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Need2Know: Inauguration Day, Boomtown USA & TikTok Tinkerers

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The sun rises behind the U.S. Capitol as preparations are made prior to the 59th inaugural ceremony for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (Caroline Brehman/Pool Photo via AP)
Here are the headlines you Need2Know for Wednesday, January 20, 2021:

INAUGURATION DAY

Joe Biden will take the oath of office to become the 46th president of the United States at noon today, inheriting a full plate of crises and a deeply divided country on the steps of the building that was violently overtaken by supporters of his predecessor two weeks earlier. The ceremony will include performances by Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks, with Lady Gaga singing the national anthem. In lieu of a parade down Pennsylvania Ave., a virtual procession across the country will take place at 3:15 p.m. ET, followed by a primetime event hosted by Tom Hanks at 8:30 p.m. ET. LIVE BLOG

TRUMP FAREWELL

President Trump released a recorded farewell message touting his foreign policy and economic record and casting his presidency as a unifying moment in history, saying: “Our agenda was not about right or left, it wasn’t about Republican or Democrat, but about the good of a nation, and that means the whole nation.” Trump is skipping the inaugural ceremonies today and will instead take part in a sendoff at Joint Base Andrews. His second impeachment trial in the Senate could begin by the end of this week. President Trump leaves office with the lowest approval rating of his presidency, 34 percent, and a record low average approval, 41 percent, according to Gallup. POLITICO

FINAL PARDONS

In his final hours in office, President Trump issued a wave of pardons and commutations -- 143 in total -- to allies like Steve Bannon, his former campaign chief, and Elliott Broidy, a prominent GOP fundraiser, both of whom were arrested on corruption charges. Trump also granted clemency to the rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, Kwame Kilpatrick, the former Democratic mayor of Detroit, as well as many other lesser-known cases brought by criminal justice advocates. AP

CHINA 'GENOCIDE'

The State Dept. has accused China of carrying out genocide against Muslim Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region. It’s the most forceful condemnation of Beijing by any government for the atrocities in Xinjiang, coming on the last day of the Trump administration. The Biden administration has also said it believes Beijing is committing genocide of the Uighurs. NPR

COVID-19: LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

Washington state has enlisted the help of two of its hometown corporations, Starbucks and Microsoft, for help with the logistics of the vaccine rollout. In California, where vaccine distribution is a mess, hospitalizations are down nearly 9 percent over the last two weeks -- welcome news -- though a new variant of the virus called CAL.20C appears to be driving infections in the L.A. region. That variant is separate from the ones found in Brazil, South Africa and the UK. SF CHRON

BOOMTOWN, USA

Austin, Texas is expected to be the hottest housing market in the country for the second year in a row. Home prices have been rising across the Sun Belt for months, but Austin is seeing sustained 20+ percent growth in median prices as well as sales. Phoenix, Nashville, Tampa and Denver are also expected to outperform the national market, according to Zillow’s annual survey, while NYC, San Francisco and L.A. are expected to underperform, even as they still see growth. READ THE REPORT

MAHOMES' STATUS

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is still in the NFL concussion protocol but is expected to practice today, giving hope to Chiefs fans that he will be cleared to play in time for the AFC Championship Sunday. ESPN

SPOTTED...

...President-elect Biden and VP-elect Harris, participating in a national memorial at the Reflecting Pool outside the Lincoln Memorial to honor the 400,000 Americans who died of COVID-19: SEE PICS
...Alibaba founder Jack Ma, resurfacing on a livestream for the first time since the Chinese government cracked down on his business empire: SEE PIC
 ...Vladimir Putin, in nothing but his blue fitted swim trunks, taking a dip in an ice-cold, cross-shaped pool to mark the Orthodox Epiphany: WATCH

LOOK OUT, TAYLOR SWIFT

2021 has its first bona fide smash hit. Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” debuted in the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 after breaking streaming records in its first week of release. The breakup ballad by the 17-year-old Disney actress caught fire on TikTok before it migrated to the mainstream charts, helped along by debates and speculation on social media over who the lyrics are about. One Spotify exec told The New York Times they’ve never seen a song by a relatively unknown artist blow up so fast. WATCH THE VIDEO

LEFTOVERS: TIKTOK TINKERERS

Activist and athlete Jimmy Choi, who suffers from Parkinson’s, recently took to TikTok to publicize his frustration with the simple task of opening a pill bottle. His video went viral, inspiring a community of TikTok tinkerers to design and then build a 3D-printed Parkinson’s-friendly pill dispenser to help Choi and others who suffer from the disease. The prototypes are now available for free online, with a donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. WATCH HOW IT HAPPENED
Listen to the N2K Podcast! Looking for more context and analysis on the big stories of the day? Check out our podcast! Hosts Jill and Carlo break down the headlines, every weekday morning Listen on Apple or Spotify, or watch on YouTube, and send us your feedback!
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