President Joe Biden has ordered intelligence officials to “redouble” efforts to investigate the origins of Covid-19, including the theory that it came from a laboratory in China.
The president said the US intelligence community was split on whether it came from a lab accident or emerged from human contact with an infected animal.
He asked the groups to report back to him within 90 days.
China has rejected the laboratory theory.
“Smear campaigns and blame shifting are making a comeback, and the conspiracy theory of ‘lab leak’ is resurfacing,” its embassy in the US said in a statement on May 27.
Since it was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, more than 168 million cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed worldwide and at least 3.5 million deaths reported.
Authorities linked early Covid cases to a seafood market in Wuhan, leading scientists to theorize the virus first passed to humans from animals.
However, recent media reports have suggested growing evidence the virus could instead have emerged from a laboratory in China, perhaps through an accidental leak.
In a statement on May 26, President Biden said he had asked for a report on the origins of Covid-19 after taking office, “including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident”.
On receiving it this month, he asked for “additional follow-up”.
President Biden said the majority of the intelligence community had “coalesced” around those two scenarios, but “do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other”.
He has now asked agencies to “redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion”.
President Biden concluded by saying the US would “keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation”.
Beijing has previously suggested Covid-19 could have come from a US laboratory instead.
In its statement, the Chinese embassy said it supported a full investigation into “some secretive bases and biological laboratories all over the world”.
On May 27, on spokesman for China’s foreign ministry hit out at the “dark history” of the US intelligence community, and said the Biden administration’s “motive and purposes” were clear.
President Biden’s statement came as CNN reported that the president’s administration this spring shut down a state department investigation into whether the virus could have leaked from a Wuhan lab, deeming the probe an ineffective use of resources.
Speculation about the Wuhan Institute of Virology – one of China’s top virus research labs – began in 2020 and was propagated by President Donald Trump.
In April 2020, State Department cables came to light that showed embassy officials were worried about biosecurity at the lab.
The leak allegations were widely dismissed as a fringe conspiracy theory.
Earlier this year, the WHO issued a report written jointly with Chinese scientists on the origins of Covid-19 which said the chances of it having started in a lab were “extremely unlikely”.
The WHO report said the virus had probably jumped from bats to humans via another intermediary animal, but more research was needed.
However, questions have persisted and recent reports attributed to US intelligence sources say three members of the Wuhan Institute of Virology were admitted to hospital in November 2019, several weeks before China acknowledged the first case of the new disease in the community.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, has maintained he believes the virus was passed from animals to humans, though he conceded this month he was no longer confident Covid-19 had developed naturally.
President Biden’s statement came the day after Xavier Becerra, US secretary for health and human services, urged the WHO to ensure a “transparent” investigation into the virus’s origins.
President Joe Biden has called for trillions in spending aimed at re-igniting America’s economic growth by upgrading its crumbling infrastructure and tackling climate change.
The $2.3 trillion proposal would direct billions to initiatives such as charging stations for electric vehicles and eliminating lead water pipes.
The spending would be partially offset by raising taxes on businesses.
Those plans have already roused fierce opposition.
Republicans have called the rises “a recipe for stagnation and decline”, while powerful business lobby groups including the Business Roundtable and Chamber of Commerce said they supported investments but would oppose tax increases.
The pushback is a sign of the tough fight ahead for the plan, which needs approval from Congress.
The White House has promoted its proposal as the most ambitious public spending in decades, saying the investments are necessary to keep the US economy growing and competitive with other countries, especially China.
In a speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on March 31, President Biden said: “This is not a plan that tinkers around the edges.
“It’s a once in a generation investment in America.”
The plan calls for investing more than $600 billion in infrastructure, including modernizing roads, replacing rail cars and buses and repairing crumbling bridges.
Billions more would be devoted to initiatives like improving veterans hospitals, upgrading affordable housing, expanding high-speed broadband, and providing incentives for manufacturing and technology research.
It calls for money to be directed to rural communities and communities of color, including establishing a national climate-focused laboratory affiliated with an historically black university.
The spending, which would have to be approved by Congress, would roll out over eight years.
The White House said tax increases would offset the cost over 15 years.
President Biden called for raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, a move that would partially undo cuts the US passed in 2017. He also proposed raising the minimum rate charged for overseas profits.
In his speech, in an acknowledgment such plans are likely to face, the president said he was also “open to other ideas” when it came to paying for the spending.
“Failing to make these investments adds to our debt and effectively puts our children at a disadvantage relative to our competitors,” he said.
“The divisions of the moment shouldn’t stop us from doing the right thing for the future.”
President Biden’s proposal – which closely resembles promises he made during last year’s election campaign – comes just weeks after Democrats muscled through $1.9 trillion more in aid to address the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic, approving that package without Republican support.
It’s not clear yet how much of President Biden’s latest plan will make it through Congress – or how much of another spending package focused on areas such as childcare and education that he plans to unveil in coming weeks.
An emergency declaration allows US presidents to circumvent the usual political process and to access military funding.
Various types of fencing totaling 654 miles were already in place before Donald Trump became president in 2017.
During his time in office, 80 miles of new barriers were built where there were none before, and almost 400 miles replaced existing parts of the structure.
Former Trump campaign advisor Jason Miller took to Twitter to comment on the decision, writing “Biden loves illegal immigration”.
However, some parts of the Trump administration’s immigration policy will be left in place.
At a press conference on February 10, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki appeared to confirm the new administration would keep a Trump-era policy that allowed border officials to summarily expel undocumented immigrants amid the coronavirus pandemic.
She said: “Due to the pandemic and the fact that we have not had the time, as an administration, to put in place a humane, comprehensive process for processing individuals who are coming to the border.
“Now is not the time to come, and the vast majority of people will be turned away.”
President Joe Biden will sign 10 executive orders to boost the fight against Covid-19 which has ravaged the United States.
Vaccination will be accelerated and testing increased. Emergency legislation will be used to increase production of essentials like masks.
In a break with former President Donald Trump, the policy stresses a national strategy rather than relying on states to decide what is best.
The moves come a day after Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president.
The Trump administration was widely accused of failing to get to grips with the pandemic.
According to Johns Hopkins University, the US is the worst-hit country with more than 406,000 lives lost to Covid-19. Nearly 24.5 million have been infected.
In his inauguration speech, Joe Biden warned that the coronavirus pandemic in the US was entering its “deadliest period”.
The president’s Covid-19 task force co-ordinator, Jeff Zients, told reporters that under President Trump there was no strategy at federal level and a comprehensive approach was lacking.
He said: “As President Biden steps into office today, that all changes.”
The Biden administration unveiled a seven-point plan which included efforts to facilitate effective distribution of vaccines and reliable access to testing.
On top of the already announced rules on wearing masks and social distancing on all federal government property, face coverings will become mandatory on many planes and trains.
Jeff Zients said: “What we’re inheriting is so much worse than we could have imagined.”
In a further break with the previous administration, Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, said the US would join the Covax scheme designed to deliver Covid vaccines to poor countries.
Speaking by video call to the WHO in Geneva, Dr. Anthony Fauci also stressed that the US would continue to provide funding for the WHO, in line with President Biden’s move to reverse Donald Trump’s decision to leave.
According to recent reports, President-elect Joe Biden will issue decrees to reverse President Donald Trump’s travel bans and re-join the Paris climate accord on his first day.
Joe Biden is also expected to focus on reuniting families separated at the US-Mexico border, and to issue mandates on Covid-19 and mask-wearing.
He will be inaugurated on January 20.
All 50 states are on high alert for possible violence in the run-up to the inauguration ceremony, with National Guard troops deployed in their thousands to guard Washington DC.
According to a memo seen by media, in the hours after Joe Biden sets foot in the White House, he will embark on a blitz of executive actions designed to signal a clean break from his predecessor’s administration.
Among the orders planned soon after taking office are:
Returning to the Paris climate change agreement- the global pact on cutting carbon emissions
Repealing the controversial travel ban on mostly Muslim-majority countries
Mandating the wearing of masks on federal property and when travelling interstate
An extension to nationwide restrictions on evictions and foreclosures due to the pandemic
The executive orders are just one part of his ambitious plan for his first 10 days in office, according the memo.
Joe Biden is also expected to send a major new immigration bill to Congress, as well as focusing on passing a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan to help the country’s economy recover from coronavirus.
The president-elect has also said his administration will aim to deliver 100 million Covid-19 jabs in his first 100 days in office – describing the rollout so far as a “dismal failure”.
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain wrote in the memo: “President-elect Biden will take action – not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration – but also to start moving our country forward.”
Joe Biden is taking over a country in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic. Daily deaths from Covid-19 are in their thousands and almost 400,000 have lost their lives.
On top of the virus raging, the country is reeling from recent political violence.
The theme for Joe Biden’s inauguration will be “America United”, with the president-elect focusing on healing political divisions. VP Mike Pence is expected to attend the ceremony, though President Trump has said he will not.
Joe Biden will be sworn in exactly two weeks after the violent riots at the Capitol on January 6 which aimed to thwart his election victory.
Joe Biden’s presidential election victory was confirmed by the US Electoral College.
In a speech after the announcement, the president-elect said US democracy had been “pushed, tested and threatened” and “proved to be resilient, true and strong”.
He condemned President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the result.
Later Russian President Vladimir Putin became one of the last world leaders to congratulate Joe Biden on his victory.
Moscow had said it would wait for the official results before doing so. Most other national leaders contacted Joe Biden days after the vote on November 3.
Confirmation by the Electoral College was one of the steps required for Joe Biden to take office.
Democrat Joe Biden won November’s contest with 306 Electoral College votes to Republican Donald Trump’s 232.
Donald Trump, who shows few signs of conceding, has not commented. Shortly after the Electoral College’s vote, the president announced on Twitter the departure of Attorney General William Barr, who had said there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the election, despite President Trump’s claims.
Speaking in Delaware, Joe Biden praised “ordinary men and women” who had refused to be bullied, referring to the president’s efforts to question and overturn the results, involving legal challenges which have been rejected by courts across the country.
He described the efforts as “a position so extreme we’ve never seen it before”.
“Respecting the will of the people is at the heart of our democracy, even when we find those results hard to accept,” he said.
“The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago,” he added.
“And we know that nothing not even a pandemic or an abuse of power can extinguish that flame.”
Joe Biden said it was time to “turn the page, as we’ve done throughout our history, to unite, to heal”.
But he warned that, with the coronavirus pandemic continuing to ravage the US, there would be difficult months ahead.
“There is urgent work in front of us,” Joe Biden said.
“Getting this pandemic under control and getting the nation vaccinated against this virus.”
Joe Biden stressed the importance of immediate economic help that was “so badly needed by so many Americans who are hurting today” and rebuilding the economy to be “better than it ever was”.
He was speaking as the coronavirus death toll in the US rose above 300,000.
Normally the electors do not get that much attention but this year, after uncertainty generated by a raft of challenges to results in Democrat-won states by the Trump campaign, the state-by-state vote was in the spotlight.
Solidly Democrat California, with its 55 electors, was one of the last states to vote on December 14 and took Joe Biden across the 270-vote threshold required to win the presidency.
Heightened security had been put in place in some states, including Michigan and Georgia, ahead of voting, which took place in state capitals and Washington DC.
In Michigan – a key swing state Joe Biden won – legislative offices in the state capital Lansing were closed due to “credible” threats of violence.
The vote at the capitol building went ahead peacefully although a group of Republicans tried to enter the building to hold their own vote and were turned away.
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