlines GOP priorities if Republicans take control of House in midterms

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Autoplay Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy outlined several priorities for his party if they are to regain control of the House in the 2022 midterms.

"Republican priorities when we regain the majority next year: 1 – Hold the Biden Administration accountable 2 – Secure the Border 3 – Make our cities safe again 4 – Rein in the out-of-control inflation 5 – Stop the overreach of government mandates," the California Republican tweeted Friday. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., responds to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, about the behavior of Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., and her repeated "anti-Muslim" attacks against Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) A source familiar with McCarthy’s thinking told Fox News that the GOP agenda is much larger than the points outlined in the press conference and includes tackling issues like supply chain issues, Biden’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the porous southern border, questions about the origin of COVID, and a variety of other issues.

The source told Fox News that Republicans have already sent preservation notices and document requests that "will be ready on Day 1 to use the various tools at our disposal" to get answers on issues such as politically motivated moves by Biden’s Department of Justice and the disclosure of private citizen information from the IRS and NSA.

Polling shows Biden deep underwater with Americans in terms of his approval rating with only 33% of the country telling pollsters that they approve of the job he is doing. Furthermore, 55% of Americans say they don’t approve of his performance roughly a year into his four-year term.

PSAKI MOCKED FOR SAYING BIDEN WASN’T MAKING ‘HUMAN’ COMPARISON BETWEEN GOP, SEGREGATIONISTS IN ATLANTA SPEECH

While many believe the GOP is in prime position to take back control of Congress in November, the Democrats’ House reelection arm outraised their GOP rivals last year, asboth major parties build resources ahead of what’s expected to be a bruising battle for the House of Representatives majority. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Texas, from right, Representative Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan, and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, listen during a news conference introducing the Equality Act, H.R. 5, Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) reports hauling in what it described as a "whopping" $146 million in 2021, which the committee said shattered by $22 million its previous off-election year fundraising record.The DCCC, which shared its fundraising figures first with FOX Business on Friday, also reported bringing in $39.7 million in the October-December fourth quarter of fundraising, which it highlighted was its best odd-year fundraising quarter in history.While they enjoy a fundraising advantage at the start of 2022, House Democrats are facing historical headwinds. On average, the party that wins the White House in a presidential election loses more than 25 House seats in the ensuing […]

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Biden’s rule mandating free coverage for COVID test came with no warning, will take weeks to implement: report

At-home COVID tests will help us live ‘sustainably’ with coronavirus: Infectious disease expert 00:00

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Autoplay Some health insurers say they will have trouble adapting to a new federal rule from the Biden administration requiring them to cover the costs of 8 at-home tests per month.

The rule , which takes effect this Saturday, requires private insurers to cover the costs of in-home tests but a New York Times report this week says that many insurers aren’t in a position to meet those requirements in the short term. A health worker inoculates a boy with the CoronaVac vaccine, developed by China’s Sinovac against the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19, at a vaccination centre in Bogota, on January 4, 2022, as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that Omicron’s dizzying spread increased the risk of newer, more dangerous variants emerging. (LEONARDO MUNOZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Insurers are saying it could take weeks to set up a proper system and pointing to the fact that over-the-counter tests are different from doctors visits and hospital stays that are typically covered.

The tests reportedly don’t have the type of billing codes needed for insurance to process claims and because health plans rarely process retail receipts it will force insurers to handle the cases manually at first.

BIDEN ANNOUNCES 500M MORE COVID TESTS TO BE DISTRIBUTED FOR FREE AMID OMICRON SURGE

"This is taking things back to the olden days, where you’ll have a person throwing all these paper slips in a shoe box, and eventually stuffing it into an envelope and sending it off to a health insurer to decipher," Ceci Connolly, president and C.E.O. of the Alliance of Community Health Plans, told the New York Times. U.S. President Joe Biden listens while joining the White House Covid-19 Response Team’s call with the National Governors Association discussing the Omicron variant in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Dec. 27, 2021. Biden’s medical adviser said a domestic travel vaccination rule should be considered as the omicron variant fuels record Covid-19 case loads in some states and holiday travel continues to be disrupted around the U.S. Photographer: Ken Cedeno/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images Connolly added that the rule is being implemented too quickly as the rule was announced on Monday and supposed to take effect on Saturday."It is going to be exceedingly difficult for most health plans to implement this in four days," she said. Scientists at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, South Africa, work on the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus Wednesday Dec. 15, 2021. The fast-moving omicron variant is complicating a key question: How does the COVID-19 pandemic end and the world co-exist with this virus? Experts agree that the coronavirus is here to stay. Ending the pandemic won’t be like flipping a light switch. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)"There will be some people who buy them, and then have a six-month nightmare trying to get reimbursed," Jenny Chumbley Hogue, a Texas-based insurance broker, said about the rule adding that she has […]

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Virginia’s new AG Jason Miyares announces major investigations within hours of taking office

Sen. Tim Scott on Glenn Youngkin’s victory: GOP should ‘always focus’ on education 00:00

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Autoplay Virginia’s newly sworn-in Attorney General Jason Miyares announced investigations into the Virginia Parole Board and Loudoun County Public Schools within hours of taking office.

In a statement released on Saturday just hours after Miyares and Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin were sworn in, Miyares explained why he has launched an investigation into the commonwealth’s parole board as well as Loudoun County Public Schools. SUFFOLK, VIRGINIA – OCTOBER 25: Virginia Republican Attorney General candidate Jason Miyares speaks during a campaign rally. "One of the reasons Virginians get so fed up with government is the lack of transparency – and that’s a big issue here," Miyares wrote. "The Virginia Parole Board broke the law when they let out murders, rapists, and cop killers early on their sentences without notifying the victims. Loudoun Country Public Schools covered up a sexual assault on school grounds for political gain, leading to an additional assault of a young girl."

Loudoun County became a focal point in Youngkin’s gubernatorial race against former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe following the arrest of a 14-year-old male high school student, who identifies as nonbinary, who has been found guilty of raping a female student in a school bathroom. That student was transferred to another school where he allegedly raped another student and the district has been accused of covering up the crime which resulted in one of the alleged victim’s parents being arrested at a school board meeting. The offending student has been placed on the sex offenders registry for life as part of his sentence . Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks during an inauguration ceremony, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Richmond, Va. REPUBLICAN GLENN YOUNGKIN SWORN IN AS GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA

In addition to the investigations, Miyares notified about 30 staff members that they will no longer be employed by the office of the attorney general. Virginia State Senator Louise Lucas tweeted that Miyares fired the "entire" civil rights division, which Miyares’s office tells Fox News is not accurate. Victorious candidates Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares joined Glenn Youngkin on stage at a rally Nov. 1, 2021. "This is incorrect information," Miyares spokeswoman Victoria LaCivita said. "There are 12 individuals who work in the Office of Civil Rights – only two personnel changes were made."

"During the campaign, it was made clear that now Attorney General-elect Miyares and Attorney General Herring have very different visions for the office," LaCivita told Richmond.com. "We are restructuring the office, as every incoming AG has done in the past."

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Black women look to make historic gains in 2022 midterm elections

Cheri Beasley is well aware of the challenges facing Black women who run for statewide office.

“I know what it’s like to hear the doubters and those who are skeptical that people of color can’t win, because it’s not what we’re used to or who we envision in positions of power,” she said in an interview with NBC News.

The former judge has made two successful runs for statewide judicial positions, and this year she is running for North Carolina’s open Senate seat, joining a cohort of Black women looking to make history.

Black women’s representation has steadily increased in Congress and state legislatures, but they have still struggled to win statewide races. No Black woman has ever been elected governor, and there are no Black women serving in the U.S. Senate after Kamala Harris vacated her seat to become vice president.

That could change this year.

Beasley is one of three Black women — all Democrats — who have established themselves as early front-runners in statewide primaries , including Stacey Abrams, who is making another bid for Georgia governor, and U.S. Rep. Val Demings, who is challenging Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Five Black women are running for governor, just shy of the 2018 record of six. Between 16 and 20 Black women are currently, or considered potential, Senate candidates, which would break the record of 13 Black women Senate candidates set in 2020, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

They include Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls Danielle Allen of Massachusetts, Deidre DeJear of Iowa, and Mia McLeod of South Carolina. Conservative commentator Kathy Barnette is also vying for the GOP Senate nomination in Pennsylvania.

Abrams, Demings and Beasley are among the few already favored to win their primaries. That’s especially rare considering where they’re running, said Kelly Dittmar, the director of research at Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics.

“When we talk about where Black women have been successful in statewide contests, it has been outside of the South,” she said.

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Texas officials react to news of hostage situation in Colleyville synagogue

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Autoplay Lawmakers and officials across Texas are reacting to news of a hostage situation at a Jewish synagogue where three people are reportedly being held.

Authorities said a man apparently took hostages Saturday during services at a Texas synagogue where the suspect could be heard ranting angrily in a livestream before the feed cut out. A police vehicle on guard near synagogue in which a man has taken several hostages. (KDFW) The Colleyville Police Department tweeted Saturday afternoon that it was conducting SWAT operations at the address of Congregation Beth Israel, northeast of Fort Worth.

At least four hostages were believed to be inside the synagogue, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. The synagogue’s rabbi was believed to be among the hostages, one of the officials said. Congregation Beth Israel. (Credit: Google Maps) Reactions from Texas officials immediately began pouring in as the news broke.

"The Texas Dept. of Public Safety is on the scene of the tense hostage situation in Colleyville, Texas," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted. "They are working with local and federal teams to achieve the best and safest outcome. I continue to monitor the situation through DPS." "As a precaution, @DallasPD is deploying additional patrols to Dallas synagogues and other sites," Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson tweeted. "Police are working with the Jewish Federation and our local, state, and federal partners to monitor any concerns or threats based on the situation in Colleyville." Texas state troopers and police near Colleyville synagogue in which a man holds several hostages. (KDFW) "I am closely monitoring the Texas SWAT operation at a Dallas area synagogue today," Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted. "My office stands ready to assist the @ColleyvillePD ." "Heidi and I are praying for those at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville and for the SWAT team and all other law enforcement on the scene responding," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz posted. "My staff and I are closely monitoring the situation and are in close contact with local and national authorities."

"Sending strength to Colleyville as another Texas community is tragically targeted by a gunman," former Texas congressman and gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke tweeted. "If you’re in the area, please heed the warnings of local officials and avoid the vicinity around the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue. You can find updates in this thread." "Just briefed on the situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville by the DHS Secretary, and I will continue to monitor," Texas Sen. John Cornyn posted. "Please pray for the hostages inside and law enforcement on the scene." "Join me in praying for a safe and quick recovery of all at Congregation Beth Israel, including our law enforcement officers responding in Colleyville," Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas’ 23rd District tweeted. FBI Dallas spokeswoman Katie Chaumont said an FBI SWAT team was also at the scene and that crisis negotiators […]

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Second gentleman Emhoff acts as public link to White House

WASHINGTON (AP) — As America’s first second gentleman, Doug Emhoff has attended a U.S. naturalization ceremony in New York, dished up spaghetti and chocolate milk to kids at a YMCA near New Orleans and reminisced with second graders in Detroit about an early job at McDonald’s.

Emhoff visited 31 states over the past year, meeting with doctors, parents, community leaders and small-business owners everywhere from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Allentown, Pennsylvania. The most important part of such trips, though, may be making it home in time for dinner, when his wife, Vice President Kamala Harris , will toss out that evergreen conversation starter, “How was your day?”

“It gets me to really talk about the folks I meet,” Emhoff told The Associated Press. He added that if he’s "with the president, first lady, or a Cabinet secretary — or one of their chiefs — you really do, you really can bring specifics back and turn that into a response or action.”

After Emhoff met BB Beltran, an advocate for domestic abuse survivors, during an April visit to Oregon, she was later invited to participate in a federal roundtable on how the government can better support legal aid initiatives.

“I felt supported and validated by Mr. Emhoff,” said Beltran, executive director of Sexual Assault Support Services in Eugene, Oregon.

Emhoff, 57, sees himself as a conduit between Americans and President Joe Biden’s White House. His training as a lawyer, he says, taught him the value of “listening over talking and really trying to understand issues, understand people and understand a problem.”

It’s meant taking a role that has been largely ceremonial — the “seconds” rarely get much attention — and making it more substantive, trying to buoy the administration from a nonpolitician’s perspective.

Being a link between the administration and the public is a quietly powerful role commonly played by first ladies. Kate Andersen Brower, who has written books about presidential spouses and about the vice presidency, said that during the 1980 Iran hostage crisis, when President Jimmy Carter halted campaigning for reelection, his wife, Rosalynn, traveled the country in his place and “people would come up to her all the time and tell her about their problems.”

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Illinois governor cuts $90M check for reelection campaign

CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker is making a major move to self-finance his reelection bid ahead of an anticipated announcement next week that a new Republican candidate is about to emerge with expected support of Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin.

The Democrat’s $90 million contribution was disclosed to state campaign finance officials late Friday. Pritzker has already spent $35 million of his own money on his campaign, and he’s shelled out $11.9 million on advertising beginning last year and booked through Jan. 24, according to AdImpact.

Richard Irvin, the mayor of the Chicagoland suburb of Aurora, is expected to announce his plans to run for governor on Monday. He is a Black mayor who could get the financial backing of Griffin, a hedge-fund mogul who had backed then-Gov. Bruce Rauner’s unsuccessful reelection bid against Pritzker in 2018.

Griffin and Pritzker are bitter rivals, with Griffin recently saying in a public forum he is “all in” to defeat the Democratic governor.

A spokesperson for Pritzker’s campaign indicated the funds would also be used for Democratic candidates "up and down the ticket."

“The governor knows that the fight for reproductive freedoms, a strong fiscal future, public health, and an economy that works for everyone is on the ballot in 2022,” Natalie Edelstein said in a statement.

Both Pritzker and Griffin are among Illinois’ richest residents. Pritzker, worth an estimated $3.6 billion, according to Forbes , spent more than $171 million on his 2018 election victory. In addition to the $125 million he’s already poured into his own campaign, he gave $2 million to the state House Democrats’ campaign fund last month, and $1 million to Democrats in the state Senate.

Since Pritzker’s 2018 victory, Democrats have held "trifecta" control in Springfield, allowing the party to enact a $15 minimum wage, a state law that codifies Roe v. Wade , and guiding the state to its first credit upgrade in 20 years.