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05 Янв 2021, 13:40
How Biden’s dream of fighting income inequality runs through Georgia

President-elect Joe Biden will take office later this month with bold plans to fight growing economic inequality. His ability to do anything meaningful about it will rest in a pair of Senate runoffs in Georgia on Tuesday.

Two of the most powerful ways to fight inequality involve distributing aid and overhauling the tax code, policy levers that require flipping the Senate to Democratic control. While other parts of Biden’s policy agenda could still be addressed in some fashion through regulation, economic policy makers close to Biden acknowledge that reshaping a force as powerful as income inequality would require substantial fiscal action that takes the reins from officials at the Federal Reserve — whose actions have helped to widen inequality by goosing the stock market.

Biden stressed the huge stakes in Georgia in a campaign speech in Atlanta on Monday. “The whole nation is looking to you to lead us forward. The power is literally in your hands,” he said, adding that Democrats winning both seats would “put an end to the block in Washington on that $2,000 stimulus check.” He also noted that his biggest plans on jobs, health care, criminal justice and the environment depend on a Democratic Senate.

Biden, who made economic justice a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, will face a wage and wealth gap made significantly worse by the Covid-19 pandemic. The coronavirus lockdowns hit lower-income workers, including communities of color and women, much harder than wealthier Americans.

Employment among high-wage workers actually rose slightly during the pandemic, while it dropped 4 percent for middle-income workers and plunged 19 percent for low-income workers, mainly in the devastated retail, travel and other service industries.

The share of wealth controlled by the top 1 percent sits at levels not seen since the 1920s with the richest slice of Americans now owning 26 percent of national wealth. The top 10 percent control around 70 percent.

Biden pledged to do something about it through his “Build Back Better” plan with a focus on racial economic inequality, which has exploded during the pandemic. Minority-owned businesses continue to fail at much higher rates than white-owned businesses and enjoy less access to federal rescue funds.

But Biden is going to have a tough time, his closest economic advisers say, without a Democratic Senate able to make major changes to policies around taxation and spending.

“You would just see so much more stimulus, job creation in infrastructure, manufacturing and the care economy, and bold relief to those now facing economic desperation,” said Gene Sperling, a top outside economic adviser to Biden who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations. “And you could see the consequential expansions of unemployment insurance not only extended but built into long-term reforms.”

Other people close to Biden put the stakes in even starker terms in private conversations, with one noting that failing to win the Senate would mean Biden would take office with massive weights draped around his shoulders.

Should Democrats sweep Georgia, Biden and Democrats will look to pass trillions more in economic stimulus targeted at lower-income Americans and the unemployed. They’d aim to pair that with an infrastructure package aimed at creating blue-collar jobs, before trying to roll back some of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts, especially on the wealthy and corporations.

With the narrowest of margins in the Senate, even with two Georgia wins, Biden’s advisers know some of their boldest plans on taxes and spending will still have a tough time getting through. Without the Senate, Biden would have to try cutting deals with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, perhaps including increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and making child tax credits more generous. Even such relatively small-bore deals are not guaranteed despite support from some Republicans.

The $900 billion Covid relief package pushed through Congress at the end of the year will help, Biden advisers say. That package included no direct aid to strapped state and local governments, and the key benefits would start fading by March. It’s unlikely a McConnell-led Senate would approve another large stimulus package, though extending some aid could be on the table.

Without full control in Washington, Biden would have to try pulling relatively obscure levers inside the federal bureaucracy on housing, small business lending and other administrative policies that could take years to make much of a dent in the relentless trend toward a highly bifurcated American economy.

“There might be some sort of grant funds, annual appropriations where a Biden [Office of Management and Budget] could steer them a little bit more toward underserved communities,” said Ernie Tedeschi, policy economist and head of fiscal analysis at financial firm Evercore ISI. “But again, those are going to be sort of marginal changes. I don’t think that there’s anything big or fast that they could do.”

Biden aides, while hoping for a Georgia sweep, are prepared for losing one or both seats. Should that occur, efforts to battle economic inequality will include trying to engage Republicans like Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah on expanding the EITC and beefing up child credits by making them fully refundable, meaning people can claim the full amount even if it’s more than they owe in tax.

More generous tax credits for those who chose to stay home to care for children are also a possibility. Democrats fear that Republicans will require any expansion of these credits to be offset by spending cuts elsewhere. Biden aides also hold out hope they could cut a real infrastructure deal with a McConnell-led Senate, though it might not include some of the green energy-related provisions that they would pursue with Democrats in full control.

Still, they hope that such a deal could help further tighten the labor market, drive up wages and open up jobs for the close to 20 million Americans still receiving some type of unemployment assistance in the wake of Covid-19.

The latest relief package also includes expansions of the Minority Depository Institutions and Community Financial Development Institutions programs aimed at pumping more lending into low-income and communities of color, which Biden aides see as possible avenues to reverse some of the disparate impact of Covid-19.

Biden aides also point to administrative powers to tie federal contracting to a higher minimum wage, some type of targeted student loan debt relief aimed at lower-income Americans and tweaking housing policy and where small business relief money goes as levers they could pull without Congress. Much of this could face court challenges, however.

The Treasury Department, expected to be led by former Fed Chair Janet Yellen, could also play a significant role in divided government.

“There are a set of things that Treasury could do for households, in particular lower-income households,” said Harvard economics professor Karen Dynan, a former Treasury Department chief economist in the Obama administration.

“There are fixes that should be made to the student loan program, so that students aren’t paying a lot for higher education that isn’t worth much.”

Still, all of these efforts will be difficult and could take years to have a major impact on economic inequality. They would have vastly smaller impacts than major changes to the tax code and big blasts of federal spending targeted at lower-income and minority communities. And they would likely fall short of Biden’s dream of leaving office with inequality getting better rather than worse.

“Ensuring shared prosperity, less economic inequality and dignity and respect for all workers isn’t an afterthought or an extra for Biden,” said Sperling. “It’s the heart and soul of his economic aspirations. And he is 100 percent aware that he is inheriting a K-shaped recovery, that without aggressive policies, could push us in the wrong direction.”

Victoria Guida contributed to this report.

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14 Янв 2021, 15:14

Dame Judi Dench, 86, has had her first Covid-19 vaccination.

The Oscar-winning actress revealed on Thursday that she received her first jab last week and will now have to wait 11 weeks for her second booster.

Dench did not specify whether she had the Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccination against the coronavirus.

It comes as 1.5 million in priority groups have received one of the jabs, and in order to meet the target of 13.9 million people in priority groups by mid-February there needs to be at least two million vaccinations a week.

Talking during a phone interview on Thursday's BBC News, she said: 'I have [had the coronavirus vaccine]. I had one a week ago so I think my next is something like 11 weeks' time, that's a great start!'

Elsewhere, Dench shared her 'joy' and 'relief' over being able to continue her film work during the pandemic.

The star revealed that only one project had been postponed and she had recently been filming Kenneth Branagh's drama Belfast in Ireland.

Dench said: 'I was going to film something which has been postponed. I was, during this time, able to film with Kenneth Branagh, who wrote and directed a film about his childhood in Belfast.'

The actress insisted that staff and crew took 'every precaution' and adhered to all the strict coronavirus regulations.

Dench explained: 'We were all incredible lines to each other, taking every precaution. Everybody wore masks and everything. So we were well looked after.

'It was a huge relief to do something and it was exciting too at that time. Otherwise you wake up and think: "What is the thing I will do today" and try to get something done.'

Dench admitted it was 'joyous' and 'glorious' being able to film again, she said: 'It certainly was, it made everything very different and working was glorious.

'It's very difficult if you don't have a work discipline to get yourself started in the morning really. It's terribly easy just to sit and do nothing.'

Dench joins a long list of stars who have now had their first vaccination against the coronavirus.

Over the weekend, Dame Joan Collins, 87, revealed she had been inoculated at London's Bloomsbury Surgery.

The legendary actress shared a snap of herself getting the Oxford coronavirus vaccine to Instagram as she thanked the doctors for a 'painless and seamless procedure'.

Collins also admitted that she felt 'honoured' to be given the jab, especially on the same day that The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had received the inoculation.

She penned: 'Delighted to get @astrazeneca @ouhospitals #vaccine yesterday morning at the @nhsenglandldn Bloomsbury surgery - thank you Mr. @rajgill2585 and @dr_ammarahughes for a painless and seamless procedure!

'Same day as our Queen! #honoured #registernow.'

Celebrities including Sir Ian McKellen, 81, Sir Tom Jones, 80, Jack Whitehall's father Michael, 80, Prue Leith, 80, and Lionel Blair, 92, have also announced that they have received the Covid-19 jab.

Elsewhere, The Queen, 94, and Prince Philip, 99, were given the Covid-19 vaccination over the weekend at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace.

When asked by MailOnline, the palace refused to indicate which out of the two available vaccines the couple had been given.

News of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh's vaccination is unusual from Buckingham Palace, which rarely comments on the royal couple's private health matters.

It is understood the Queen decided the information should be made public to prevent inaccuracies and further speculation.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: 'The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have today received Covid-19 vaccinations.'

A royal source confirmed the injections were administered by a Household Doctor at Windsor Castle.

Confirmation of the royal couple's inoculations comes a month after British grandmother Margaret Keenan, 91, became the first person in the world to receive a Covid-19 vaccination on December 8.

It has since been offered to people over 80 or those who are at high risk from the virus, with people who live or work in care homes also top of the list to get the jab.

It comes as 1.5 million in priority groups have received one of the jabs, and in order to meet the target of 13.9 million people in priority groups by mid-February there needs to be at least two million vaccinations a week.

Boris Johnson wants to open 50 mass vaccination centres across the country within weeks to help hit his target of offering vaccines to nearly 14 million people by the middle of next month.

It is reported at least another 43 hubs are now being planned for areas with large populations.

11 Янв 2021, 03:15

The Married At First Sight all-stars reunion airs in just a few weeks' time, and while plenty of brides and grooms were welcomed back, a few were left without an invite.

According to New Idea, one of the franchise's most popular stars was 'blacklisted' - even though his outspoken ex was offered a spot.

Channel Nine apparently made sure Telv Williams wasn't involved in any way, but interestingly his former 'wife' Sarah Roza will be making a comeback in the two-part special.

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For his part, Telv strongly denies New Idea's claims, and insists he was invited to return but turned producers down.

'This is the first I've heard of this,' he told Daily Mail Australia. 'I wasn't blacklisted because I was asked to go and I said no.'

'I'm pretty sure that comment came from one of the three people I don't like [from Married At First Sight].'

Meanwhile, a source told New Idea 'only season five and six stars were called back because participants from earlier seasons were thought to be 'too boring'.

While Telv was supposedly 'blacklisted', others such as Samuel Ball were invited but simply didn't show up for the shoot.

A handful of notorious ex-contestants were also offered generous contracts but couldn't be persuaded to return.

Former 'villain' Davina Rankin apparently turned down the offer, with New Idea's source saying: 'She's a mum now, I think she's just moved on.'

The reunion special was filmed in Lilyfield, Sydney, over two nights in December.

Nasser Sultan dramatically stormed out on night one of the shoot after an explosive clash with Cyrell Paule.

According to fellow cast member Jessika Power, the fame-hungry star decided to leave because he was 'butt hurt' after the entire cast turned on him.

'I think he was a bit butt hurt when he got off his season that he didn't get on that level [of fame] that his other co-stars were at,' she said.

'Nasser has hurt a lot of people with his words the Internet. He hides behind a lot of fake accounts, he constantly trolls everybody,' she added.

'He's trolled people's family members, he's trolled people's relationships, he's trolled our appearances. He trolled the fact that we as influencers just get things handed to us, but he doesn't understand the marketing strategy behind a lot of things as well.'

Speaking to Daily Mail Australia after his exit, Nasser revealed he'd argued with Cyrell and then the entire dinner party turned on him.

Nasser said Cyrell had demanded he apologise for 'trolling her baby' when she was pregnant.

She was referring to her son, Boston, now 10 months, whom she shares with her partner, former Love Island star Eden Dally.

'She wanted me to me to apologise. She said I'm a troll, that I trolled her when she was pregnant, which there's no way I did,' Nasser said after the clash.

Things became so heated between them that it was difficult to watch, Jessika said.

'He definitely did deserve what he got, [but] at one point I did feel a bit bad for him because he had everyone come at him,' she said.

The MAFS all-stars reunion will be aired across two consecutive Sunday nights, with the first episode being shown on January 31 and the second on February 7.

13 Янв 2021, 19:14

They reportedly split at the beginning of 2020.

But Jason Sudeikis isn't giving up hope to reconcile with Olivia Wilde as US Weekly reported he's 'desperate' to win her back.

The 45-year-old actor is optimistic that Olivia's new relationship with Harry Styles is 'just a phase' and the couple can get back together to 'repair their family.'

Olivia and Jason reportedly split at the beginning of the year, but sources claimed their engagement actually ended in November.

Shortly after the news of their split, Olivia was spotted holding hands with Harry at his manager's wedding in Montecito, California.

'Jason's had no option but to step back and let Olivia do her thing, but he [has his fingers crossed] that this is just a phase and that Olivia will snap out of it or that Harry will get bored and move on before too long,' an insider told US.

'He's desperate to' win Wilde back so that they can 'repair their family.'

The Ted Lasso star and Wilde first met in 2011 and were engaged in 2012. They have two children together: Daisy, four, and Otis, six.

Sources within the Styles camp insist the Watermelon Sugar singer 'did not break up an engagement.'

Sudeikis insiders insisted that it happened 'after she had already gotten close to Harry' on the set of their upcoming movie, Don't Worry Darling.

'Whether Harry knows it or not, he was a reason for the split,' the Sudeikis source told US.

Insiders recently claimed the actress, 36, and the comedian, 45, argued over her 'increasingly close' bond with her colleague-turned-lover, 26, as they exchanged flirty messages while he shot scenes on the new film she is directing late last year.

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