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With student loan forgiveness stuck in courts, here’s how Feds are still erasing debt

oes debt relief mean to borrowers? Debt forgiveness will change the lives of some borrowers, but fall short for others

These changes don’t necessarily come with the multibillion dollar price tag of the wider debt relief plan – though they could be expensive – and they won’t touch every borrower. However, put together, they have the potential to ease paying student loans for hundreds of thousands of Americans in the years to come.

That is, if a friendly president remains in office.

Many of these changes rely on the federal government using the expanded authority that comes with a national emergency. Others have navigated a complicated and esoteric rule-making process that is heavily subject to the whims of the current administration.

“They have not wasted any time or opportunity to make changes that are really beneficial to student loan borrowers,” said Betsy Mayotte, the head of the Institute of Student Loan Advisors, a group that offers free advice in repaying student loans. “They’ve taken advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A lot of consumers don’t understand that.”

The one-time debt relief plan makes borrowers earning less than $125,000 annually – or $250,000 for couples, eligible for up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness. It’s widely expected to benefit roughly 40 million borrowers. As of November 3, about 26 million people had applied for relief.

What will student loan forgiveness cost? Biden’s student loan relief plan will cost US about $400 billion, CBO estimates

The federal government has frozen student loan payments since March 2020. As part of that, the feds also set interest rates at zero percent and told collection agencies to stop trying to recoup overdue debts. The administration previously encouraged borrowers to apply for relief by mid-November to receive the debt relief before the payment pause ends.

To that end, the administration continues to urge borrowers to apply and has said the Education Department will “process discharges when we are able to do so and you will not need to reapply.”

How is the administration forgiving student loans in 2022?

The recent changes don’t face the legal scrutiny of wide-ranging debt relief, yet. Starting July 1st, 2023, borrowers who are disabled won’t have to have their earnings reviewed for three years after they claim relief. Those who attended a school that closed suddenly will have their debt forgiven automatically after a year. The Education Department also streamlined a debt forgiveness program geared toward public service workers and simplified the process for qualifying for relief through income-driven repayment plans.

In addition, the administration has said it will discharge the debts of tens of thousands of students who attended predatory institutions like Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute. And the new rules will make it easier for borrowers to sue universities that defrauded them.

Some $5.8 billion in student loan debt was canceled years after the collapse of Corinthian Colleges, which now Vice President Kamala Harris sued as attorney general of California.

Previously, borrowers generally had to apply for relief individually through the so-called borrower defense rule. The time-intensive and bureaucratic process has left many behind. As of September more than 392,000 applications were awaiting review by the Education Department. The new rule bars institutions from requiring students to sign non-arbitration clauses and allows legal services groups to take on their cases in class-action suits.

Advocates for students ripped off by predatory institutions, including the National Student Legal Defense Network, have long been pushing for the administration to adopt this practice.

ITT Tech students to receive debt relief:Former students to get $4 billion in federal loan forgiveness

These changes mean “students will now have an opportunity to hold predatory schools accountable,” said Aaron Ament, president of the National Student Legal Defense Network.

At the same time, the Education Department is set to forgive an additional $6 billion in student loan debt for borrowers who already applied for debt relief under the borrower defense program. That relief will depend on a judge’s approval of a settlement agreement between a group of student borrower advocates representing nearly 200,000 students and the Education Department. The final hearing was Wednesday, and the judge will issue a written decision on that case within a week.

The borrower advocates sued the administration under former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos because of the department’s delay in processing tens of thousands of applications for relief. The final agreement will grant debt relief to students who attended one of dozens of universities – including the University of Phoenix, Grand Canyon University and DeVry University – and had applied for debt relief via the borrower defense rule before June 20, 2022.

The federal government still has to decide how to handle borrower defense applications for students who attended a university not included in the settlement list.

Do income-driven repayment plans qualify for student loan forgiveness?

Along with the mass debt relief plan, Biden recently unveiled its plans for a new income-driven repayment program. It will reduce borrowers’ payments to 5% of their discretionary income. The lowest rate offered now is 10%, though it can vary depending on a borrower’s specific plan.

the federal government lowers the borrowers’ expected payment to match their wages, though doing so extends the life of the loan, often to 20 or 25 years from the standard 10-year repayment period. Nothing prevents them from paying off their debt more quickly, however.

What is discretionary income?:And why it matters in student loan repayment

Borrowers who make 10 years of payments will have their debts erased so long as their balance is below $12,000. The proposed changes would also cover borrowers’ unpaid interest so long as they make their monthly payments. The exact details of that plan are still being developed, and the administration is expected to release them in the coming weeks.

Republicans including Rep. Virginia Foxx, the ranking member on the House’s committee on education, question the proposal and have requested a full cost of what the income-driven plan would cost.

Ella Azoulay of the Student Borrower Protection Center helps Giselle Morton of East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, with her student debt loan at Massasoit Community College in October.

At the same time, the Education Department plans to conduct a review of payments under income-driven repayment programs that could mean the erasure of some borrowers’ balances. Those who have been paying on their loans for 20 to 25 years through these plans at some point will receive automatic forgiveness, even if they’re not enrolled in such a plan now.

This review hasn’t attracted nearly the same level of attention as the president’s attempt at broad forgiveness, but of all the regulatory changes, Mayotte said, the income-driven waiver has the potential to affect the most borrowers.

It depends, she said, on how far back the department goes back when reviewing payments. The feds could start in 1994, when the first income-driven plan was introduced. But Mayotte said the agency hadn’t specified a date, which could mean they’re considering all borrowers for the review.

As of the third quarter of 2022, there were roughly 9 million federal borrowers who are 50 years or older, and about 1.5 million of them were enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan. It’s unclear how many have been making payments for more than 25 years.

What has changed and who qualifies for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

One of the department’s most touted accomplishments is the revamp of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Top department officials have repeatedly described previous versions of the program as broken. But the agency has said more than 236,000 borrowers with $14 billion in debt have been approved for forgiveness thanks to the changes announced in October 2021.

The program promises debt relief to borrowers who work in the public service sector for 10 years while making payments on their student loans. The Education Department is supposed to discharge the debt after a decade, but many borrowers found it was nearly impossible to access relief. When Biden took office, only a few thousand had ever had their debt forgiven through the program, according to the Education Department.

Want student loan forgiveness? Millions of jobs qualify for updated program — and yours might be one of them.

The increase in borrowers qualifying comes thanks to loosening some of the strict eligibility requirements that had been associated with that plan. For example, borrowers had to ensure they had the right type of loan and that they were enrolled in a qualifying income-driven repayment plan.

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona has said he wants the Education Department to prevent students from being taken advantage of by for-profit colleges. The federal agency is revisiting rules around for-profit colleges and how effectively they help students get jobs.

The waiver, which expired Oct. 31, 2022, allowed for all kinds of past payments to count toward a borrowers’ eventual forgiveness.

However, the Education Department says borrowers still have time to take advantage of some of the waiver’s flexibility. The agency will count past payments toward a borrowers’ eligibility for forgiveness through the same one-time review for income-driven repayment plans.

Borrowers with commercially held FFEL loans looking to benefit from the relief will need to consolidate their debts into a federal Direct Loan by May 1.

Another key change: Borrowers will have to show they currently work in a qualifying public service job to qualify for the debt relief. Those jobs include public school teachers and firefighters, but also government employees and attorneys for nonprofits. (Under the waiver, loan holders only had to prove they had worked in a qualifying job at some point in the past.)

Is that student loan phone call a scam? How to avoid scammers and get debt relief safely

And starting July 1, 2023 the government will permanently loosen many of the program’s most restrictive requirements. Payments later than 15 days, for example, will now count toward the total required for forgiveness. Borrowers who pause their payment obligations due to cancer treatment, military service or economic hardship will receive credit for the months they miss. Previously, borrowers who consolidated their Direct Loans would lose all progress they had made toward debt relief.

How will the Education Department handle student loans?

All told, the changes made to the department’s current student loan relief programs has meant tens of billions in discharged debt, though that is only a fraction of the hundreds of billions that could be canceled as part of the president’s broad one-time loan forgiveness plan. The regulatory changes are likely to last longer and be available to borrowers who may not benefit from one-time debt relief, including future students.

Some changes, like the Public Service waiver, are possible thanks to the 2003 Heroes Act, which allows the Education Secretary to modify student loan payment requirements during national emergencies.

But the forward-looking policy changes emerged via a complicated process known as negotiated rulemaking. It’s a lengthy ordeal that requires months of public comments and discussions from groups that may be affected by the rules. And the Education Department is required to craft its rules around student loans via this approach.

A person holds a sign thanking President Joe Biden for canceling student debt during a rally in front of the White House in Washington, in August.

Sattelmeyer said when Congress passes laws, it can’t account for every permutation of what that law looks like. Negotiated rulemaking, though, allows federal agencies to interpret the intentions of lawmakers.

Who’s saying what about Title IX? How schools will treat sexual misconduct is changing.

The next administration has the ability to undo the rules. The DeVos administration, for example, altered the criteria associated with the borrower defense from the Obama-era and some of the protections tied to the anti gender-discrimination law, Title IX. It’s also the process through which the Biden administration will have to go through to get its new income-driven repayment plan approved.

A more permanent change to how borrowers repay their student loans would require an act of Congress, but with Republicans poised to win the House, and possibly the Senate, that day is likely years away.

Should transgender youths have access to gender-affirming care? Why bans are ‘cruel’ and ‘dangerous’

“I just don’t understand why they are so mean.”

Those were the words Lizette Trujillo heard from her son Daniel, who came home from school one day when he was 8, unsettled that a young classmate was being bullied.

Trujillo seized on the chance for a life lesson on empathy versus sympathy.

But Daniel, who is transgender, responded like a wise soul: “Mom, I think God made me this way on purpose: So I can be empathetic and teach empathy.”

Seven years later, Trujillo still carries that moment close at a time of raging noise from conservative corners over rights of transgender and non-binary youths – even for something as basic as health care.

“What we are missing in this world,” Trujillo said, “is empathy.”

Transgender Awareness Week puts spotlight on health care

For the 1.6 million transgender people in the U.S., Transgender Awareness Week that began Sunday raises the visibility of the community – and focuses on issues trans people face. Gender-affirming care for youths has been at the top of that list.

In 2022, at least 15 states have restricted access to gender-affirming care or considered laws that would do so, according to the Williams Institute. Some of the bills carry penalties for health care providers and even families.

A rule approved this month by Florida’s medical boards, at the urging of GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, would bar transgender people under 18 from receiving hormones or undergoing surgeries as treatment for gender dysphoria.

Last spring, Trujillo’s home state of Arizona restricted access to gender-affirming care for minors. The bias that Daniel, now 15, faces “is through his state lawmakers trying to legislate him out of the state and out of existence through their policies,” she said.

“So many stories are being told around” gender-affirming health care, she said. ”What’s not being told is why this is up for debate at this large scale.”

HORMONE THERAPY HELPS:Transgender children who get hormone therapy enjoy better mental health, study says

‘How do you debate the lives of kids who are happy?’

Lawmakers pushing bills that target young people do not represent the majority of the country, said Jen Grosshandler, co-founder and executive director of the GenderCool Project, a youth-led group that works to replace misinformed opinions with real experiences of transgender and nonbinary youths. Most people have no desire to interfere with parenting of others, particularly when it comes to a child’s physical and mental well-being, she said.

“Should trans kids be able to have care or not have care? Most people in the U.S. don’t care about this conversation,” Grosshandler said. “So why in the world is this conversation even happening?”

Lawmakers are using their political power to “whip up nonsense about families raising good, solid kids,” she said. “It’s not a debate. How do you debate the lives of kids who are happy, doing well in school, volunteering in their community, learning multiple musical instruments, going to college and building amazing lives?”

Trujillo says some legislators “don’t care about the health care of our children. They are trying to make this a wedge issue to win elections.”

TRIAL OVER ARKANSAS BAN:Landmark trial over Arkansas’ ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youths begins

What does gender-affirming care look like?

Gender-affirming care is a term for medical care that is “highly individualized,” said Dr. Kellan Baker, executive director of the Whitman-Walker Institute. “There is no set way to go through gender affirmation. Everyone’s needs are different.”

There can be social transitions such as changing a haircut, using different pronouns or wearing different clothes, he said. Medical care, which can include hormone therapy, can be crucial, he said. Puberty delaying medications, which are reversible, Baker said, allow youths time to explore their identity “free of a ticking clock.”

Backers of bills to restrict care often say they are saving young people from regret later in life. Says Baker: “The entire point is to prevent regret by giving them time. Not doing that is particularly cruel.”

The Fast Food Restaurant Queen Elizabeth II Sort Of Owned

This year, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II reached 70 years of service, and to celebrate her Platinum Juibelee the U.K. (and you could argue, the rest of the world as well) tucked into some classic British fare. The Royal Household even sold a special bottle of champagne to commemorate the occasion. But there was one fast food chain you probably didn’t think to include a visit to during your royal celebration which was technically part of her domain.

The Queen’s home, Buckingham Palace, is a massive estate, including a drawing room, throne room, ballroom, art gallery, and a sprawling garden of nearly 40 acres, per the Royal Collection Trust. But when English royalty isn’t occupying one of the palace’s 775 rooms they might fancy a trip to a decidedly smaller-in-size (but no smaller in scope) fast food icon just outside of London: McDonald’s.

That’s right. Among the Crown’s empire are multiple hotels, castles, horse racing courses, and — perhaps surprisingly — a McDonald’s. And this location is fit for royalty (via Insider).

A British Big Mac good enough for the Queen
Eliz A/Shutterstock
Today, there are more than 1,270 McDonald’s locations across the U.K. and believe it or not one of them was technically owned by Queen Elizabeth II herself – specifically, the McDonald’s located in the Banbury Gateway Shopping Park in Oxfordshire.

The Queen was no stranger to ordering food just the way she wanted and “lovin’ it.” Her Majesty famously hated garlic so much it was banned from Buckingham Palace, according to a former palace chef (via National Post). But when Queen Elizabeth II wasn’t enjoying her daily cocktail (a gin Dubonnet, if you please), or a slice of her favorite chocolate biscuit cake, she could have dined on a 10-piece. Per Insider, Banbury Gateway Shopping Park is part of the Crown Estate, which means its McDonald’s location was technically owned by the Queen herself.

No ordinary McDonald’s
Anwar Hussein/Getty Images
Fittingly, the Banbury Gateway Shopping Park McDonald’s location owned by Queen Elizabeth II is outfitted with Eames chairs and leather sofas for visitors to relax in style while they chow down on McFlurries and McNuggets (via Insider). Guests can click-clack across laminate floors and enjoy table service, like a sit-down restaurant. Not only are there enhanced seating and delivery options compared to your run-of-the-mill Micky D’s, but there are also Samsung tablets for guests to use, free Wi-Fi, and charging pads so you don’t have to dig a cord out of your bag or touch one that had been held in anyone else’s greasy fast food fingers.

As the Banbury Gateway McDonalds’ website cheekily asks, “Fancy a bite to eat on the go?” If you’re craving a taste of “the Queen’s McDonald’s” for yourself, it’s open every day from 6:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m.

This is not the only McDonald’s the Queen once owned
Sampajano_Anizza/Shutterstock
And if you are having trouble wrapping your head around the idea that Queen Elizabeth once technically owned a McDonald’s location, have we got news for you: For a brief period of time, Her Majesty actually owned two McDonald’s locations.Located in Slough, The Telegraph reported in 2008 the Crown Estate purchased a retail park for £92 million. This land (named the Bath Road Retail Park) housed a McDonald’s location, complete with a drive-thru. This means the Queen was the technical owner of both McDonald’s locations for one year, as Insider reports the Crown Estate sold the land the Slough McDonald’s sat on for 177 million euros in 2016. The Banbury Gateway Shopping Park McDonald’s (which is still owned by the Crown Estate) was purchased in 2015.

So, did Queen Elizabeth enjoy the occasional Big Mac?
forden/Shutterstock
If you were the technical owner of a famous fast food chain beloved for its crispy fries and burgers, you may be tempted to stop in from time to time for a free meal. But then, you wouldn’t be Queen Elizabeth II. In a 2020 interview with Insider, former palace chef Darren McGrady got candid about the many, many foods the Queen didn’t eat. In addition to garlic (causes bad breath), shellfish (can’t risk food poisoning), and pizza (apparently, the royal menus lean towards French), Queen Elizabeth almost never ate burgers. And when she did, you can bet they weren’t your average drive-thru order.McGrady told the outlet the Queen preferred her burgers without a bun and made with venison shot at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, where the royal family spent summers. Burgers were eaten with a knife and fork (oddly enough, the same way Queen Elizabeth ate bananas) and paired with cranberry.

Lie as litmus test: Arizona governor candidate Kari Lake calls it ‘disqualifying’ for rival not to declare 2020 election ‘stolen’

A leading Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, Kari Lake, continues to put lies about the 2020 presidential election at the center of her campaign — this week calling it “disqualifying” and “sickening” for a rival candidate not to say that the election was stolen, though it wasn’t stolen.

Lake’s strong performance in the Republican primary so far means that an aggressively dishonest promoter of conspiracy theories about the 2020 election could potentially have a prominent role in the 2024 presidential election in a key swing state.
Lake said at a televised Republican debate on Wednesday that she would not have certified Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona, which was certified by term-limited Republican Gov. Doug Ducey as required by law. Lake, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, falsely said of Biden: “He lost the election, and he shouldn’t be in the White House.”
The Arizona governor’s certification of presidential results “traditionally has been, and should be, uneventful,” Joshua Sellers, an expert on election law and an Arizona State University associate professor of law, said in an email on Friday — a necessary but “perfunctory” act confirming the result of the state’s popular vote. Sellers said “it would be deeply disruptive for a Governor to impede certification based solely on her own views or disappointment about a presidential election result.”
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the state’s top elections official, is the overwhelming favorite in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Arizona has elected a Republican governor in three straight elections dating back to 2010. Biden’s 2020 victory in the state was the first for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996.

A barrage of false election claims from Lake

Lake, a former news anchor at a local Fox station, repeatedly and falsely claimed at the Wednesday debate that the 2020 election was “stolen” and “corrupt.”
As supposed proof, Lake cited a “forensic audit.” A shambolic Republican-initiated partisan review, described by supporters as an audit but marred by problems, confirmed that Biden beat Trump in Arizona’s most populous county.
Lake also defended a right-wing film about the 2020 election that is filled with holes of logic and evidence, even after the debate moderator noted that Trump-appointed former Attorney General William Barr had scoffed at the film. And Lake falsely said that 34,000 Arizona ballots “were counted two, three and four times,” though this simply did not happen. (It wasn’t clear if Lake was referring to a long-circulating false claim about duplicate images of ballot envelopes, which have an entirely benign explanation, or talking about something else.)
Lake asked the three other candidates on stage to raise their hands if they agreed that the election was corrupt and stolen. When her top competitor, developer Karrin Taylor Robson, was the only one not to do so — Robson said she wouldn’t participate in Lake’s “stunt” — Lake’s Twitter account called Robson’s refusal “disqualifying.” Lake’s account posted video of the exchange again on Friday, this time calling Robson’s refusal “sickening.”
In other words, one leading candidate for a major office is bashing another leading candidate for declining to join her in championing a lie.
Lake’s campaign declined to make a substantive comment for this article. When asked for supporting information about Lake’s false claim that ballots were counted up to four times, an adviser replied only by mocking CNN.

Robson wouldn’t say whether she would have certified the 2020 election

Robson appears to have gained ground with party voters, narrowing Lake’s lead in recent polls. Robson got a boost this week when the third-place candidate, former congressman Matt Salmon, dropped out and endorsed her.
Unlike Lake, who said at the debate that the 2020 election is “the number-one issue” today, Robson has not made the 2020 election a top point of emphasis in this one. And Robson has not gone nearly as far as Lake in disparaging the 2020 election.
Robson, though, has also disputed its legitimacy. She said at the debate: “I believe our election was absolutely not fair.”
Robson cited supposed media suppression of news damaging to Biden and supposed anti-conservative bias by “big tech,” “liberal judges” having permitted the imposition of new policies shortly before the election (which was held during the Covid-19 pandemic), and Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg having donated a total of hundreds of millions of dollars to local elections offices around the country.
Robson did not answer directly when asked if she would have certified Arizona’s 2020 results as governor, saying she “was not privy” to the information Ducey had at the time. She was the only candidate at the debate to unequivocally say she would accept the outcome of this primary.
Hobbs campaign manager Nicole DeMont criticized both Lake and Robson for spending time complaining about the 2020 election even though “Arizonans are tired of being made fun of on late-night TV.”
“The Trump-endorsed frontrunner Kari Lake has been the biggest proponent of the Big Lie from day one, but now Karrin Taylor Robson is also peddling those conspiracy theories in an effort to catch up in the polls,” DeMont said in an email. She said Hobbs is committed to fighting for policies “Arizonans actually care about” on issues like schools, water and affordability.
Election Day in the primary is August 2. Early voting begins on Wednesday.

More than half of GOP governor nominees have questioned or denied the legitimacy of the 2020 election

The Republican nominee in at least 21 of this year’s 36 gubernatorial races is someone who has rejected, declined to affirm, raised doubts about, or tried to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

And the list will almost certainly get longer when the last batch of Republican primaries is completed over the coming weeks.
The 21 candidates on the list so far have expressed varying views about the 2020 election. Some have falsely proclaimed the election stolen; some others have been evasive when asked if Biden’s victory was legitimate. Some incumbents endorsed a 2020 lawsuit that sought to overturn Biden’s win but have said little about the election since; some first-time candidates made false election claims a focus of their successful 2022 primary campaigns.
Regardless, the presence of a large number of 2020 deniers, deceivers and skeptics on general election ballots in November raises the prospect of a crisis of democracy in the 2024 presidential election in which former President Donald Trump is widely expected to run again. Governors play a major role in elections — signing or vetoing legislation about election rules, sometimes unilaterally changing those rules, appointing key election officials, and, critically, certifying election results.
It is possible that some swing states will have their 2024 elections run by both a governor and elections chief who have vehemently rejected Biden’s victory.
In Arizona, for example, both Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake and secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem are conspiracy theorists who want to overturn Biden’s 2020 win in the state. In Pennsylvania, where the governor gets to nominate the election chief, the Republican gubernatorial nominee is Doug Mastriano, a fervent election denier who has taken various steps to try to reverse the 2020 result. Both Republican nominees in Michigan, Tudor Dixon for governor and Kristina Karamo for secretary of state, have falsely claimed Trump won the state in 2020.
CNN will update this article as additional Republican winners are chosen or if we find information showing that Biden’s victory has been disputed by current Republican nominees.

Alabama: Kay Ivey

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declares victory in her Republican primary race as she speaks at her election watch party in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 24, 2022.

In April, during the Republican primary, incumbent Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey released an ad in which she falsely claimed, “The fake news, Big Tech and blue state liberals stole the election from President Trump.” Challenged about the ad by local television station WVTM 13, Ivey said she believes Trump was the rightful winner. (He lost.)
The Ivey campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Alaska: Mike Dunleavy

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks with reporters about the recently ended legislative session on Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Incumbent Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy supported the Texas lawsuit that tried in December 2020 to get the Supreme Court to overturn Biden’s victories in four states. When an interviewer asked Dunleavy in December 2020 — a month after television networks unofficially declared Biden the winner — how he would manage Alaska’s relationship with “President-elect Biden,” Dunleavy said that “I’m not there yet, that there’s a new president.” He added that there was an “outside chance” that there would be a Biden administration — though, in fact, that was overwhelmingly likely.
“If there is any suspicion of fraud, which there is, that really needs to be looked into. That really needs to be investigated,” Dunleavy said, though there was no evidence at the time of widespread fraud that could have changed the outcome. “That really needs to be determined, I think by the courts, that if it does exist, then it needs to be rectified. If it doesn’t exist, then that needs to be proven as well.”
On the day Biden was inaugurated in January 2021, reporter James Brooks, then with the Anchorage Daily News and now with the Alaska Beacon, asked Dunleavy if Biden won the election legitimately. Dunleavy would not respond directly, saying, “Joe Biden won this election. Joe Biden was — has been sworn in today. So he is the president.” Though Brooks asked two more times if Dunleavy believes Biden won legitimately, Dunleavy again avoided a straight answer.
In July 2022, the Anchorage Daily News reported that “Dunleavy did not respond to several questions sent to his campaign spokesman about his position on the 2020 election results.” A Dunleavy campaign spokesperson told the newspaper that Dunleavy would remain focused on his own race.
Dunleavy succeeded in Alaska’s top-four primary in August, advancing to the general election as the leading Republican in the race. The Dunleavy campaign did not respond to a CNN request for comment.

Arizona: Kari Lake

Republican gubernatorial candidate for Arizona Kari Lake speaks to supporters during a campaign event at the Whiskey Roads Restaurant & Bar on July 31, 2022 in Tucson, Arizona

Arizona Republican nominee Kari Lake has put false claims about the 2020 election at the center of her campaign — repeatedly and falsely declaring the election “stolen” and even calling it “disqualifying” and “sickening” that her top rival in the party primary wouldn’t say the same. In an interview with The New York Times in early August, after primary voters had cast their ballots, Lake said of Biden: “Deep down, I think we all know this illegitimate fool in the White House — I feel sorry for him — didn’t win.”
Lake, a former longtime local news anchor at a Fox station in Phoenix, has said she would not have certified Biden’s victory in Arizona if she had been governor. She has continued, even in 2022, to demand the decertification of the Biden-won states of Arizona and Wisconsin, though that is a legal impossibility.
Lake has made numerous false claims about the 2020 election. She has falsely claimed Biden didn’t receive 81 million votes he indeed received, falsely claimed Trump won Arizona, though he actually lost by more than 10,000 votes, and promoted baseless conspiracy theories about the vote count and about election technology company Dominion Voting Systems.
Lake has advocated for the imprisonment of Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is now her Democratic opponent for governor; there is simply no sign Hobbs broke the law. Lake has also called for the imprisonment of unspecified journalists she claims have told lies about the election and other subjects.
The Lake campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Arkansas: Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks at the America First Policy Institute Agenda Summit in Washington, DC, on July 26, 2022.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former White House press secretary under Trump, has run a low-profile Arkansas gubernatorial campaign with only sporadic public comments to the media. But when the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper asked her this spring whether she believes the election was stolen from Trump, Sanders declined to affirm the election’s legitimacy — saying, “I don’t think we’ll ever know the depths of how much fraud existed.” She continued: “We know there is fraud in every election. How far and wide it went, I don’t think that will be something that will be ever determined.”
Sanders didn’t go nearly as far as her obscure primary opponent, who flatly declared the election stolen. Still, she chose to vaguely cast doubt on the outcome. (There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, certainly not enough to have changed the winner in any state.)
The Sanders campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

California: Brian Dahle

Republican gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Brian Dahle discusses the upcoming race against Gov. Gavin Newsom during an interview in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, June 9, 2022.

California Republican nominee Brian Dahle, a state senator who is challenging incumbent Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, refused to answer directly when The Los Angeles Times asked him in a May article whether Biden was legitimately elected, saying only that Biden is “our president.” In late April, the website CalMatters reported that Dahle “notably did not affirm the 2020 election results, even after CalMatters pushed his team to clarify Dahle’s position on Trump’s conspiracy theory about widespread voting fraud. In a TV interview a day later, he said: ‘Joe Biden is our president, no doubt.'”
The Dahle campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Colorado: Heidi Ganahl

Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl addresses the media after a watch party at the Wide Open Saloon on June 28, 2022 in Sedalia, Colorado.

Colorado Republican nominee Heidi Ganahl, a businesswoman and University of Colorado regent who is challenging Democratic incumbent Gov. Jared Polis, refused on multiple occasions — including in late 2021 and early 2022 — to say whether Joe Biden won the election legitimately. In November 2021, Ganahl praised a group of election conspiracy theorists that has knocked on Colorado doors looking for evidence of fraud, saying the group was “doing great things,” the website Colorado Newsline reported.
In April 2022, the Colorado Sun reported that when Ganahl was pressed on a local radio show about whether she believes the election was “stolen,” she refused to answer directly and said, “I think there’s a lot of questions about what happened in the election.”
The Colorado Sun reported that Ganahl said in mid-June that “I don’t believe there was enough fraud that would have flipped the election.” But she also said “there are a lot of procedural things that were weird about this election,” criticizing states’ pre-election changes to their elections policies and Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s hundreds of millions in donations to local elections offices around the country. (Those donations helped cash-strapped offices deal with the demands of the Covid-19 pandemic but have been criticized by Republicans, sometimes conspiratorially, as inappropriate private influence.)
In July, Ganahl chose a running mate, Navy veteran and businessman Danny Moore, who falsely claimed on Facebook in January 2021 that Biden was “elected by the Democrat steal” and posted other baseless conspiratorial claims about the election. Because of these comments, Moore was removed in 2021 as chair of Colorado’s redistricting commission.
After he was removed as chair, he told The Gazette newspaper of Colorado Springs that he isn’t a conspiracy theorist and doesn’t believe Trump got more votes than Biden. He said, “Joe Biden is the duly elected president. Joe Biden is the commander-in-chief.”
The Ganahl campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Florida: Ron DeSantis

U.S. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pauses as he speaks on stage at the Turning Point USA's (TPUSA) Student Action Summit (SAS) in Tampa, Florida, U.S., July 22, 2022.

Appearing on Fox News two days after the 2020 election, incumbent Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hinted at the notion that Republican legislators in key swing states could potentially override the presidential choices of state voters. DeSantis was one of the first prominent Republicans to publicly float this idea.
DeSantis said, “Especially if you’re in those states that have Republican legislatures, like Pennsylvania and Michigan and all these places: call your state representatives and your state senators. Call Under Article II of the Constitution, presidential electors are done by the legislatures, and the schemes they create and the framework. And if there’s departure from that, if they’re not following law, if they’re ignoring the law, then they can provide remedies as well. So I would exhaust every option to make sure we have a fair count.”
DeSantis continued into early December 2020 to say he was encouraging Trump to “fight on,” according to a Politico report at the time. When DeSantis was asked in mid-December 2020, after the Electoral College ratified Biden’s victory, if he accepted the Biden win, he responded, according to Politico: “It’s not for me to do. But here’s what I would say: Obviously we did our thing in Florida. The College voted. What’s going to happen is going to happen.”
On multiple occasions since then, DeSantis has refused to respond directly when asked if he thinks Biden was legitimately elected or if the election was rigged. Instead, he has generally pivoted to praise of how the election was handled in Florida, which Trump won, and to other comments.
DeSantis is running unopposed in the Republican primary. His office did not respond to a July request from CNN to explain where he stands on the legitimacy of Biden’s win.

Idaho: Brad Little

Idaho Gov. Brad Little laughs while talking with media after declaring victory in the gubernatorial primary during the Republican Party's primary election celebration Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at the Hilton Garden Inn hotel in Boise, Idaho.

Incumbent Idaho Gov. Brad Little endorsed the Texas lawsuit in December 2020 that attempted to get the Supreme Court to toss out the election results in four states won by Biden.
Little’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Illinois: Darren Bailey

Republican gubernatorial nominee Darren Bailey celebrates with supporters on primary election night on June 28, 2022, at Thelma Keller Convention Center in Effingham, Illinois.

Illinois State Sen. Darren Bailey, the Republican nominee who is challenging Democratic incumbent Gov. J.B. Pritzker, signed a letter that asked an Illinois member of Congress to object, on January 6, 2021, to the certification of Biden’s victory; the letter said, “Certifying this election is tantamount to legitimizing fraud.” (The letter was previously reported by the Effingham Daily News.)
Bailey vaguely promoted the false suggestion that there was voter fraud sufficiently widespread to have changed the outcome. On November 12, 2020, five days after television networks unofficially called the race for Biden, Bailey wrote on Twitter: “TRUMP…..4 more years! It’s coming……#voterfraudistreason.” In a Facebook video on December 3, 2020, he said it is “appalling” that other Illinois Republicans were calling on Trump to “give up” the fight and baselessly hinted that “illegal voting” had led to Republican defeats in races in the Chicago area.
The Bailey campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Iowa: Kim Reynolds

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during the Ember Recovery Campus groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, in Cambridge.

Incumbent Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said in December 2020 that she wanted Iowa to join the Texas lawsuit that tried to overturn Biden’s victories in four states, and she lamented that the state wasn’t given an opportunity to sign on because Iowa has a Democratic attorney general. She blocked an effort by that attorney general, Tom Miller, to formally submit his opposition to the lawsuit.
Days after Biden’s January 2021 inauguration, Reynolds said on WHO 13 News of Des Moines, “I think he is legitimately elected.” But she continued to baselessly suggest there were unanswered questions “about the integrity of the election process.”
Reynolds’ office did not respond to a request for comment.

Kansas: Derek Schmidt

In this photo from Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt answers questions during an interview in his office in Topeka, Kan. Schmidt,  a Republican running for governor, has issued a legal opinion saying an anti-abortion measure up for a statewide vote would not hinder medical care for women facing life-threatening pregnancies.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the Republican gubernatorial nominee who is challenging Democratic incumbent Gov. Laura Kelly, signed on to a legal brief in support of the Texas lawsuit that sought to overturn the election results in four states. Schmidt said in a statement in December 2020: “Texas asserts it can prove four states violated the U.S. Constitution in an election that affects all Americans, so Texas should be heard.”
After the Supreme Court dismissed the Texas lawsuit later in December 2020, Schmidt issued a statement saying “the Court’s decision means it is time to put this election behind us.”
The Schmidt campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Maine: Paul LePage

Republican candidate for governor Paul LePage speaks at the Republican state convention April 30, 2022, in Augusta, Maine.

Maine Republican nominee and former governor Paul LePage, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Gov. Janet Mills, falsely claimed in a local radio appearance the week after the 2020 election: “This is clearly a stolen election.” He proceeded to make baseless claims about voter fraud and baselessly declare that Democrats don’t want fair elections. (His comments were previously reported by Beacon, a Maine website.)
LePage has not limited such claims to the 2020 election. This April, he claimed that out-of-state voters bused into Maine to vote in a 2009 referendum on same-sex marriage, though there is no evidence for that either. And in 2018, upon certifying a Democrat’s victory in the first congressional election in US history ranked-choice voting, LePage wrote the words “stolen election” next to his signature.
Asked for comment, the LePage campaign responded by asking CNN to cite the source for his claim that 2020 was a “stolen election.” When provided a link, the campaign did not respond again.

Maryland: Dan Cox

Dan Cox, a candidate for the Maryland Republican gubernatorial nomination, speaks to reporters at his campaign party on primary night, Tuesday, July 19, 2022, in Emmitsburg, Md.

Maryland state representative Dan Cox, the Republican nominee in the race to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, has been a particularly aggressive denier of the 2020 results.
Cox co-organized buses to Trump’s January 6, 2021, rally in Washington, writing on Twitter that he was doing so to “#StoptheSteal” (a “steal” that didn’t occur). During the insurrection at the US Capitol that day, as the mob raged against the vice president who had no power to thwart the certification of Biden’s win, Cox tweeted: “Pence is a traitor.” The month prior, Cox had called on Trump to seize voting machines.
In a speech in late 2021, which was previously reported by The New York Times, Cox said that Trump was “the only president that I recognize right now” and falsely said Biden wasn’t elected but “installed, in my opinion.” In a post on Facebook this June, Cox referred to the 2020 election as a “GREAT HEIST.”
The Cox campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Michigan: Tudor Dixon

Republican candidate for Michigan governor Tudor Dixon appears at a debate in Grand Rapids, Mich., Wednesday, July 6, 2022.

Michigan Republican nominee Tudor Dixon, a conservative commentator and anchor who is challenging Democratic incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, falsely claimed at Republican primary debates that Trump was the legitimate 2020 winner in Michigan, where Biden actually defeated Trump by more than 154,000 votes, and that there was fraud sufficiently widespread to have swung the election to Biden.
In a reply Dixon tweeted to Trump in November 2020, she falsely wrote, “Steal an election then hide behind calls for unity and leftists lap it up.”
Dixon has sometimes taken a somewhat softer line, complaining about the election without calling it stolen. MLive.com reported that she said at one point in July that there was enough fraud “that we have to be very concerned,” adding, “I don’t think we can see enough of the evidence because we weren’t able to look back and some of that is destroyed now.” (It isn’t clear what she was talking about.) In a Fox News interview in late July, Dixon dodged when asked if she thought the election was stolen, saying instead, “Well, it’s certainly a concern to a lot of folks here in Michigan because of the way the election was handled by our secretary of state.”
The Dixon campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Minnesota: Scott Jensen

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen announces a crime-fighting plan June 9, 2022, during a news conference outside the State Capitol in St. Paul.

At a Minnesota Republican primary debate in December, eventual nominee Scott Jensen would not offer a firm answer when asked if he thinks Biden won a “constitutional majority” in the Electoral College. Instead, he responded, “I can’t know what I don’t know, and I think that we have to take that attitude towards 2020.”
Jensen, a physician and former state senator, went on to uncritically report that someone on the ground in Arizona’s Maricopa County, where Republicans conducted a partisan sham “audit,” had told him that thousands more mail-in ballots were returned than were sent out to voters; that claim is based on a misunderstanding of the county’s records. He then added, “I don’t think there’s any question that we’ve had enough shenanigans that we should want to do something about our election integrity. Which states crossed the line, which states hit a certain threshold, I can’t know that.”
Jensen baselessly suggested at a Republican event in April that Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, should be imprisoned. And Axios reported that as Jensen campaigned across Minnesota in the summer of 2021, he complimented Mike Lindell, the pillow businessman who has propagated wildly inaccurate conspiracy theories about the election, for working to “get rid” of voting machines. (Jensen told Axios he has never talked about Lindell’s specific theories about 2020 election and “wouldn’t know what he’s saying.”)
The Jensen campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Nevada: Joe Lombardo

Joe Lombardo, Clark County sheriff and a candidate for the Republican nomination for Nevada governor, stands on stage during a primary-night party, June 14, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Nevada Republican nominee Joe Lombardo, the Clark County sheriff who is challenging incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, has not done the same kind of explicit election denial as some of the others on this list. Lombardo has said the election was not stolen and that Biden was legitimately elected.
However, Lombardo has also fomented doubts about the election.
In 2021, Lombardo told the Reno Gazette Journal that he didn’t have the information necessary to say if the 2020 results were accurate, and he added that “we had an environment where it was easy to commit fraud.” (There is no evidence of any widespread fraud in Nevada in 2020.) This March, KRNV News 4 of Reno reported that Lombardo said he couldn’t say whether Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske was wrong to say there was no widespread voter fraud in 2020, since there hadn’t been a comprehensive audit.
In an email to CNN in July, Lombardo campaign spokesperson Elizabeth Ray said in an email that “Joe Lombardo has been clear … he has not been presented with evidence to show that any fraud would have changed the outcome of the 2020 election.” She added that, “however,” Sisolak and his allies “have passed laws that make it easier for bad actors from any party to commit fraud.”
Sisolak campaign spokesperson Reeves Oyster responded in an email: “Nevada has one of the strongest election systems in the country thanks to Governor Sisolak, who passed common sense legislation to ensure every eligible Nevadan can safely and easily cast their ballot. Joe Lombardo — on the other hand — has instilled doubt in our elections and cozied up to election deniers to appeal to his base while trying to ignore the Big Lie and its deadly ramifications for law enforcement officers. Lombardo’s willingness to take both sides of the Big Lie demonstrates he’s just another craven politician who will do or say anything to win.”

New York: Lee Zeldin

Lee Zeldin appears during New York's Republican gubernatorial debate at the studios of Spectrum News NY1 on June 20, 2022, in New York.

New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican nominee who is challenging incumbent Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, voted against the certification of Biden’s victories in Arizona and Pennsylvania. In his speech that day, January 6, 2021, he claimed that he was objecting because “rogue” state officials had made “unlawful and unconstitutional” changes to elections policies.
The Zeldin campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Pennsylvania: Doug Mastriano

Republican Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano speaks during the Manufacturer & Business Association's Legislative Luncheon in Erie, Pa. on Wednesday,  Aug. 3, 2022.

Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano, who is running against Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, has made an extensive effort to overturn the 2020 election.
In late 2020, on social media and in interviews, Mastriano made numerous false claims about supposed election fraud. (His comments were previously listed by WHYY radio.) Behind the scenes, Mastriano sent false claims about supposed fraud to the Justice Department. He also organized a November 2020 hearing in Pennsylvania in which Trump and lawyer Rudy Giuliani made false election claims.
Mastriano’s campaign chartered buses to the Trump rally in Washington on January 6, 2021. Mastriano himself was pictured on Capitol grounds during the riot at the Capitol that day. (The FBI subsequently questioned him, according to a source familiar with the interview; Mastriano has not been charged with anything.) Later in 2021, Mastriano spearheaded an effort to begin a so-called “forensic investigation” of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race is especially important for elections because its governor appoints the secretary of state, the top state elections official.
The Mastriano campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

South Dakota: Kristi Noem

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks on Feb. 25, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Noem was initially eager to jump right into lawmaking when the U.S. Supreme Court indicated this year it was poised to allow states to ban abortions.

Two days after Election Day in 2020, incumbent South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem baselessly claimed on Twitter that Trump was fighting “rigged election systems” and hinted that there were issues in “Democrat-run” states.
Then, in an ABC interview that aired five days after the election, Noem asserted that “dead people voted in Pennsylvania” (the number of such cases turned out to be tiny, and at least three involved registered Republicans) and referred to Michigan “computer glitches that changed Republican votes to Democrat votes” (in reality, a single, conservative county’s human error in reporting unofficial results had been quickly corrected). On Twitter, Noem added a reference to unspecified “illegal activity” in Nevada and declared that there were “so many serious election integrity concerns.”
Noem attended Biden’s inauguration in January 2021 and congratulated him on the occasion. But she declined the following week to agree that the election was free and fair, the South Dakota Standard reported — acknowledging to reporters that “we now have President Biden” but also saying “I think there’s lot of people who have doubts” about whether the election was fair and transparent.
The Noem campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Texas: Greg Abbott

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks before signing Senate Bill 1, also known as the election integrity bill, into law in Tyler, Texas, on Sept. 7, 2021.

Incumbent Texas Gov. Greg Abbott spoke positively about the lawsuit that sought to overturn the results in four states (which was filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton) — telling a Spectrum News 1 television reporter in December 2020 that the lawsuit “tries to accelerate the process, providing certainty and clarity about the entire election process. The United States of America needs that.”
Abbott congratulated Biden on his inauguration in January 2021. In the fall of 2021, after pressure from Trump, he supported a state audit of the 2020 election in four counties in Texas, a state Trump won.
The Abbott campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Wisconsin: Tim Michels

Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels speaks as he appears with former President Donald Trump at a rally in Waukesha, Wis., on Aug. 5, 2022.

When Tim Michels, the Republican nominee in Wisconsin who is challenging incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, was asked by a conservative radio host during the Republican primary in May whether he believes the 2020 election was stolen, Michels said, “Maybe.” According to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Michels added that “certainly, there was a lot of bad stuff that happened” and that there were “certainly illegal ballots.”
The Journal Sentinel reported that Michels, a businessman, baselessly said at a campaign event in May: “President Trump probably would be president right now if we had election integrity.” At a campaign event in July, The Washington Post reported, Michels said: “My very first priority is election integrity. Everywhere I go on the campaign trail, people, the media, everybody says, ‘Tim, Tim, was the election fixed? Was the election rigged?’ I have a lot of questions, as everybody else has questions.”
Inn a brief interview with the Post and in other forums, Michels would not directly say whether he would, as governor, endorse an effort by other Republicans to decertify Biden’s 2020 victory in Wisconsin — again, an impossibility. He said at a Republican town hall in early August: “I will look at all the evidence and everything will be on the table and I will make the right decision.”
Michels told the Journal Sentinel in June that it was too hypothetical to say at that point whether he would certify the 2024 results in Wisconsin.
The Michels campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Fact check: Anti-Biden commentators spread false claim that he affixed a Medal of Honor ‘backwards’

President Joe Biden awards the Medal of Honor to Spc. Dwight Birdwell for his actions on January 31, 1968, during the Vietnam War, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on July 5, 2022.

Washington (CNN)A false claim that President Joe Biden placed a Medal of Honor “backwards” around the neck of a Vietnam War hero has gone viral on social media — with some conservatives citing the invented tale as supposed evidence of Biden experiencing mental decline.

A grainy video with the caption “Biden puts medal on backwards,” showing the President putting the Medal of Honor around the neck of retired Army Specialist Five Dwight W. Birdwell, was viewed more than 2.9 million times on Twitter between Wednesday afternoon and Friday morning. The video was viewed more than 1 million additional times on other Twitter posts with similar captions, and versions also circulated on Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and various anti-Biden corners of the web.
The claim is completely phony.
Facts FirstBiden correctly put the medal around Birdwell’s neck, as clear footage of the Tuesday ceremony proves. The graininess of the footage that went viral on social media made it difficult to see that the medal was hanging entirely normally near the top of Birdwell’s tie.
You can watch clear footage here of Biden giving the medal to Birdwell at the White House. Nothing went wrong during the process.
The false claim that Biden affixed the medal “backwards” was previously fact-checked by Snopes, Newsweek, the Associated Press and others.
After the Twitter post that received more than 2.9 million video views had been online for more than 24 hours and had received more than 2.4 million views, Twitter added a notice at the bottom of the post saying the video had been presented “out of context” and linking to previous fact checks. But other Twitter posts of the video with similar captions, including one that generated more than 971,000 video views, had not been labeled with any notice as of Friday morning.

Poster declines to take down false claim

The post that generated more than 2.9 million video views was published on Twitter on Wednesday by an obscure account that has sharply criticized Biden and promoted conspiracy theories. Anti-Biden commentators with six-figure followings then amplified that account’s inaccurate tweet, some of them adding their own assertions about how the video supposedly demonstrated that Biden is declining.
The person who operates the obscure Twitter account told CNN in a message on Thursday that they had found the video on Telegram, a messaging and chat app, along with the claim that the medal was backwards. The person said that although they are aware that people have said “it’s the way the medal is and it’s not backwards,” they do not plan to take down the viral tweet.
“I was debating deleting it and I decided not to because it’s Biden and he deserves the scrutiny,” they said.
You can read more here about the acts in 1968 for which Birdwell received the Medal of Honor, the country’s highest award for military valor. Following his Army service, Birdwell became a lawyer and eventually the chief justice of the Cherokee Nation’s Supreme Court.

At least 285 people feared dead after magnitude 5.9 earthquake hits eastern Afghanistan

At least 285 people were killed and many more wounded after a magnitude 5.9 earthquake hit eastern Afghanistan Wednesday, according to the country’s disaster management authority.

The earthquake hit at 1.24 a.m. about 46 kilometers (28.5 miles) southwest of the city of Khost, which lies close to the country’s border with Pakistan, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The quake registered at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), according to USGS, which assigned the quake a yellow alert level — indicating a relatively localized impact.
Most of the deaths were in Paktika province, where 255 people were killed and 155 others were injured in the districts of Giyan, Nika, Barmal and Zirok, according to the State Ministry for Disaster Management.
In neighboring Khost province, 25 people were killed and several others were injured, and five people were killed in Nangarhar province, the disaster management authority said.
Photos from Paktika province, just south of Khost province, show destroyed houses with only a wall or two still standing amid the rubble, and broken roof beams.
Local officials and residents have warned that the death toll is likely to rise, according to state-run news agency Bakhtar.
A team of medics and seven helicopters have been sent to the area to transport injured people to nearby hospitals, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense said in a tweet on Wednesday.

Najibullah Sadid, an Afghan water resources management expert, said the earthquake had coincided with heavy monsoon rain in the region — making traditional houses, many made of mud and other natural materials, particularly vulnerable to damage.
“The timing of the earthquake (in the) dark of night … and the shallow depth of 10 kilometers of its epicenter led to higher casualties,” he added.
A Taliban deputy spokesperson, Bilal Karimi, said the earthquake had been “severe,” and asked aid agencies to “urgently send teams” to the area affected.
In a tweet on Wednesday, the World Health Organization said its teams were on the ground for emergency response, including providing medicine, trauma services and conducting needs assessments.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif extended his condolences and an offer of support in a tweet on Wednesday. “Deeply grieved to learn about the earthquake in Afghanistan, resulting in the loss of innocent lives,” he wrote. “People in Pakistan share the grief and sorrow of their Afghan brethren. Relevant authorities are working to support Afghanistan in this time of need.”
Pope Francis said he was praying “for those who have lost their lives and for their families,” during his weekly audience on Wednesday. “I hope aid can be sent there to help all the suffering of the dear people of Afghanistan.”
The earthquake comes as the country is in the throes of a hunger crisis. Almost half the population — 20 million people — are experiencing acute hunger, according to a United Nations-backed report in May. It is a situation compounded by the Taliban seizing power in August 2021, which led the United States and its allies freezing about $7 billion of the country’s foreign reserves and cutting off international funding.

In Beijing’s BRICS summit, Putin is back on the world stage

Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa pose during a BRICS meeting held during a G20 summit in Osaka in June 2019.

Western Europeans wilt in early summer heatwave, compounding climate change fears

A farmer pours water on his face as he works in a greenhouse in southern France on June 17 as western Europe struggles with a heatwave.

(Reuters)Spain is seeing its hottest early summer temperatures, one area of France banned outdoor events, and drought stalked Italian farmers as a heatwave sent Europeans hunting for shade and fretting over climate change.

Such was the heat that England’s upscale Royal Ascot Racecourse even saw a rare change of protocol: guests were allowed to shed hats and jackets once the royals had passed.
“Avoid over-exposing to the sun, hydrate and take care of the most vulnerable so they don’t suffer from heat stroke,” was the advice from Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Madrid during an event, fittingly, about desertification.
Temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in Madrid on Friday, the national weather agency AEMET said. A level not seen so early in the year since 1981.
Northern Italian regions risk losing up to half their agricultural output due to a drought, a farm lobby said, as lakes and rivers start to run dangerously low, jeopardizing irrigation.
The federation of Italian utility companies, Utilitalia, warned this week that the country’s longest river, the Po, was experiencing its worst drought for 70 years, leaving many sections of the vast, northern waterway completely dried up.
The heatwave piled pressure on energy systems as demand for air-conditioning risks driving prices higher, adding to the challenge of building up stocks to protect against any further cuts to Russian gas supplies.
‘Health risk’
In France, the Gironde department around Bordeaux prohibited public events including concerts and those at indoor venues without air conditioning, a local official said.
“Everyone now faces a health risk,” Gironde prefect Fabienne Buccio told France Bleu radio.
Temperatures in many of France’s areas hit 40 Celsius for the first time this year on Thursday and were expected to peak on Saturday, climbing to 41-42 Celsius. A record night temperature for June, 26.8 Celsius, was recorded in Tarascon, southern France.
Fourteen administrative departments were on red alert, with schoolchildren told to stay at home in these areas. Speed limits were lowered in several regions, including around Paris, to limit exhaust emissions and a buildup of harmful smog.
Britain’s weather service said Friday was the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures above 32 Celsius in some parts of the southeast.
Parks, pools and beaches were packed, and while many enjoyed a day of fun and freedom after two years of periodic pandemic restrictions some were also worried.
“I’m from Cyprus and now in Cyprus it’s raining … and I’m boiling here, so something must change. We need to take precautions about the climate change sooner than later because undoubtedly it’s worrying for all of us,” said student Charlie Uksel, visiting Brighton, south of London.
“Now we are enjoying it, but for the long-term we might sacrifice.”
Mediterranean nations are more and more concerned about how climate change may affect their economies and lives.
“The Iberian peninsula is an increasingly dry area and our rivers’ flow is slower and slower,” Spanish leader Sanchez added.
Firefighters were battling wildfires in several parts of Spain, with Catalonia in eastern Spain and Zamora near the western border with Portugal the worst hit.
In Zamora, between 8,500 and 9,500 hectares turned to ashes.
The cloud of hot air was sparing Portugal on Friday, where temperatures were not as high as in other European nations, with Lisbon likely to reach 27 Celsius.
However, last month was the hottest May in 92 years, Portugal’s weather agency IPMA said. It warned that most of the territory is suffering from a severe drought.
Portugal’s reservoirs have low water levels, with the Bravura dam of the most affected at only 15% full.

Jeff Bridges is loving life after being ‘close to dying’ because of Covid and chemo

Jeff Bridges, here in 2019, stars in a new TV series debuting in June.