U.S. President Joe Biden’s first weeks in office foreshadow what his priorities will be, and where he will stand on the pandemic, the economy, immigration, foreign policy and other pressing issues, experts said.
“His goal is to reverse his predecessor’s policies and move the country in a very different direction,” Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.
Biden has signed several orders including improving supply chains for the pandemic, and expanding treatment for COVID-19. Most importantly, he has tweaked former President Donald Trump’s vaccine distribution plan by providing better coordination.
The former administration’s vaccine distribution plan was blasted as leaving it up to county and city administrators, who have zero experience with vaccine distribution plans, especially not one of this magnitude.
The spread of more infectious variants of the coronavirus has increased concern over a new surge across the country and heightened the urgency of vaccination. Experts noted that the first three months of Biden’s presidency will be dominated by the effort to jab 100 million people in 100 days.
Biden has also signed an executive order that urged Americans to wear masks, and made it a requirement on federal property.
Billed the “100-day masking challenge,” the order requires people to wear masks and practice social distancing in federal buildings and on all federal land, as well as on airplanes and trains. Increasing mask-wearing across the United States by just 10 percent would significantly curb the transmission of the coronavirus, according to a study published on Jan. 19 in The Lancet Digital Health.
Biden will have to deal with an economy that has been ravaged by lockdowns amid the pandemic, and his first major economic challenge is to pass a massive relief bill.
Biden has unveiled a 1.9-trillion-U.S.-dollar COVID-19 relief proposal, which has drawn opposition from congressional Republicans. White House economic adviser Brian Deese has urged Congress to approve the bill, warning that the nation could otherwise fall into a “very serious economic hole.”
But some experts blasted the bill. Desmond Lachman, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said the stimulus “threatens to keep the U.S. budget very high and the public debt rising for a long time,” noting that it would come on top of a few trillion U.S. dollars worth of previous stimulus funds. Biden is also taking flak for an executive order that blocks the Keystone XL Pipeline. Republicans are blasting the president for making a move they said will kill jobs amid the worst recession in decades.
Biden is re-joining a number of global organizations, out of which his predecessor had withdrawn. Those include the World Health Organization and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
He has also had phone calls with half a dozen allies. While critics said Trump’s America First policy isolated the United States from allies and global organizations, Biden wants to strengthen those ties. Biden was part of the administration that inked the Iran nuclear deal, which the Trump administration later scrapped. Experts said the current president is likely to return to the agreement.
However, the administration may not simply snap back to the deal, which fell short of addressing issues including terrorism, missiles and militias, experts said.
“Biden has done the predictable things, almost all of them good in my mind,” Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon told Xinhua. “But the hardest tasks clearly still remain – starting with building a new strategy towards China,” O’Hanlon said.
Biden has issued six executive orders on immigration in his first ten days of office. Those include counting unauthorized immigrants in the Census, which determines the number of representatives each state has in Congress; ending travel bans from certain countries; and ordering a pause on the construction of Trump’s southern border wall.
Jessica Bolter, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, told Xinhua that Biden is “taking a very active approach to immigration. He is not wasting any time ending some of the most well-known policies of President Trump’s administration.”
“Biden has set out an incredibly ambitious framework for an immigration bill,” Bolter said. The framework includes a program to legalize the vast majority of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States, the scholar noted. “This would be a broader legalization than the United States has ever seen before,” Bolter said.
2 million cases of female genital mutilation may occur over next decade due to COVID-19 – UN
UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) — Two million additional cases of female genital mutilation may occur over the next decade as COVID-19 shutters schools and disrupts programs that help protect girls from this harmful practice, two senior UN officials warned on Friday.
“We must act now to stop this from happening,” said UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Henrietta Fore and UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Natalia Kanem in a joint statement for the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, which falls on Feb. 6.
Even before COVID-19 upended progress, the Sustainable Development Goals target of ending female genital mutilation by 2030 was an ambitious commitment, they said.
Ending female genital mutilation requires collaboration among a wide group of stakeholders and funding. “We must fund our efforts at a level equal to our commitment. Even in countries where female genital mutilation is already declining, progress needs to increase ten-fold to meet the global target of elimination by 2030,” they said.
This will require some 2.4 billion U.S. dollars over the next decade, which breaks down to less than 100 dollars per girl. This is a very small price to pay for preserving a girl’s bodily integrity, her health and her right to say No to violation.
However, most of this money has yet to be raised, said the two female leaders.
They also stressed the importance of girls’ access to education, health care and livelihoods, and their protection by laws, policies and new social norms.
The elimination of female genital mutilation and gender equality are interdependent, mutually reinforcing goals.
Simply put, if gender equality were a reality, there would be no female genital mutilation, they said. “We know what works. We tolerate no excuses. We have had enough of violence against women and girls. It is time to unite around proven strategies, fund them adequately and act.”