Indian village cheers for Kamala Harris before swearing-in as US Vice President

By RISHI LEKHI and AIJAZ RAHI | The Associated Press

THULASENDRAPURAM, India — People in a tiny Indian village surrounded by rice paddies flocked to a Hindu temple, burst crackers and uttered prayers Wednesday hours before its descendant, Kamala Harris, takes her oath of office to become the U.S. vice president.

Groups of women in bright saris and men wearing white dhotis thronged the temple with sweets and flowers, offering special prayers for Harris’ success.

“We are feeling very proud that an Indian is being elected as the vice president of America,” said Anukampa Madhavasimhan, a teacher.

The ceremony in Thulasendrapuram, where Harris’ maternal grandfather was born about 350 kilometers (215 miles) from the southern coastal city of Chennai, saw the idol of Hindu deity Ayyanar, a form of Lord Shiva, washed with milk and decked with flowers by the priest. Shortly after, the village reverberated with a boom of firecrackers as people held up posters of Harris and clapped their hands.

Harris is set to make history as the first woman, first Black woman and first person of South Asian descent to hold the vice presidency. What makes her achievement special in this village is her Indian heritage.

Harris’ grandfather was born in Thulasendrapuram more than 100 years ago. Many decades later, he moved to Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state. Harris’ late mother was also born in India, before moving to the U.S. to study at the University of California. She married a Jamaican man, and they named their daughter Kamala, a Sanskrit word for “lotus flower.”

In several speeches, Harris has often spoken about her roots and how she was guided by the values of her Indian-born grandfather and mother.

So when Joe Biden and Harris triumphed in the U.S. election last November, Thulasendrapuram became the center of attention in entire India. Local politicians flocked to the village and young children carrying placards with photos of Harris ran along the dusty roads.

Then and now, villagers set off firecrackers and distributed sweets and flowers as a religious offering.

Posters and banners of Harris from November still adorn walls in the village and many hope she ascends to the presidency in 2024. Biden has skirted questions about whether he will seek reelection or retire.

“For the next four years, if she supports India, she will be the president,” said G Manikandan, who has followed Harris politically and whose shop proudly displays a wall calendar with pictures of Biden and Harris.

On Tuesday, an organization that promotes vegetarianism sent food packets for the village children as gifts to celebrate Harris’ success.

In the capital New Delhi, there has been both excitement — and some concern — over Harris’ ascend to the vice presidency.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invested in President Donald Trump, who visited India in February last year. Modi’s many Hindu nationalist supporters also were upset with Harris when she expressed concern about Kashmir, the disputed Muslim-majority region whose statehood India’s government revoked last year.

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‘Kill him with his own gun’: Police describe facing the mob at the U.S. Capitol

By Mark Morales | CNN

As DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone lay on the ground at the US Capitol building, stunned and injured, he knew a group of rioters were stripping him of his gear. They grabbed spare ammunition, ripped the police radio off his chest and even stole his badge.

Then, Fanone, who had just been Tasered several times in the back of the neck, heard something chilling that made him go into survival mode.

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“Some guys started getting a hold of my gun and they were screaming out, ‘Kill him with his own gun,’” said Fanone, who’s been a police officer for almost two decades.

Fanone, one of three officers who spoke with CNN, described his experience fighting a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters who’d invaded the Capitol in an insurrection unheard of in modern American history.

Federal officials have said the details of the violence that come out will be disturbing.

“People are going to be shocked by some of the egregious contact that happened in the Capitol,” acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin said Tuesday in reference to attacks on police officers.

Fanone, a narcotics detective who works in plain clothes, heard the commotion at the Capitol and grabbed his still brand-new police uniform that had been hanging in his locker and put it on for the first time, he said. He raced to the building with his partner and helped officers who were being pushed back by rioters.

But Fanone, who said he’d rather be shot than be pulled into a crowd where he had no control, was suddenly in his biggest nightmare as an officer. And in those few moments, Fanone considered using deadly force. He thought about using his gun but knew that he didn’t have enough fire power and he’d soon be overpowered again, except this time they would probably use his gun against him and they’d have all the reason to end his life.

“So, the other option I thought of was to try to appeal to somebody’s humanity. And I just remember yelling out that I have kids. And it seemed to work,” said the 40-year-old father of four.

A group within the rioters circled Fanone and protected him until help arrived, saving his life.

“Thank you, but f*** you for being there,” Fanone said of the rioters who protected him in that moment.

Fanone’s anger and frustration was a sentiment felt by law enforcement around the country, furious that Trump supporters had breached the grounds of the Capitol on the very day Joe Biden’s win was confirmed by the House and Senate.

Fanone’s dramatic encounter with the Trump supporting rioters was repeated all over the grounds of the US Capitol as law enforcement officers battled to push them back. Fanone, one of scores of officers who were injured in the brutal battle, shared his story for the first time, still suffering the effects of a mild heart attack.

Since the breach of the Capitol, investigators have been dissecting every aspect of the day’s events, from the response of US Capitol Police to the nationwide manhunt for everyone involved.

Investigators are now looking into the notion that here was some level of planning, with enough evidence to indicate that it was not just a protest that got out of control, law enforcement sources tell CNN.

“Certainly some things that we saw on the ground were some indication that there were some coordination going on, but I think as we get further into the investigation, a lot of that will be revealed,” acting MPD Chief Robert Contee told reporters Thursday.

Fanone said the rioters had weapons, either of their own or taken from his fellow police.

“We were getting chemical irritants sprayed. They had pipes and different metal objects, batons, some of which I think they had taken from law enforcement personnel. They had been striking us with those,” said Fanone, who added that he wasn’t going to be sitting at a desk while an insurrection was happening at the Capitol.

“And then it was just the sheer number of rioters. The force that was coming from that side,” he added. “It was difficult to offer any resistance when you’re only about 30 guys going up against 15,000.”

Fighting off ‘bear mace’

Officer Christina Laury, a member of the Metropolitan Police Department’s gun recovery unit, got to the Capitol at around 12:30 p.m. ET and saw the riotous groups gaining ground.

Laury, who was guarding the line to make sure there were no gaps for anyone to slip through, was hit with a much stronger type of pepper spray that’s supposed to be used only on bears, she said.

“The individuals were pushing officers, hitting officers. They were spraying us with what we were calling, essentially, bear mace, because you use it on bears,” she said.

“Unfortunately, it shuts you down for a while. It’s way worse than pepper spray,” Laury added. “It seals your eyes shut. … You’ve got to spray and douse yourself with water. And in those moments it’s scary because you can’t see anything and have people that are fighting to get through.”

She was lucky enough not to be struck with anything but saw others beaten with objects.

“They were getting hit with metal objects. Metal poles. I remember seeing pitchforks. They’re getting sprayed, knocked down,” said Laury, who added that reinforcements kept rotating in so others could rest during the hours-long battle.

“Just puling officers back to heal up and (reinforcements) stepping in to get to the front line. And then they go down and more officers step in and the officers that were knocked down, they’re better again and they’re just battling because the bottom line is, we’re not letting anyone through.”

‘He was practically foaming at the mouth’


Officer Daniel Hodges gained notoriety after footage of him circulated being crushed by a door during the capitol riots.(CNN)

Officer Daniel Hodges was one of those officers who tried to battle back rioters but was roughed up in the fight. Hodges gained notice after footage of him circulated being crushed by a door. The 32-year-old officer is seen in the clip with blood dripping through his teeth as he kept gasping for enough air so he could yell “Help” at the top of his lungs.

Hodges raced to the Capitol to offer support like many others and soon found himself being assaulted from an angry mob that, he said, believed they were patriots.

“There’s a guy ripping my mask off, he was able to rip away the baton and beat me with it,” said Hodges, who was stuck in the door and added that his arm was bent before they ripped the weapon away.

“He was practically foaming at the mouth so just, these people were true believers in the worst way.”

Hodges was eventually rescued by other officers who eventually came to his aid.

“You know things were looking bad,” said Hodges, who miraculously walked away with no major injuries and may have suffered a minor concussion. “I was calling out for all I was worth, and an officer behind me was able to get me enough room to pull me out of there and get me to the rear so I was able to extricate myself.”

This was Hodges’s first visit to the Capitol building.

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‘They felt entitled’

The patrol officer said he had been hearing about the possibility of violence for years so he wasn’t surprised that the rioters would storm the Capitol. What did surprise him was how the insurrectionists thought the police would be on their side.

“Some of them felt like we would be fast friends because so many of them have been vocal,” Hodges said. “They say things like, ‘Yeah, we’ve been supporting you through all this Black Lives Matter stuff, you should have our back’ and they felt entitled.”

He added, “They felt like they would just walk up there and tell us that they’re here to take back Congress and we would agree with them and we’d walk in hand in hand and just take over the nation. But obviously that’s not the case and it will never be the case.”

Now, only days before Biden’s inauguration, federal authorities are warning of other threats that may come.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has publicly warned people not to come to the city for the inauguration.

Hodges echoed her sentiments, and wanted not only residents, but Trump supporters and extremists to stay home too. But with one caveat.

“Stay home. Stop this,” said Hodges. “On the other hand, I hope they’re caught. Let’s leave it at that.”

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

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Prosecutors seek to modify Kyle Rittenhouse’s bond agreement after they say he displayed racist signs while drinking with Proud Boys

By Omar Jimenez and Joe Sutton | CNN

Prosecutors are asking the Kenosha County Circuit Court to modify the bond conditions of Kyle Rittenhouse, who is facing homicide charges in the death of two men during protests last August, according to a motion filed by the Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday.

The office is requesting that Rittenhouse be prohibited from possessing or consuming alcohol or being in any establishment that serves it; be prohibited from making any public display of any “white power” or “white supremacy” signs, symbols, or hand gestures; and not have any contact with any known militia members or members of any violent white power/white supremacist groups including the group identified as the “Proud Boys.”

The 17-year-old is out on a $2 million bail after being arrested in connection with a fatal shooting in Kenosha. Rittenhouse is alleged to have been in the midst of protests that had broken out in the Wisconsin city over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, and authorities allege he fired at protesters.

Rittenhouse was arraigned January 5 on two felony charges of homicide in the deaths of two men and a felony attempted homicide charge in the wounding of another man.

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According to prosecutors, Rittenhouse was seen at a local bar with his mother about 90 minutes after the arraignment, and his presence and behavior were confirmed by surveillance video.

Rittenhouse was seen with other individuals flashing “the ‘OK’ sign, which has been co-opted as a sign of ‘white power’ by known white supremacist groups,” and was “directly served a beer by the bartender,” the motion said.

The document also states that Rittenhouse turned 18 this month and lives in Illinois. “Under Illinois law, it is a Class A Misdemeanor for anyone under the age of 21 to possess or consume alcohol in a public place,” the motion states.

In Wisconsin, however, it is legal for someone under the age of 21 to possess and consume alcohol if a parent is present.

Prosecutors are also asking the court to “prohibit the defendant from publicly displaying symbols and gestures that are associated with violent white supremacist groups and from associating with known members of those groups, particularly the Proud Boys” — as they believe it could result in potential witness intimidation.

Rittenhouse pleaded not guilty to the charges for which he was arraigned.

CNN has reached out to Rittenhouse’s attorney for comment.

Rittenhouse’s attorneys have maintained that Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense when he opened fire.

In a hearing last month, Rittenhouse’s attorney, Mark Richards, accused prosecutors of presenting “a one-sided, stilted view” of events that night.

Richards introduced screenshots of surveillance video that he said showed his client acted in self-defense while being chased by a gun-toting protester. In another image, Rittenhouse appeared to be struck with a skateboard while on the ground.

Anthony M. Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum were killed in the incident, and Gaige Grosskreutz was wounded.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

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The first Black ‘Batwoman’ is here: Javicia Leslie talks tackling the superhero role in CW series

When Javicia Leslie put on the Batsuit for the first time on the set of the CW network’s “Batwoman” series, it felt like a dream from childhood — and her professional life, too — came true.

“As a person, of course, I’ve always wanted to be a superhero,” says Leslie, who takes over the title role on Sunday, Jan. 17. “And especially as an actor, I’ve always wanted to do a superhero role.”

This particular part seemed unlikely to come to her, though. When “Batwoman” debuted in October 2019, it did so with Ruby Rose in the role of Bruce Wayne’s cousin Kate Kane, who had donned the cape of Batwoman in Gotham in the absence of Batman.

  • Kimberly Ortiz of Anaheim holds onto a blowup shark after shooting out into a muddy water hole during Spring Break at the Lake 2014.

  • Kenneth E. Mitchell (on left in gray coat) with former Mitchell School principal John Boling at the dedication of the school’s bike trail, used to teach students bike safety and how to ride the school’s donated new and used bikes.

  • Cate Blanchett accepts the award for best actress in a leading role for “Blue Jasmine” during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday.

  • Keelin McGovern, 7, gets some rest in the arms of her grandfather, Steve McGovern, before her kids race at the Dana Point Grand Prix of Cycling on Sunday. Amateur and professional riders competed in 13 categories.

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But then Rose left the series after the first season, and Leslie landed the part of Ryan Wilder, a character who, unlike the wealthy Kane, comes from a rougher side of Gotham to fill the Batsuit after Kane goes missing.

“In any superhero, it’s just the imagination, you know, the ability to defy what normal humans are able to do,” Leslie says of the appeal of such characters.

“And the thing about Batwoman is even though she may not have a natural power, with her, with the type of determination she has mixed with the gadgets, she’s able to still do things that your typical human wouldn’t be able to do.

“I think the appeal to those roles is just to really be able to expand your imagination as an actor and do things outside of the norm.”

Leslie, 33, has appeared most recently as a regular on the now-canceled CBS series “God Friended Me” and on the BET series “The Family Business.”

When Rose, who made headlines as the first out lesbian superhero, left “Batwoman,” Leslie, who is bisexual, auditioned, won the role, and made superhero history herself as the first Black woman to play the part of Batwoman.

“It feels good,” Leslie says of her place in the expanding diversity of the superhero universe. “It’s not even just about the similarities with me. I think, in general, just like Ryan represents a community that doesn’t really have representation in the superhero world, it’s the same in real life.

“I don’t think there is a lot of Black representation in the superhero world on television,” she says. “So to be able to be a part of that representation is really dope.”

Unlike the common practice when superhero entertainment reboots — Christian Bale as Batman out, Ben Affleck as Batman in — the creators of “Batwoman” smartly avoid the pitfalls of replacing the exact same character.

Ruby Rose as Kate Kane and Javicia Leslie as Ryan Wilder can both exist as Batwoman in the same Gotham, making Leslie’s arrival less disruptive to the narrative, less dissonant to the viewer.

“I didn’t really feel like I had to find my way or create a space,” Leslie says. “Because it’s a character that has never been created before, it’s almost like we were starting off new anyway.

“As far as the established and existing storylines, they are still existing with or without me because they were storylines outside of just Batwoman,” she says.

“As far as exploring the world of Gotham, Ryan is pretty badass on her own,” Leslie says. “Even before the suit, she’s the type of person that’s always defended the ones that needed defending.”

Once Ryan is drawn into the fold of Kate’s allies such as Luke Fox, creator of gadgets and gizmos for Batwoman; Sophie Moore, Kate’s ex; and Mary Hamilton, Kate’s stepsister, early episodes of season 2 find her struggling to temper her instincts to work as part of a team.

“One of her biggest battles is having to stop and think before she acts,” Leslie says. “This season, her battle is being able to kind of put to the side her way of handling things, and understanding that her way may not always be the best way and the right way.

“There’s always a bigger picture and a bigger goal, and for at least the first half of the season the bigger picture, the bigger goal is finding Kate.”

In some ways, Kate and Ryan share a worldview.

“The similarity is just their drive to save people that can’t be saved by themselves, to protect people that can’t protect themselves, and speak up for people that can’t speak up for themselves,” Leslie says. “They’re also both out lesbians.”

Their differences are a matter of perspective.

“Kate Kane comes from money, Ryan doesn’t,” Leslie says. “Ryan is more so a representation of the citizens of Gotham that have not been stood up for. And so she actually represents that community. Kate is part of the Wayne family and Ryan isn’t.”

That, in some ways, reshapes the meaning of Batwoman in her world and ours.

“When you grew up with the Batsuit, you kind of expect it to go through the Wayne family,” Leslie says. “And to see that it’s expanding outside of that, in that the suit is not really always about who’s in it, it’s about understanding that once you put the suit on, what it represents.”

That’s something Leslie herself felt the first time she tried on the newly redesigned Batsuit the show made for her.

“I was really excited,” she says. “I felt like the moment I put it on I could definitely feel the responsibility of what superhero suits represent.”

Suddenly, the costume was no longer just her work wardrobe, Leslie says. Instead, a sense of wonder and possibility took hold.

“To children, those aren’t clothes,” she says. “To children, the moment they see that suit on, you are superheroes, and that means you defy reality. You’re able to do things your normal human being is unable to do.

“So I think the moment any person puts the superhero suit on you start to feel that power and responsibility.”

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Congress approves $900B COVID-19 relief bill, sending to Trump

By ANDREW TAYLOR

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress passed a $900 billion pandemic relief package Monday night that would finally deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and resources to vaccinate a nation confronting a frightening surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Lawmakers tacked on a $1.4 trillion catchall spending bill and thousands of pages of other end-of-session business in a massive bundle of bipartisan legislation as Capitol Hill prepared to close the books on the year. The bill goes to President Donald Trump for his signature, which is expected in the coming days.

The relief package, unveiled Monday afternoon, sped through the House and Senate in a matter of hours. The Senate cleared the massive package by a 92-6 vote after the House approved the COVID-19 package by another lopsided vote, 359-53. The six Republican senators voting against the bill were Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rick Scott of Florida, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas.

The tallies were a bipartisan coda to months of partisanship and politicking as lawmakers wrangled over the relief question, a logjam that broke after President-elect Joe Biden urged his party to accept a compromise with top Republicans that is smaller than many Democrats would have liked.

The bill combines coronavirus-fighting funds with financial relief for individuals and businesses. It would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses, restaurants, and theaters and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.

The 5,593-page legislation — by far the longest bill ever — came together Sunday after months of battling, posturing and postelection negotiating that reined in a number of Democratic demands as the end of the congressional session approached. Biden was eager for a deal to deliver long-awaited help to suffering people and a boost to the economy, even though it was less than half the size that Democrats wanted in the fall.

“This deal is not everything I want — not by a long shot,” said Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., a longstanding voice in the party’s old-school liberal wing. “The choice before us is simple. It’s about whether we help families or not. It’s about whether we help small businesses and restaurants or not. It’s about whether we boost (food stamp) benefits and strengthen anti-hunger programs or not. And whether we help those dealing with a job loss or not. To me, this is not a tough call.”

The Senate, meanwhile, was also on track to pass a one-week stopgap spending bill to avert a partial government shutdown at midnight and give Trump time to sign the sweeping legislation.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a key negotiator, said on CNBC Monday morning that the direct payments would begin arriving in bank accounts next week.

Democrats promised more aid to come once Biden takes office, but Republicans were signaling a wait-and-see approach.

The measure would fund the government through September, wrapping a year’s worth of action on annual spending bills into a single package that never saw Senate committee or floor debate.

The legislation followed a tortured path. Democrats played hardball up until Election Day, amid accusations that they wanted to deny Trump a victory that might help him prevail. Democrats denied that, but their demands indeed became more realistic after Trump’s loss and as Biden made it clear that half a loaf was better than none.

The final bill bore ample resemblance to a $1 trillion package put together by Senate Republican leaders in July, a proposal that at the time was scoffed at by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as way too little.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took a victory lap after blocking far more ambitious legislation from reaching the Senate floor. He said the pragmatic approach of Biden was key.

“The president-elect suggesting that we needed to do something now was helpful in moving both Pelosi and Schumer into a better place,” McConnell told The Associated Press. “My view about what comes next is let’s take a look at it. Happy to evaluate that based upon the needs that we confront in February and March.”

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, D-Calif., came to the Senate to cast her vote for the bill. “The American people need relief and I want to be able to do what I can to help them,” she said.

On direct payments, the bill provides $600 to individuals making up to $75,000 per year and $1,200 to couples making up to $150,000, with payments phased out for higher incomes. An additional $600 payment will be made per dependent child, similar to the last round of relief payments in the spring.

“I expect we’ll get the money out by the beginning of next week — $2,400 for a family of four,” Mnuchin said. “So much needed relief just in time for the holidays.”

The $300 per week bonus jobless benefit was half the supplemental federal unemployment benefit provided under the $1.8 billion CARES Act in March. That more generous benefit and would be limited to 11 weeks instead of 16 weeks. The direct $600 stimulus payment was also half the March payment.

The CARES Act was credited with keeping the economy from falling off a cliff during widespread lockdowns in the spring, but Republicans controlling the Senate cited debt concerns in pushing against Democratic demands.

“Anyone who thinks this bill is enough hasn’t heard the desperation in the voices of their constituents, has not looked into the eyes of the small-business owner on the brink of ruin,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, a lifelong New Yorker who pushed hard for money helping his city’s transit systems, renters, theaters and restaurants.

Progress came after a bipartisan group of pragmatists and moderates devised a $908 billion plan that built a middle-ground position that the top four leaders of Congress — the GOP and Democratic leaders of both the House and Senate — used as the basis for their talks. The lawmakers urged leaders on both sides to back off of hardline positions.

“At times we felt like we were in the wilderness because people on all sides of the aisle didn’t want to give, in order to give the other side a win,” said freshman Rep. Elssa Slotkin, D-Mich. “And it was gross to watch, frankly.”

Republicans were most intent on reviving the Paycheck Protection Program with $284 billion, which would cover a second round of PPP grants to especially hard-hit businesses. Democrats won set-asides for low-income and minority communities.

The sweeping bill also contains $25 billion in rental assistance, $15 billion for theaters and other live venues, $82 billion for local schools, colleges and universities, and $10 billion for child care.

The governmentwide appropriations bill was likely to provide a last $1.4 billion installment for Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall as a condition of winning his signature. The Pentagon would receive $696 billion. Democrats and Senate Republicans prevailed in a bid to use bookkeeping maneuvers to squeeze $12.5 billion more for domestic programs into the legislation.

The bill was an engine to carry much of Capitol Hill’s unfinished business, including an almost 400-page water resources bill that targets $10 billion for 46 Army Corps of Engineers flood control, environmental and coastal protection projects. Another addition would extend a batch of soon-to-expire tax breaks, such as one for craft brewers, wineries and distillers.

It also would carry numerous clean-energy provisions sought by Democrats with fossil fuel incentives favored by Republicans, $7 billion to increase access to broadband, $4 billion to help other nations vaccinate their people, $14 billion for cash-starved transit systems, $1 billion for Amtrak and $2 billion for airports and concessionaires. Food stamp benefits would temporarily be increased by 15%.

The Senate Historical Office said the previous record for the length of legislation was the 2,847-page tax reform bill of 1986 — about one-half the size of Monday’s behemoth.

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US set for first COVID-19 shots as shipments begin arriving

By LAURAN NEERGAARD | AP Medical Writer

Hospital workers begin unloading precious frozen vials of COVID-19 vaccine Monday, with the first vaccinations against a scourge that has killed nearly 300,000 Americans expected later in the day.

“It feels like the cavalry is arriving,” Robert C. Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health, said as New Jersey’s largest health network awaited delivery.

Shots made by Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech are the first authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration — beginning what will become the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history. Several other countries also have OK’d the vaccine, including the U.K., which started vaccinating last week.

  • In this late Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, photo provided by Los Angeles World Airports, crews unload a FedEx Airbus A300F4-605R carrying the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine arriving in Los Angeles, at Los Angeles International Airport. (Los Angeles World Airports via AP)

  • In this late Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, photo provided by Los Angeles World Airports, a FedEx Airbus A300F4-605R carrying the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine arriving in Los Angeles, is seen at Los Angeles International Airport. (Los Angeles World Airports via AP)

  • Dry ice is poured into a box containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as it is prepared to be shipped at the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing plant in Portage, Mich., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, Pool)

  • A FedEx driver gives a thumbs up after delivering a box containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to pharmacists Richard Emery, right, and Karen Nolan as it arrives at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, R.I, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Pharmacists wheel a box containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a freezer as it arrives at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, R.I, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Pharmacists Richard Emery, left, and Karen Nolan, wheel a box containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine next to a storage freezer as it arrives at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, R.I, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  • Boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing plant in Portage, Mich., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, Pool)

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For health workers who, along with nursing home residents, will be first in line for vaccination, hope is tempered by grief and the sheer exhaustion of months spent battling a coronavirus that still is surging in the U.S. and around the world.

“This is mile 24 of a marathon. People are fatigued. But we also recognize that this end is in sight,” said Dr. Chris Dale of Swedish Health Services in Seattle.

Packed in dry ice to stay at ultra-frozen temperatures, the first of nearly 3 million doses being shipped in staggered batches this week made their way by truck and by plane around the country Sunday from Pfizer’s Kalamazoo, Michigan, factory. Once they arrive at distribution centers, each state directs where the doses go next.

Some hospitals across the country spent the weekend tracking their packages, refreshing FedEx and UPS websites for clues.

More of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will arrive each week. And later this week, the FDA will decide whether to green light the world’s second rigorously studied COVID-19 vaccine, made by Moderna Inc.

Now the hurdle is to rapidly get vaccine into the arms of millions, not just doctors and nurses but other at-risk health workers such as janitors and food handlers — and then deliver a second dose three weeks later.

“We’re also in the middle of a surge, and it’s the holidays, and our health care workers have been working at an extraordinary pace,” said Sue Mashni, chief pharmacy officer at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.

Plus, the shots can cause temporary fever, fatigue and aches as they rev up people’s immune systems, forcing hospitals to stagger employee vaccinations.

A wary public will be watching closely to see whether health workers embrace vaccination. Just half of Americans say they want to get vaccinated, while about a quarter don’t and the rest are unsure, according to a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Health Research.

The FDA, considered the world’s most strict medical regulator, said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine appears safe and strongly protective — and laid out the data behind it in a daylong public meeting last week for scientists and consumers alike to see.

“Please people, when you look back in a year and you say to yourself, ‘Did I do the right thing?’ I hope you’ll be able to say, ‘Yes, because I looked at the evidence,’” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. “People are dying right now. How could you possibly say, ‘Let’s wait and see.’”

Still, emergency use means the vaccine was cleared for widespread use before a final study in nearly 44,000 people is complete — and that research is continuing to try to answer additional questions. While effective against COVID-19 illness, it’s not yet clear if vaccination will stop the symptomless spread that accounts for half of all cases.

The shots still must be studied in children, and during pregnancy. But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said late Sunday that vaccination should not be withheld from pregnant women who otherwise would qualify.

While the vaccine was determined to be safe, regulators in the U.K. are investigating several severe allergic reactions. The FDA’s instructions tell providers not to give it to those with a known history of severe allergic reactions to any of its ingredients.

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AP journalists Tamara Lush and Kathy Young contributed to this report.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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UK gives first COVID-19 vaccine doses, and seniors are at front of the line

By DANICA KIRKA | Associated Press

LONDON — A retired British shop clerk received the first shot in the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program Tuesday, signaling the start of a global immunization effort intended to offer a route out of a pandemic that has killed 1.5 million.

Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, got the shot at 6:31 a.m. on what public health officials have dubbed “V-Day.” She was first in line at University Hospital Coventry, one of several hospitals around the country that are handling the initial phase of the United Kingdom’s program. As luck would have it, the second injection went to a man named William Shakespeare, an 81-year-old who hails from Warwickshire, the county where the bard was born.

“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Keenan, who wore a surgical mask and a blue Merry Christmas T-shirt decorated with a cartoon penguin wearing a Santa hat. “It’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year.”

  • Henry (Jack) Vokes, 98, reacts receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Southmead Hospital, Bristol, England, Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020. The United Kingdom, one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, is beginning its vaccination campaign, a key step toward eventually ending the pandemic. (Graeme Robertson/Pool via AP)

  • Margaret Keenan, 90, is applauded by staff as she returns to her ward after becoming the first patient in the UK to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, at University Hospital, Coventry, England, Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020. The United Kingdom, one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, is beginning its vaccination campaign, a key step toward eventually ending the pandemic. (Jacob King/Pool via AP)

  • Margaret Keenan, 90, walks with nurse May Parsons after becoming the first person in the UK to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, at University Hospital, Coventry, England, Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020. The United Kingdom, one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, is beginning its vaccination campaign, a key step toward eventually ending the pandemic. (Jacob King/Pool via AP)

  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on after nurse Rebecca Cathersides administered the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Lyn Wheeler at Guy’s Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. U.K. health authorities rolled out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, starting a global immunization program that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

  • Sister Joanna Sloan receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, as the first person in Northern Ireland at the Royal Victoria Hospital, in Belfast, Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020. The United Kingdom, one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, is beginning its vaccination campaign, a key step toward eventually ending the pandemic. (Liam McBurney/Pool via AP)

  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson applauds after nurse Rebecca Cathersides administered the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Lyn Wheeler at Guy’s Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. U.K. health authorities rolled out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, starting a global immunization program that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

  • A woman walks past graffiti with the words Victory to the NHS (National Health Service) on a wall at the Royal Victoria Hospital, one of several hospitals around Britain that are handling the initial phase of a COVID-19 immunization program, in West Belfast, Northern Ireland, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. British health authorities rolled out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, starting a global immunization program that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

  • A nurse administers the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy’s Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. U.K. health authorities rolled out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, starting a global immunization program that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

  • “Bill” William Shakespeare, 81, receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, at University Hospital, Coventry, England, Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020. The United Kingdom, one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, is beginning its vaccination campaign, a key step toward eventually ending the pandemic. (Jacob King/Pool via AP)

  • A nurse holds a phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy’s Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. U.K. health authorities rolled out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, starting a global immunization program that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

  • A nurse administers the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy’s Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. U.K. health authorities rolled out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, starting a global immunization program that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

  • Medical staff in booths prepare to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Cardiff, Wales, Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020. The United Kingdom, one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, is beginning its vaccination campaign, a key step toward eventually ending the pandemic. (Justin Tallis/Pool via AP)

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The U.K. is the first Western country to start a mass vaccination program after British regulators last week authorized the use of a COVID-19 shot developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. U.S. and European Union regulators may approve the vaccine in coming days, fueling a global immunization effort.

Britain’s program is likely to provide lessons for other countries as they prepare for the unprecedented task of vaccinating billions of people. U.K. health officials have been working for months to adapt a system geared toward vaccinating groups of people like school children and pregnant women into one that can rapidly reach much of the nation’s population.

Amid the fanfare that greeted Britain’s first shot, authorities warned that the vaccination campaign would take many months, meaning painful restrictions that have disrupted daily life and punished the economy are likely to continue until spring.

“We still have a long road ahead of us, but this marks the route out,” British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC.

Other vaccines are also being reviewed by regulators around the world, including a collaboration between Oxford University and drugmaker AstraZeneca and one developed by U.S. biotechnology company Moderna.

Britain has received 800,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, enough to vaccinate 400,000 people. The first shots will go to people over 80 who are either hospitalized or already have outpatient appointments scheduled, along with nursing home workers and vaccination staff. Others will have to wait their turn.

Health officials have asked the public to be patient because only those who are most at risk from the virus will be vaccinated in the early stages. Medical staff will contact people to arrange appointments, and most will have to wait until next year before there is enough vaccine to expand the program.

Buckingham Palace refused to comment on reports that Queen Elizabeth II, 94, and her 99-year-old husband, Prince Philip, would be vaccinated — and make that fact known — as a public example of the shot’s safety.

Britain is the first country to deliver a broadly tested and independently reviewed vaccine to the general public. On Saturday, Russia began vaccinating thousands of doctors, teachers and others at dozens of centers in Moscow with its Sputnik V vaccine. But that is being viewed differently because Russia authorized use of the shot last summer after it was tested in only a few dozen people.

The vaccine can’t arrive soon enough for the U.K., where more than 61,000 people have died in the pandemic — more than any other country in Europe, according to data tallied by Johns Hopkins University. The U.K. has recorded more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of the virus.

The vaccine, however, remains experimental. While it seems to prevent people from getting sick, it is still unclear how long that protection lasts.

The 800,000 doses Britain has received so far are only a fraction of what is needed. The government is targeting more than 25 million people, or about 40% of the population, in the first phase of its vaccination program, which gives first priority to those who are highest risk from the disease.

Stephen Powis, medical director for the National Health Service in England, said the first shot was an emotional moment.

“This really feels like the beginning of the end,” he said. “It’s been really dreadful year, 2020 — all those things that we are so used to, meeting friends and family, going to the cinema, have been disrupted. We can get those back. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next month. But in the months to come.”

The vaccination program will be expanded as the supply increases, with the vaccine offered roughly on the basis of age groups, starting with the oldest people. Britain plans to offer COVID-19 vaccines to everyone over the age of 50, as well as younger adults with health conditions that put them at greater risk from the virus.

In England, the vaccine will be delivered at 50 hospital hubs in the first wave of the program, with more hospitals expected to offer it as the rollout ramps up. Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are making their own plans under the U.K.’s system of devolved administration.

Logistical issues are slowing the distribution of the Pfizer vaccine because it has to be stored at minus-70 degrees Celsius (minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit). Authorities also are focusing on large-scale distribution points because each package of vaccine contains 975 doses and they don’t want any to be wasted.

The U.K. has agreed to buy more than 350 million doses of vaccine from seven different producers. Governments around the world are making agreements with multiple developers to ensure they lock in delivery of the products that are ultimately approved for widespread use.

All of those logistical challenges culminated in nurse May Parsons inserting a syringe into Keenan’s left shoulder and depressing the plunger to deliver the vaccine. Parsons, originally from the Philippines, has worked for the NHS for the past 24 years.

“I’m just glad to be able to play a part on this historic day,” she said. “The last few months have been tough for all of us working in the NHS, but now it feels like there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

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Chuck Yeager, 1st to break sound barrier, dies at 97

By The Associated Press

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles “Chuck” Yeager, the World War II fighter pilot ace and quintessential test pilot who showed he had the “right stuff” when in 1947 he became the first person to fly faster than sound, has died. He was 97.

Yeager died Monday, his wife, Victoria Yeager, said on his Twitter account. “It is w/ profound sorrow, I must tell you that my life love General Chuck Yeager passed just before 9pm ET. An incredible life well lived, America’s greatest Pilot, & a legacy of strength, adventure, & patriotism will be remembered forever.”

Yeager’s death is “a tremendous loss to our nation,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

“Gen. Yeager’s pioneering and innovative spirit advanced America’s abilities in the sky and set our nation’s dreams soaring into the jet age and the space age. He said, ‘You don’t concentrate on risks. You concentrate on results. No risk is too great to prevent the necessary job from getting done,’” Bridenstine said.

“In an age of media-made heroes, he is the real deal,” Edwards Air Force Base historian Jim Young said in August 2006 at the unveiling of a bronze statue of Yeager.

He was “the most righteous of all those with the right stuff,” said Maj. Gen. Curtis Bedke, commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards.

Yeager, from a small town in the hills of West Virginia, flew for more than 60 years, including piloting an X-15 to near 1,000 mph (1,609 kph) at Edwards in October 2002 at age 79.

“Living to a ripe old age is not an end in itself. The trick is to enjoy the years remaining,” he said in “Yeager: An Autobiography.”

“I haven’t yet done everything, but by the time I’m finished, I won’t have missed much,” he wrote. “If I auger in (crash) tomorrow, it won’t be with a frown on my face. I’ve had a ball.”

On Oct. 14, 1947, Yeager, then a 24-year-old captain, pushed an orange, bullet-shaped Bell X-1 rocket plane past 660 mph to break the sound barrier, at the time a daunting aviation milestone.

“Sure, I was apprehensive,” he said in 1968. “When you’re fooling around with something you don’t know much about, there has to be apprehension. But you don’t let that affect your job.”

The modest Yeager said in 1947 he could have gone even faster had the plane carried more fuel. He said the ride “was nice, just like riding fast in a car.”

Yeager nicknamed the rocket plane, and all his other aircraft, “Glamorous Glennis” for his wife, who died in 1990.

Yeager’s feat was kept top secret for about a year when the world thought the British had broken the sound barrier first.

“It wasn’t a matter of not having airplanes that would fly at speeds like this. It was a matter of keeping them from falling apart,” Yeager said.

Sixty-five years later to the minute, on Oct. 14, 2012, Yeager commemorated the feat, flying in the back seat of an F-15 Eagle as it broke the sound barrier at more than 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) above California’s Mojave Desert.

His exploits were told in Tom Wolfe’s book “The Right Stuff,” and the 1983 film it inspired.

Yeager was born Feb. 23, 1923, in Myra, a tiny community on the Mud River deep in an Appalachian hollow about 40 miles southwest of Charleston. The family later moved to Hamlin, the county seat. His father was an oil and gas driller and a farmer.

“What really strikes me looking over all those years is how lucky I was, how lucky, for example, to have been born in 1923 and not 1963 so that I came of age just as aviation itself was entering the modern era,” Yeager said in a December 1985 speech at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

“I was just a lucky kid who caught the right ride,” he said.

Yeager enlisted in the Army Air Corps after graduating from high school in 1941. He later regretted that his lack of a college education prevented him from becoming an astronaut.

He started off as an aircraft mechanic and, despite becoming severely airsick during his first airplane ride, signed up for a program that allowed enlisted men to become pilots.

Yeager shot down 13 German planes on 64 missions during World War II, including five on a single mission. He was once shot down over German-held France but escaped with the help of French partisans.

After World War II, he became a test pilot beginning at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

Among the flights he made after breaking the sound barrier was one on Dec. 12. 1953, when he flew an X-1A to a record of more than 1,600 mph. He said he had gotten up at dawn that day and went hunting, bagging a goose before his flight. That night, he said, his family ate the goose for dinner.

He returned to combat during the Vietnam War, flying several missions a month in twin-engine B-57 Canberras making bombing and strafing runs over South Vietnam.

Yeager also commanded Air Force fighter squadrons and wings, and the Aerospace Research Pilot School for military astronauts.

“I’ve flown 341 types of military planes in every country in the world and logged about 18,000 hours,” he said in an interview in the January 2009 issue of Men’s Journal. “It might sound funny, but I’ve never owned an airplane in my life. If you’re willing to bleed, Uncle Sam will give you all the planes you want.”

When Yeager left Hamlin, he was already known as a daredevil. On later visits, he often buzzed the town.

“I live just down the street from his mother,” said Gene Brewer, retired publisher of the weekly Lincoln Journal. “One day I climbed up on my roof with my 8 mm camera when he flew overhead. I thought he was going to take me off the roof. You can see the treetops in the bottom of the pictures.”

Yeager flew an F-80 under a Charleston bridge at 450 mph on Oct. 10, 1948, according to newspaper accounts. When he was asked to repeat the feat for photographers, Yeager replied: “You should never strafe the same place twice ’cause the gunners will be waiting for you.”

Yeager never forgot his roots and West Virginia named bridges, schools and Charleston’s airport after him.

“My beginnings back in West Virginia tell who I am to this day,” Yeager wrote. “My accomplishments as a test pilot tell more about luck, happenstance and a person’s destiny. But the guy who broke the sound barrier was the kid who swam the Mud River with a swiped watermelon or shot the head off a squirrel before going to school.”

Yeager was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal and the Purple Heart. President Harry S. Truman awarded him the Collier air trophy in December 1948 for his breaking the sound barrier. He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985.

Yeager retired from the Air Force in 1975 and moved to a ranch in Cedar Ridge in Northern California where he continued working as a consultant to the Air Force and Northrop Corp. and became well known to younger generations as a television pitchman for automotive parts and heat pumps.

He married Glennis Dickhouse of Oroville, California, on Feb. 26, 1945. She died of ovarian cancer in December 1990. They had four children: Donald, Michael, Sharon and Susan.

Yeager married 45-year-old Victoria Scott D’Angelo in 2003.

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On the Net:

Yeager: http://www.chuckyeager.com/

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What kind of tax changes can we expect under President Biden?

People are generally comfortable and feel secure when their lives are stable, predictable and filled with certainty. This year will be remembered for all of the drastic changes.

We have endured a pandemic, a stock market crash and the election of a new president, all in a matter of eight months. Our world has been unpredictable, uncertain and unstable. To sum up 2020, it has been a year of change.

Fortunately, as we are approaching the end of this year, the stock market has rebounded from its historical lows, COVID-19 vaccines are on the horizon and elections are now over.

As we enter 2021, many unknowns will still exist. We do not know the long-term ramifications of COVID-19 on our economy or how quickly the logistically challenged vaccines will be administered to 7.8 billion people around the world.

What we can anticipate is that new tax legislation will be proposed under President-Elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration. Biden’s current plans include many changes to our current payroll tax, individual income tax and estate and gift tax laws. According to taxfoundation.org, we should be prepared for the following:

A 12.4% Social Security payroll tax for wages above $400,000. This would create a “doughnut hole” in the current Social Security payroll tax, where wages between $137,700, the current wage cap, and $400,000 are not taxed. However, for earned income above $400,000, the 12.4% payroll tax would be reinstated. The Motley Fool estimates this would raise between $797 billion and $1.04 trillion over the next decade.

The top individual income tax rate for taxable incomes above $400,000 will revert to the pre-Tax Cuts and Jobs Act level of 39.6% from 37% under current law. For the 2020 tax year, this top marginal rate is applied to earned income above $518,400 for single filers and more than $622,050 for married couples filing jointly.

Long-term capital gains tax and qualified dividends will increase to the ordinary income tax rate of 39.6% on income above $1 million, as well as eliminating the step-up in basis for capital gains taxation.

Expect the restoration of the Pease Limitation on itemized deductions for taxable incomes above $400,000. Under the Pease Limitation, the itemized deductions for the high-income taxpayer are reduced by the lesser of 3% of adjusted gross income above a specified income threshold or 80% of the filer’s allowable itemized deductions.

A limit of 28% on itemized deductions. For each dollar of itemized tax deductions, including charitable contributions, a taxpayer or couple filing jointly would only receive a maximum benefit of $0.28. This 28% limit would hold true even if a filer is paying a higher marginal tax rate.

Phasing out of the qualified business income deduction (Section 199A) for filers with taxable income above $400,000. As the law stands now, the qualified passthrough business deduction allows small business owners to deduct up to 20% of their business income under the TCJA, capped at $163,300 for single filers and $326,600 for joint filers in 2020.

However, for individuals and couples earning above these thresholds, an abundance of rules exist that determine whether or not you’re allowed to take qualified business income deductions. Biden’s plan aims to simplify this by keeping QBI deductions in place for those with less than $400,000 in earnings but phasing out passthrough deductions for those with more than $400,000 in earnings.

Expansion of the earned income tax credit for childless workers age 65 and over and providing renewable-energy-related tax credits to individuals.

In 2021, if economic conditions require, the child tax credit could increase from a maximum value of $2,000 to $3,000 for children 17 or younger, while providing a $600 bonus credit for children under 6. The CTC would also be made fully refundable, removing the $2,500 reimbursement threshold and 15% phase-in rate.

Expansion of the child and dependent care tax credit from a maximum of $3,000 in qualified expenses to $8,000 ($16,000 for multiple dependents) and increases the maximum reimbursement rate from 35% to 50%.

Reintroduction of the first-time homebuyers’ tax credit, which was originally created during the Great Recession to help the housing market. Biden’s homebuyers’ credit would provide up to $15,000 for first-time homebuyers.

Equalization of the tax benefits of traditional retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts by providing a refundable tax credit in place of traditional deductibility.

Expansion of the estate and gift tax by reducing the estate tax exemption amount to $3.5 million from the 2020 limit of $11.58 million and increasing the top rate for estate tax from 40% to 45%.

Limitations on the step-up in basis rules. A step-up in basis refers to the cost basis of assets or property transferrable to an heir upon death. If an individual purchased a home for $300,000 but it was worth $600,000 at the time of death, the heir would pay capital gains on anything over $600,000 when the home was sold. If Biden’s proposal were to become law, heirs would pay capital gains on anything over $300,000.

Repeal the limit restricting deduction of state and local taxes to $10,000.

According to the Tax Foundation General Equilibrium Model, Biden’s proposal in its entirety would raise $1.553 trillion from 2020 to 2029. Eventually, this tax plan would reduce the economy’s size by 1.62%. The plan would shrink the capital stock by about 3.75% and reduce the overall wage rate by a little over 1%, leading to about 542,000 fewer full-time equivalent jobs.

It is important to note that if the Democrats hold a majority in the House and the Republicans hold a majority in the Senate, any new tax legislation is likely to require compromise by both parties, limiting the scope of what would be implemented.

We do not know what will happen next year. But we can use the knowledge that we have today to make positive decisions regarding our future. If the proposals under President-elect Biden’s administration could have detrimental effects for you, schedule a meeting with your estate planning attorney, tax advisor, or financial adviser.

While we are not able to predict with certainty stability in our lives, we do have a small window of opportunity left this year to take advantage of effective tax and estate planning techniques. A change that we can control.

Teri Parker CFP® is a vice president for CAPTRUST Financial Advisors. She has practiced in the field of financial planning and investment management since 2000.  Reach her via email at Teri.parker@captrustadvisors.com.

 

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What’s in store for commercial real estate in 2021?

Wow! December. With Christmas lights festooning the neighborhood, we are reminded that 2020 is almost history!

2021 is a mere 25 days hence. What can we expect of the commercial real estate landscape next year? Someone famous once opined, “Well, they’re only predictions, but they’re all mine.”

So, please bear with me as I get my Nostradamus on.

Bullish industrial owners. We represent an importer. Warehoused are goods they distribute. He’s slammed for space, thus our engagement to find more. Recently our full-priced offer was met with a reluctance — by the property owner — to grant a financing contingency. I’ve seen this with investment properties but never with owner-occupied real estate. You see, time is needed for a lender to nod yay or nay. Very few occupants have idle cash sitting in an account awaiting a purchase.

Shorter leases. Until the aroma of economic uncertainly ceases to waft, expect occupants to seek commitments of fewer years than before. Ten-year leases will become five and so on.

Clarity in the office market. I suspect by this time next year the runway will be clear and office occupants will have a direction — up or down. As previously mentioned, uncertainty is a killer for any business trying to gauge a need for space. But, as we are seeing in retail storefronts with their downward trajectory, at least we can plan.

Low interest rates. The Biden administration will most likely be gridlocked by a Republican Senate. With the House near balanced, a Democrat in the White House and a red Senate, expect the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low. Our 10-year treasuries – a bellwether for commercial real estate loans – are expected to wallow at historic bottoms as well.

Burgeoning e-commerce. If the Buchanan household is any indication, Internet ordering and “just in time shipments” to your door will continue with a vengeance. Recently, we bought a new mattress online. The next day, two beefy gentlemen ushered it into our master suite.

By the way, will someone kindly develop a box compactor for home use? Something between the kitchen trash masher and the ones in Albertson’s storeroom would be awesome. There’s your million-dollar business idea for 2021! You’re welcome.

Continued safety protocols. As the pandemic blossomed in March, predicted were temperature checkpoints, masks, hand washing stations and distancing. Actually, it was not terribly futuristic. Observed was what other countries were employing. I am startled by how quickly we adapted, however. Akin to airline changes post 9/11, we can’t simply attend a concert, eat in a restaurant or shop without a face covering. Shocking. Although, expect more in 2021.

An innovative technological offering? Commercial real estate is rarely disrupted by something shiny and new. CoStar – in the mid-1990s was probably the last big thing. With CoStar’s acquisition of Ten-X this year, we could see a more robust platform from which to transact.

At the site’s disposal now is available inventory, what’s recently sold and an auction template. Hmmm. Where do brokers fit in? But, look no further than our residential counterparts to get a glimpse. Matterport tours, consumer-facing available inventory and accurate Internet loan processing lessen the need for “buy-side” representatives.

Scant industrial vacancy. I see nothing on our immediate horizon that would cause industrial availability to rise. The drivers of increased square footage could be new construction. Nope. Not enough vacant land in the OC to stem demand. Plus, it takes an eternity to get a new development entitled.

Business failures – probably not. We’ve just endured the greatest health crises in 100 years and many industries thrived.

Exodus out of state. Maybe. We’ve definitely seen some movement. However, our local businesses are largely private. They’re your neighbors with a rich history and deep-rooted residency in SoCal.

A financial meltdown. Yeah. That could do it. 2009 again. I certainly hope not.

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR, is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services in Orange. He can be reached at abuchanan@lee-associates.com or 714.564.7104.

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