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Book train tickets early to avoid Christmas chaos, rail passengers warned

Rail passengers hoping to visit loved-ones over Christmas are being urged to book “as early as possible” to avoid travel chaos.

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'Fortnite' Update 15.21 Adds Predator Boss, Skin and Quests—Patch Notes
"Fortnite" update 15.21 arrived Tuesday morning to signal the debut of the Predator alongside a few other minor changes. Read all about it in the patch notes.
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Joe Biden to be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States
Joe Biden swears the oath of office at noon Wednesday, taking the helm of a deeply divided nation and inheriting a confluence of crises.
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Trump issues late-night pardons on eve of inauguration
President-elect Joe Biden arrived in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday ahead of his inauguration.
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Donald Trump's Pardon List Leaves Off Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Reality Winner
Trump granted clemency to dozens of people in the final hours of his presidency.
Trump pardons Steve Bannon, dozens of others
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'Ready to get to work': Biden to call for unity during inauguration as nation's 46th president
Biden enters the White House after winning more than 81 million votes and as Democrats take control of the Senate and retain their House majority.
Juan Williams: Joe Biden becomes world's most powerful leader – here are his 3 top challenges
If you're worried about watching the inauguration with your kids, you're not alone
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Biden Says He Wants To Unite America. He Might Find Unity Hard To Come By
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Live Updates: Washington Greets an Inauguration Day Like No Other
Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President on Wednesday, January 20. Inauguration Day is always a momentous occasion in the United States, but this year the tension in the country and the challenges facing the new administration have put an unprecedented spotlight on the day. The transition of power has not been…
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Biden Can Go Big. Here’s How.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt became president in 1932, the nation was facing concentric crises: the immediate, house-on-fire disaster of rolling bank closures; the broader economic depression; and, beyond that, deeply entrenched problems that the depression had highlighted, including elderly poverty. Roosevelt’s first 100 days addressed the first two crises with historic directness. He reopened the banks and directly employed thousands of Americans through measures such as the Civilian Conservation Corps. Then, near the end of his first term, he signed the Social Security Act, which has reduced senior poverty and become one of the most popular federal programs in the United States.President Joe Biden also faces concentric crises, which move outward toward the future as you unpeel them: the biological threat of the pandemic, the economic recession, and, beyond that, the entrenched problem of child poverty. He also has to contend with the problem casting a shadow over the whole century, the existential crisis of climate change.[Franklin Foer: Winning was the easy part]Biden’s first 100 days should address the first two crises with Rooseveltian focus. Quench the conflagration of the moment—then fight the fire of the future. With unified control of government, Biden and the Democrats can accelerate the end of a pandemic, lay the groundwork for the strongest economic growth in decades, eliminate child poverty, and put America on a path toward becoming a world leader in climate-change mitigation technology.But to accomplish any of this, Biden will have to cast off some shibboleths of the previous Democratic regime in which he served as vice president.Instead of seeking to change Americans’ behavior with subtle technocratic nudges, as Barack Obama’s team did, Biden should aim to make his signature policies as stupidly straightforward as possible. Instead of threading the needle of deficit neutrality, as his predecessor did, he should make a strong case to blow out the budget immediately to fill the hole left by the pandemic recession. Where the Obama administration’s approach was too often clever and strewn with budgetary wonkiness, the Biden formula should embrace the opposite: big, fast, and simple.In 2009, President Barack Obama and the Democrats seized unified control of government during another deep recession. They fought the downturn with a then-record stimulus in the first few months, before producing the Affordable Care Act, which was signed in 2010. The stimulus and Obamacare were good laws with important flaws. Biden should learn from both.The Obama stimulus was too small and too subtle. It was too small because the Republican opposition was intransigent, and the Democratic coalition was uncomfortable with the multitrillion-dollar deficits necessary to close the GDP gap. And it was too subtle because Obama’s team, including the regulatory czar Cass Sunstein, was transfixed by the emerging science of “nudges,” or sneaky policies to encourage Americans to make efficient decisions. For example, the tax centerpiece of the 2009 stimulus bill got money to families by modestly reducing payroll tax withholding. The nudgey idea was that if Americans got lump-sum checks from the government, they might save the money. But if they looked at their bank account and went, Huh, that’s more than I expected!, they might spend it immediately. Unfortunately, the tax cut was so sneaky that many people didn’t even know about the policy, let alone give Obama credit for it.The Affordable Care Act had the same issues of size and subtlety, as Slate’s Jordan Weissmann has argued. It was too small because, once again, members of the Democratic coalition, such as Senator Joe Lieberman, refused to support its most ambitious parts, such as a public option. The historic act failed to make itself immediately felt, because its most important components were delayed to reduce the 10-year budgetary impact. Medicaid expansion, for instance, didn’t begin until several years after Obama signed the law.Biden can rectify these errors by putting heft, speed, and simplicity at the heart of his agenda. And perhaps he will. According to reports from The New York Times and The Washington Post, Biden’s first rescue bill, with nearly $2 trillion in spending, will include hundreds of billions of dollars for vaccines and testing, unemployment benefits, and state and local aid. For inspiration on COVID-19 policy, Biden can look to Israel, which went big on early vaccine purchases, went fast and furious with distribution—converting parks, schools, and parking lots into vaccination megacenters—and used simple criteria for its first tranche of shots: health-care workers and seniors.The centerpiece of the U.S. rescue will be direct payments worth $2,000 to individuals. (That figure technically includes the $600 already sent to millions of households.) Direct payments are the opposite of the sly paternalism preferred by Obama officials in the 2009 stimulus. Americans are not going to see two grand appear in a bank account and go, Huh, I can’t put my finger on it, but I’m feeling subconsciously nudged to buy more socks. They’re going to feel very consciously, very fist-pumpingly elated. Checks are the confetti cannon of the economic-stimulus arsenal—not maximally efficient, just maximally awesome.Awesomeness matters. One lesson from the Obama years is that smart policy making isn’t just about doing brainy stuff; it’s about doing good and popular stuff in a way that keeps you in power so you can do more good stuff. The Democrats’ failure to properly stimulate the economy in 2010—or get credit for their very real contributions—led to catastrophic midterm losses in the House that made it impossible for them to accomplish much of anything in Obama’s last six years in office. For non-mysterious reasons, polls show extraordinary support for giving $2,000 to every American household as a kind of stimulus-qua-consolation gift for making it through the year from hell (one study indicated that seven in 10 Republicans support the direct payments). With stimulus checks, Biden could endear himself to the persuadable middle of the U.S. electorate, which might enjoy liking an American president, for once.Speeding up vaccine distribution and getting families ready to spend when the economy opens up should be Biden’s first priorities. The combination of an unlocked retail and leisure sector plus high national savings should lead to a record-breaking economic boom in the second half of 2021.Biden’s next focus should be kids. His current relief bill already calls for expanding the child tax credit. But reducing child poverty should be more than a line item.[Read: The next phase of vaccination will be even harder]The U.S. has a shameful record when it comes to the poverty and inequality of its youngest. America’s child-poverty rate isn’t just higher than that of similarly rich countries, such as Canada and Australia; it’s also higher than that of Mexico and Russia. America’s problem is twofold. First, the U.S. spends less than half as much as the United Kingdom or Denmark on infants and children. Second, too much U.S. welfare spending on children doesn’t reach families in poverty, in part because the government funnels most of that spending through the federal income tax code (which does little for families who have no taxable income).Biden’s rescue bill includes an expansion of the child tax credit. That’s a good start. But tax credits are an inefficient tool for fighting child poverty. More than one in five households with kids don't claim the CTC, according to the Treasury Department. That could be because they don’t know it exists, or because they make a mistake filing their return.If Biden wants to make a real difference, he should support replacing the child tax credit with a universal child allowance. That means the Social Security Administration would just cut a monthly check for every kid under 18, no questions asked. Matt Bruenig, a welfare researcher and the founder of the left-wing think tank the People’s Policy Project, has calculated that a universal child allowance of $370 a month would slash child poverty by about two-thirds.A universal child allowance would get money into families’ hands immediately. And the political payoff is obvious. Beyond drawing a sharp contrast with the previous president—“Trump trapped kids in cages; we freed kids from poverty”—this legislation would have a useful FDR echo. The Social Security Act took on high elderly poverty; almost 90 years later, we could retrofit the same institution to take on the American shame of high childhood poverty.Only then should Biden turn to this century’s most important issue: climate change. Just as it would have been politically bizarre for Roosevelt to focus on long-term elderly poverty while the banks were closed, Biden shouldn’t spend a lot of time talking about carbon emissions while a pandemic is killing thousands of people a day. But in the second inning of his presidency, it would make sense for Biden to back a green new deal that’s about handouts over hand slaps. Rather than try to kneecap America’s oil and gas industries, Biden should pledge a subsidy-palooza that helps bring down the price of every technology in the clean-energy portfolio: hundreds of billions in guaranteed federal purchases of clean-energy tech, such as batteries and electric cars; more subsidies for solar and wind energy; and more R&D spending on clean energy and carbon removal. Forget the joke that was “Infrastructure Week.” Biden’s green-energy bill could kick off an Infrastructure Decade.[Franklin Foer: Joe Biden has changed]To pass an ambitious agenda, and keep voters on his side, Biden will have to keep things straightforward and easy to communicate. Fortunately, this seems to be his instinct. During the Democratic primary, Obama-administration expats recalled that, as vice president, Biden had a reputation for interrupting nitty-gritty policy discussions with touchy-feely stem-winders. As president-elect, he’s still shushing aides when they start on the technocratic gobbledygook. “Pick up your phone, call your mother, read her what you just told me,” he tells them. “If she understands, we can keep talking.”This avoidance of technicalities may one day reveal itself to be a weakness in drafting legislation. But for the moment, it’s a great strength. Biden should aim to inject into his public policy the same qualities that distinguish his preternatural gift for emotional storytelling. Perhaps that might serve as the one-line summary of Biden’s edit on the Obama style of governance: Once more, with feeling.
Biden inauguration live updates: Harris to make history at an inaugural ceremony like no other
Joe Biden and Kamala D. Harris will be sworn in at noon during an inauguration unlike any other. Watch a live stream of the ceremony and follow along for the latest news.
Challenging reductive stereotypes of rural Appalachian life -- in photos
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Challenging reductive stereotypes of rural Appalachian life -- in photos
In the coal-mining towns of southeastern Ohio, nestled in the Appalachian mountains, photographer Rich-Joseph Facun has worked on a visual study of a region that has been stereotyped for decades. Appalachia has often been viewed one-dimensionally, saddled in associations related to poverty and opioid use, and deemed "Trump Country" during the 2016 election.
Joe Biden's proposed stimulus checks are a lousy way to fix the economy
The most expensive part of Joe Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion economic recovery plan is to send an additional $1,400 to most Americans. According to many economists, it's also likely to be the least effective way to help revive the economy.
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The abandoned Soviet nuclear missile base hidden in a Polish forest
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Joe Biden presidential inauguration in photos
The 2021 Presidential Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2021.
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The abandoned Soviet nuclear missile base hidden in a Polish forest
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The rapper is serving a four-year sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to possession of multiple illegal firearms in November 2019.
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America Desperately Needs a New Age of Moral Leadership
The incumbent president, Donald Trump, rages, reads words that he doesn’t believe from a teleprompter, and rages again. The president-elect, Joe Biden, calls on Americans to rise above “the flames of hate and chaos” and bring back democracy, decency, and the rule of law to their wounded land. This is the presidential voice Biden has been preparing since he began his campaign to “restore the soul of America” in the spring of 2019. He speaks of commitment and covenant, of dreams and suffering, of sacrifice and love. He is working to build a presidency that not only embodies his own capacity for empathy but assumes a voice of moral leadership in a wrenching and disjointed time. The cadences are familiar. This is the way most American presidents have sounded since the beginning of the 20th century.The question is, in this time of anger and division, will anyone listen? Despite the foreboding in the air, the answer is yes. Presidential moral leadership is most, not least, effective in moments of crisis. Acute crises give presidents the space and urgency they need to be heard. Sustained leadership can follow when presidents lean into long-term crises already coursing beneath the surface of day-to-day events. Even in this fractured country, Biden has a real chance of becoming what he hopes to be: a president whose voice lifts and redirects the nation. But he must seize the moment now, and use the moral power it gives him.[Franklin Foer: Winning was the easy part]Trump hated the sermonic style of presidential speaking—the “hopey-changey stuff” that Sarah Palin once pilloried so savagely. He chafed at confinement to a speechwriter’s scripted phrases just as he disdained complete sentences that stick to one topic from beginning to end. He was a listless speaker outside the setting of a crowd, where, swelled up with the energy it gave him, he pinballed from one call-and-response to another. He cheered and insulted. He bragged and complained, and, as we know all too well, he even veered into full-blown insurrectionary speech. He didn’t care that his enemies called him a liar or that they recoiled from his violation of the norms of presidential speech. And Trump’s partisans responded with relief and adulation. In him, they heard a president who was not trying to remake their souls but attempting to give a megaphone to their grievances: a president speaking an angry, prideful language that they knew from everyday experience.The blend of sermon and political speech that Trump has been eager to demolish was not set at the nation’s beginning. Presidents did not often speak in public before the 20th century, and when they did, their language was formal and lawyerly, not soaring and inspirational. Fearful of the potential for demagoguery in the presidency, the Constitution’s writers had wanted just this sort of rhetorical modesty. Andrew Jackson, who helped steamroller a new, much more emotional popular politics into being among white male American voters, ended his first inaugural address by confessing his inadequacy for the position to which he had been chosen. Addressing a nation still suffering from the aftershocks of a major economic depression, William McKinley began his inaugural address in 1897 by dryly advising that the financial system needed “some revision.” The exception to this restrained form was Abraham Lincoln. But his language of elevated moral appeal often clashed with his listeners’ expectations. Lincoln’s second inaugural address is a striking example. Revered for its eloquence now, it seemed to many at the time too cryptic and too remote from the immediate questions of the moment to be adequate to the occasion.The birth of the modern presidency as a platform for moral preaching began with Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt filled his presidential speeches with talk of purpose and “perils,” “duties” to ourselves and others, “justice and generosity,” “courage” and “endurance,” “lofty ideals,” and the strength of “character” that a free people needed. He spoke not as a lawyer might, but as if he were talking straight to the heart of the American nation. From that font his successors drew the phrases and tone that became the voice of the modern presidency. Presidents surveyed a world of challenges; they marshaled the moral energies of the people; they prodded and encouraged; they asked Americans to look beyond themselves and their petty divisions. Woodrow Wilson used the power of the new rhetorical presidency to fuel a crusade to save democracy in Europe. Franklin D. Roosevelt turned to the same tropes first to address the economic crisis of the 1930s and then to mobilize support for the Second World War. John F. Kennedy seized the presidential megaphone to rally the nation to a more intense commitment to the Cold War. George W. Bush forged his 9/11 response in the same terms.It is easy to imagine that that era of the sermonizing presidency is now exhausted. Biden will take office confronted by a larger core of irreconcilable voters than has contested any presidential election since secession. Partisanship rides extremely high. Anger-filled conspiracy thinking flourishes on the internet. More broadly, a deep libertarian streak has intensified enormously on both the left and the right since Biden’s political career began in the early 1970s. That heightened stress on self and choice cannot but complicate Biden’s hope to strengthen the instruments of government through which Americans look out for the good of one another.[Peter Wehner: Biden may be just the person America neds]Finally, the media contexts within which presidents must now work have changed dramatically as well. Theodore Roosevelt took office in the midst of extraordinary expansion and consolidation of the nation’s newspaper industry, and he took brilliant advantage of the press to amplify his words and actions. The still-novel powers of radio put Franklin D. Roosevelt’s voice into households across the country, just as television did for Kennedy’s. Biden’s voice will have a much more difficult time penetrating through today’s decentered and intensely politicized media environment. Under these circumstances, imagining that the right words might reach the “soul” of the nation may be wholly illusory.But even in eras of intense political division and media partisanship, use of the presidential pulpit has at times succeeded. Franklin D. Roosevelt was as polarizing a figure as any in the 20th century when he came into office in 1933. The 40 percent of the population that had voted against him was unforgiving, many to the very end. But Roosevelt’s words managed to touch the hearts of the Depression masses, helping preclude the slide into despair that many feared was imminent. Kennedy came through a squeaker of an election—filled with smears and charges that no Catholic could be trusted to be a loyal American—to become the voice for a new, postwar generation. Wilson led a starkly divided nation into the moral crusade of engagement in the Great War.In all these cases, what gave the presidents’ words their power was crisis and context. In normal times, citizens’ souls don’t ask for preaching. Moral leadership succeeds when existing institutions, shaken by crisis, no longer seem adequate to their task. The shock arrival of new forms of monopoly capitalism gave Theodore Roosevelt his pulpit. The global economic collapse of the 1930s passed that opportunity on to FDR. The Cold War opened the occasion for the young, barely known Kennedy. The eruptive force of Black Americans’ freedom demands helped Lyndon B. Johnson move from a consummate political dealmaker to a public champion of a still wider “war” on poverty and economic injustice. The financial meltdown of 2008 gave wings to the words of the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.Crises change the conditions of receptivity. They open a hole that Biden hopes his appeal to the soul of America will fill. At least for a time. Because the counterintuitive dynamic in the relationship between crisis and public receptivity is that the most acute crises do not always produce the most enduring periods of presidential persuasiveness. Short-term crises can temporarily rearrange the political landscape. The nation rallies to the emergency that a president’s words enunciate. Its citizens forego their immediate interests and preexisting divisions, and throw themselves into volunteer service and patriotic sentiments. But then the occasion passes, and the words the president still enunciates, urging sacrifice, compassion, and public-spiritedness, are left to blow idly in the wind.The inability of the Obama administration to sustain the power of its moral force after the fiscal crisis of 2008–09 is a vivid example. Its response to the economic meltdown was far from perfect, as critics from every camp quickly insisted, but for the short-term purposes of averting a new Great Depression, it worked. Obama’s own eloquence didn’t falter after 2009. But he could not successfully transfer his persuasive powers to an expert-driven health-insurance proposal that was not widely enough perceived to answer a national crisis. By the time Obama found the words to articulate health security as part of a broader ethical crusade, his exceptionally high favorability ratings in public-opinion polls had evaporated.[Read: Here comes Obama]The collapse of George W. Bush’s assertion of moral leadership was even starker. No previous modern president had polled higher than Bush did in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. His ratings were still exceptionally high at the beginning of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. And then they cratered. There were no weapons of mass destruction to be found. But more important, no national consensus supporting the country’s long-term role in the Middle East existed to give a foundation to Bush’s presidential preaching. A massive response to a short-term crisis had been engineered and applauded. But the opportunity that crisis created was over, leaving Americans to wonder why they were trying to police the Middle East in the first place.Presidential moral leadership has been more lasting when it has intervened in profound crises that already left the country deeply unsettled. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency was not a response to the stock-market crash of 1929, though textbook history still paints it that way. It was a response to three inconclusive, anxiety-filled years of debate and turmoil over how to restore jobs and stability to a nation whose economic house had fallen in on it. A similar intervention into a long-term crisis propelled Kennedy’s inaugural words into the public consciousness in 1961. There was nothing new in Kennedy’s announcement that the nation was ready to bear any burden in the cause of global freedom—nothing except the way his words took energy from long-standing anxieties about the ability of Americans to rise above absorption in their new consumer culture and meet the Cold War’s challenges. Lyndon B. Johnson’s embrace of Black Americans’ freedom struggle in the spring of 1965 did not simply put the moral force of the presidency behind a short-term crisis. What gave Johnson’s words their power was the moral clarity of their intervention into a massive, long-standing, and broadly recognized wound in the nation’s democracy and its reputation in the world.The lesson for Biden in these examples is that he must think big if he wants to speak to the souls of Americans. Following Trump’s intensely polarizing presidency and final insurrectionary calamity, Biden’s message of decency, truth, constitutional integrity, and care for one another is more imperative than ever. And it will go far. Biden has the public character to make that message stick even against the fusillade of attacks that have already been launched against the very legitimacy of his election. But in the long term, Biden’s message of calm and decency will not suffice. He needs to hitch his bid for moral leadership to a crisis still bigger than the Trump disaster, bigger than the COVID-19 emergency, bigger than expertise or bipartisanship.Many hope that Biden will focus his presidency’s long-term rhetorical power on the scandal of persistent structural racism, laid bare more vividly than ever before by last week’s eruption of the angry white-power politics that runs beneath so much of Trumpism. Others hope that he will bring it to bear on the catastrophe of accelerating climate change. The structural crises of contemporary American democracy—undisguised voter suppression, blatant gerrymandering, an unrepresentative Electoral College system, and an unchecked avalanche of lies in political advertising and on social media—cry out for reform.Biden needs to commit his presidency strongly to all of these issues. But the long-term crisis that is most broadly and most acutely felt in households on both sides of the political divide is the ever-growing gap between those at the top of the American scale of income and privilege, and all the rest. Here, the sense of a festering wound is already widely shared, waiting for a president to articulate its moral costs as well as its economic ones. The median household income has barely risen in real terms since the 1980s. Most Americans are no longer confident that the next generation will do better than they have themselves. They worry about their own foothold in the 21st-century economy, where corporate restructuring has made downward mobility an everyday fact of life, even as the aggregate GDP level soars and stock-market wealth booms. These were among the acutely felt grievances to which Trump opened his megaphone; they fueled the energies of Bernie Sanders’ supporters. Where masses of Americans feel left behind by the economy and alienated from politics, every aspect of a racially just and democratic society is at risk.[Adam Serwer: The crisis of American democracy isn’t over yet]Biden’s measures to address the long-term crisis of constrained and unequal opportunity will be far more incremental than progressives might wish, given Biden’s political temperament and the limited possibilities that his narrow majority in Congress will afford him. His words must be bigger than his actions. He must convince Americans that he sees the stagnation of the life chances for too many Americans with a moral intensity that is deeper and truer than that of the failed president he defeated. If he wants to speak to the souls of Americans, he must bring the full resources of the rhetorical presidency to bear on the crisis of unequal opportunity. For a nation to respond to the words of a presidential preacher, the subject must be as broadly and deeply felt as the rhetoric’s moral intensity demands.
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