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Morning Briefing Jan 22: Biden's inauguration honeymoon over

The inauguration honeymoon is over already for Joe Biden, Jacinda Ardern reveals the Government's housing timeline, and the pandemic brings more woe for famous events.

Joe Biden has got straight to work in his first 24 hours as US President.

Biden signed a series of executive orders from the Oval Office just hours after his inauguration yesterday, undoing several of his predecessor’s policies. Those orders included ending the travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries and re-joining both the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization.

Biden is expected to sign more executive orders today to boost his country’s fight against Covid-19.

Leaders around the world welcomed Biden’s inauguration and the end of Donald Trump’s often confrontational presidency yesterday.

Many noted problems like the pandemic and climate change need multilateral cooperation, something Trump often ridiculed.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern echoed those sentiments, describing Trump’s time in office as “tumultuous”.  

Of course, not everybody’s happy to see the back of Trump, with some of the 70 million people who voted for him still angry about November’s election result.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool met with a right-wing militia group in Texas who say they’ll never accept Biden as president.

They also showed off their preparedness to keep fighting the election result, by demonstrating some of their weaponry to Maqbool – and accidentally setting a hay bale on fire in the process.  

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Govt reveals housing timeline

Jacinda Ardern says the Government is attempting to tackle the housing crisis “on multiple fronts”.

Speaking from Labour’s caucus retreat in Nelson yesterday, Ardern announced a timeline of housing-related moves for the year ahead, saying there’s “no silver bullet for fixing the housing crisis”.

ACT’s housing spokesperson Brooke van Velden responded, saying the Government is "bereft of ideas on delivering more housing".

Stuff political editor Luke Malpass also writes that yesterday’s “announcement on future announcements” is “testament to the political nightmare this issue has now become”.

MIQ remains a juggle

As the first quarantine-free flights from the Cook Islands sparked joyous reunions at Auckland Airport yesterday, New Zealand’s managed isolation facilities continue to juggle the ebb and flow of international arrivals.

RNZ reports managed isolation demand is forecast to outstrip supply by more than 150 rooms in the coming days, however how clear that prediction is remains to be seen, with similar forecasts over the Christmas period failing to eventuate.

One person who’s monitored the figures for months says the booking system needs an overhaul.  

Meanwhile, Jacinda Ardern says she expects a “practical solution” will be found over The Wiggles’ managed isolation issues after yesterday’s revelations their New Zealand tour is in jeopardy.

However, Ardern did warn promoters to ensure quarantine spots are booked before announcing any future concert dates. 

Mycoplasma bovis detected

Lincoln University has confirmed the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis has been detected at its two research farms with the livestock there now facing slaughter.

Lincoln University’s deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Grant Edwards, says the news has been “distressing”. 

Meanwhile, there’s also been bad news for threatened native trees in parts of Auckland.

Myrtle rust, a highly infectious fungal disease, has been spotted in the Waitākere Ranges for the first time.

The disease is carried by the wind and infects trees, including the pōhutukawa, mānuka and rātā. The myrtle rust found in Waitākere has infected ramarama trees, which are considered nationally critically threatened.

Pandemic woes for big events

As UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says it’s “too early to say” when their latest nationwide lockdown will begin to ease, organisers of the Glastonbury Festival have cancelled the event for the second year in a row

But another famous event remains upbeat in the face of the pandemic with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach saying the Tokyo Olympics will still go ahead as planned.

A state of emergency has recently been declared in Tokyo due to increasing Covid cases, however Bach says there’s no reason for organisers not to start the Games in July

Other news of note this morning:

- Eleven of NZ’s recent confirmed Covid-19 cases have been identified as the new UK variant, thought to be more infectious than the original strain of the virus.

- Arnold Schwarzenegger has channelled his famous Terminator role to encourage people to get the Covid vaccine. 

- NZ-born Trump confidant Chris Liddell has withdrawn from his bid for the top role at the OECD. 

- A group of iwi members and protestors contesting the sale of land at Wellington's Shelly Bay has served a verbal trespass notice to the developer.

- Stuff reports Uber is being challenged to do more over predatory drivers.

- A two-year mission to clean up one million litres of abandoned toxic waste is underway in Northland.

- And there’s mystery surrounding the birth of eagle ray pups at Auckland’s Kelly Tarlton Aquarium given no males have been with the female eagle rays in more than two years. 

And finally... 

A young poet managed to upstage Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and all the assembled politicians at Joe Biden’s inauguration yesterday.

Twenty-two-year-old Amanda Gorman stole the show with her poem The Hill We Climb that called for unity in America and beyond. Praise for her prose poured in soon after the event, including from the Obamas and Oprah Winfrey. 

And former New Zealand poet-laureate Selina Tusitala Marsh was so inspired and impressed by Gorman’s work she put pen to paper to craft her own poem in response yesterday, which you can find here.