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Today’s Headlines: Biden sets the tone

After a half century as senator and vice president, Joe Biden will assume the presidency at a time of health, economic and societal crises.

After being sworn in, President Biden calls for unity and takes a series of actions to change federal policies.

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Biden Sets the Tone

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States, assuming office amid several crises after routing a predecessor who fought to stay in power, and clearing the way for a beleaguered nation to turn the page on one of the most divisive chapters in its political history.

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Before taking his oath on the Capitol’s West Front, Biden saw a historic barrier shattered as Kamala Harris, formerly a senator from California, was sworn in as the first woman, Black person and South Asian American to become vice president. Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court justice, administered Harris’ oath.

In his inaugural address, Biden tried to rally the country to meet the historic challenges of COVID-19, a struggling economy, racial tensions and political divisions that have provoked violence and death.

“To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words and requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity,” the new president said.

The Call for ‘Unity’ and More

The word “unity” appeared a dozen times in Biden’s 21-minute speech and was the topic of a proclamation for a Day of Unity that the new president signed shortly after he took the oath. His declaration that “we are the United States of America” peppered his speeches throughout the long presidential campaign.

But at the inauguration, surrounded by high fences and troops, amid unprecedented levels of security to protect against potential attack by Trump supporters, in the shadow of a Capitol still marred by a deadly riot just two weeks ago, Biden this time coupled those calls with something sterner:

“The recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies — lies told for power and profit,” he said. “Each of us has a duty and a responsibility,” he added, “to defend the truth and defeat the lies.”

The Work Begins

Within hours of taking the oath, Biden reversed some of Trump’s most controversial federal policies.

Biden issued executive orders on the environment, immigration and other issues, moving to rejoin the Paris climate agreement, rescind Trump’s order for the deportation of young immigrants known as Dreamers, reenter the World Health Organization, overhaul Trump’s restrictionist immigration policies and cancel Trump’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

But getting legislation through Congress will be harder, given the slim margins that Democrats have in both houses and an impeachment trial for Trump looming. One early test could be the U.S. Citizenship Act, which Biden sent to Capitol Hill on Inauguration Day. It offers an eight-year road map to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants in the United States without legal status.

Democratic lawmakers got notably little done on the first day of their expanded authority, securing confirmation for just a single nominee for Biden’s Cabinet, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, by a vote of 84 to 10. Not since President George H.W. Bush has a president ended the first day in office with so many unconfirmed Cabinet positions.

More From Inauguration Day

— Biden has put Jeff Zients, known to former Obama administration staffers as “Mr. Fix It,” in charge of tackling the COVID-19 crisis.

— For some Americans watching around the country, the Biden-Harris inauguration reassured: “We’re going to be OK.” On the conservative network Newsmax, it was a different story.

— L.A. poet Amanda Gorman read her work at the inauguration and drew a powerful positive reaction.

— From Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez in the morning to Bruce Springsteen and Katy Perry at night, music stars brought songs of hope.

Twitter formally handed over the @POTUS account to Biden, a transition made more significant by Trump’s ban from the platform this month. Also on Twitter: Bernie Sanders, who once again became a meme after he arrived at the inauguration in his signature utilitarian style.

For more news and analysis, sign up for our Essential Politics newsletter, sent to your inbox three days a week.

More Vaccine Rollout Worries

California’s epidemiologist said that vaccinating those 65 and older could take until June to complete, raising new concerns about when other groups will be eligible for the vaccine and underscoring the scarcity.

That timetable would push back vaccine access for people not currently on the priority list for at least four months. But the current pace could change if the federal government speeds up shipments beyond the current rate of 300,000 to 500,000 doses each week, Dr. Erica Pan said.

In addition, she said the state will resume using questioned doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine after an expert panel’s review of apparent allergic reactions found “no scientific basis” for continuing to withhold the doses.

Meanwhile, despite some promising signs that the worst wave of the COVID-19 pandemic may finally be receding, a top Los Angeles County health official warned that the situation remains precarious, with thousands more people becoming infected every day and an unsustainable number of patients requiring hospital treatment.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On Jan. 20, 1980, crowds were gathering — but for sports instead of politics.

The 1980 Super Bowl was held in L.A. The Rams faced off against the Pittsburgh Steelers. And according to The Times, it was a rowdy affair. Recent rain had closed some parking and tailgating spots and “the game outside the Rose Bowl was almost as breathtaking as the one that followed inside Sunday.” According to the story, police made 115 arrests, confiscated $5,000 worth of illegal souvenirs and collected a boxful of wallets apparently discarded by pickpockets.

The Steelers won 31-19.

Football fans party in and around an open-top car
Jan. 20, 1980: Fans of the Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers trade cheers and beers outside the Rose Bowl before Super Bowl XIV.
(Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— With his mother’s Bible in hand and his political mentor at his side, Alex Padilla became the first Latino to represent California in the U.S. Senate.

— Days after tweeting a false claim about this month’s mob storming of the U.S. Capitol, state Sen. Shannon Grove of Bakersfield was replaced as the leader of the California Senate Republicans after having served in the position for two years.

— Nearly 700 dockworkers at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have contracted COVID-19 and hundreds more are taking virus-related leaves. Officials are pleading for vaccine priority for workers before a severe slowdown can take told.

— One by one, the California blows against the SAT and ACT kept coming. And when the College Board announced Tuesday that it was scrapping the SAT subject tests and optional essays, testing experts nationwide pointed to California as a prime accelerator.

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NATION-WORLD

— Rejecting Biden’s message of unity, Portland’s self-described anarchists targeted a Democratic Party building, shattering windows.

— Some asylum seekers who have been stuck in Mexico hope Biden will let them enter the U.S.

— Increasing COVID-19 cases are crushing Mexico City’s food scene and the once-flourishing culinary energy that has built communities and drawn tourists.

— A former L.A. resident is being deported from Bali over her viral tweets that celebrated the Indonesian resort island as a low-cost, LGBTQ-friendly place for foreigners to live.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Fox News spread Trump’s lies and helped radicalize Americans. Now, as the channel’s ratings slip, it can’t escape the monster it created, writes critic Lorraine Ali.

— Disney’s “High School Musical” is celebrating its 15th birthday this week. Here’s a Times ranking of the movie’s musical numbers.

— New York had actor-comedian Cole Escola down and out. Now they’re part of comedy’s queer new wave.

Movie sets are more than a place to tell a story. Sometimes, they can even be the hero of the story, and production designers go to great lengths to get them right.

BUSINESS

— The real estate investment trust that operates the Queen Mary in Long Beach and owns 26 other hotels filed for bankruptcy protection this week, signaling what could be the start of a wave of bankruptcies in the hospitality industry.

— Politics and business don’t always mix. As My Pillow sales decline and retailers drop the product line sold by Trump ally Mike Lindell, it’s become a case study in what happens to businesses when their CEOs become extremists, writes columnist Michael Hiltzik.

SPORTS

— Former Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is retiring from the NFL after 16 years with the team and one with the Indianapolis Colts. He will fulfill his dream of coaching high school football.

— The COVID-19 pandemic has changed almost all aspects of UCLA’s gymnastics season. But the team is determined to ‘celebrate every moment.’

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OPINION

— There is pride in seeing Kamala Harris taking the reins of government, a breakthrough so desperately needed in a country that has worked tirelessly to break Black women, writes columnist LZ Granderson.

— Even as a new administration begins, the idea that American democracy is indestructible has come crashing down, writes columnist Robin Abcarian.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— The story behind a photo, taken at Beau Biden’s grave as his father was being inaugurated, that is going viral. (Delaware Online)

— Among Trump’s final pardons: an art dealer convicted of running a gambling ring out of Trump Tower. (Artnet)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

A bronze bust of Cesar Chavez has found a new home. The work by artist Paul A. Suarez had been on display at the Visitor Center of the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in Keene, Calif., in the Tehachapi Mountains of Kern County. Now the bronze of the civil rights leader has a somewhat more prominent position: behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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