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McCarthy faces debt limit deal revolt, Rosalynn Carter diagnosed with dementia: 5 Things podcast

On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: McCarthy faces revolt over debt limit dealHouse Speaker Kevin McCarthy faces revolt over his debt limit deal with President Joe Biden. USA TODAY White House Correspondent Joey Garrison has the latest. Plus, USA TODAY Pentagon Correspondent Tom Vanden Brook talks about suspected Chinese spies at Alaskan military bases, the majority of American teachers think arming themselves with guns would make schools less safe, scientists and tech industry leaders issue a warning about the dangers of artificial intelligence, and former first lady Rosalynn Carter has dementia.

Podcasts: True crime, in-depth interviews and more USA TODAY podcasts right here

Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Good morning. I’m Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Wednesday, the 31st of May 2023. Today, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy faces a revolt. Plus, we hear about suspected Chinese spies in Alaska, and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter has dementia.

Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing a revolt from the right flank of his party over his debt ceiling deal with President Joe Biden. And some Republican lawmakers say they wouldn’t rule out trying to oust him from the speakership. USA TODAY White House Correspondent Joey Garrison has the latest. Welcome back to 5 Things Joey.

Joey Garrison:

Hey, thanks Taylor. Thanks for having me.

Taylor Wilson:

Joey, who’s leading this charge and what issue do they take with the deal?

Joey Garrison:

Yeah, so the group we’re talking about, as you correctly described the right flank of the House Republican caucus. This is largely comprised of the House Freedom Caucus members. There’s about 45 of them and many of them are aligned with former President Trump and are relatively new to Congress. Many have been elected in the last two or three election cycles.

Now, heading into the debt ceiling negotiation between McCarthy and Biden, we always knew that several of these wouldn’t vote for any compromise reached by the two. And that’s remained the case, but I think it’s more widespread among that caucus than the opposition than some predicted. They believe McCarthy didn’t go far enough to reach this type of spending cuts that they hope to see in a deal that raises the debt ceiling. And they believe, and this is significant, that McCarthy betrayed his commitment to several of them. If you rewind back in January when McCarthy was having difficulty to get the members of his own party to vote for his speakership, several of these House Freedom Caucus members got certain commitments from McCarthy to ensure he had the votes. One of those is what they call a “power-sharing agreement,” where they would have more say of some of these individual members in deals reached by McCarthy. They say he effectively breached that agreement.

Taylor Wilson:

So Joey, what’s this mean for today’s critical vote on the debt ceiling?

Joey Garrison:

Well, the opposition from the members of the House Freedom Caucus isn’t enough by itself to defeat today the vote on the debt ceiling deal. But there’s also been considerable unrest from progressive Democrats on the deal for expanded work requirements, for food stamp and other benefits of federal aid, as well as over its overhaul to expedite permitting process for oil and gas projects. So, if you start thinking about all the no votes that could happen here, if you have the far right flank and several on the left, that means really both McCarthy and Biden are going to have to pass this from the middle from both the Republican and Democratic side. Ultimately, I do think the votes are going to be there, but I’m sure heading into this vote, McCarthy and Biden are both nervous.

Taylor Wilson:

And even beyond the debt sailing issue, you touched on some of this, but it seems like this issue has recast McCarthy’s future as speaker, at least in some sections of the party. We know he already initially had trouble getting the votes for the speakership earlier this year. What’s next Joey, for him and these power dynamics in the chamber?

Joey Garrison:

Well, among the agreements reached between McCarthy and some of these hardline Republicans to secure his speakership was a new rule that it only takes one member to propose ousting the speaker for that to get taken up. Of course, you’d still have to have a majority of votes in the House for any ouster of McCarthy of his speakership, but it really raises the level in the consequences of just having these disgruntled Republican House members. And so, one of those members, Dan Bishop from North Carolina, he became the first member on Tuesday to actually say he’s considering a push to oust McCarthy over the debt ceiling deal.

Scott Perry, the Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, he is part of a group of other Freedom Caucus members who had a press conference outside the capital on Tuesday. He wouldn’t rule out pursuing an ouster if this bill ends up passing. So, really McCarthy’s future could very much be at stake if this bill does go through. McCarthy has always had a rocky relationship from the beginning of his short time as speaker with this pretty sizable faction of the Republican Party. And this certainly, even if the debt ceiling bill passes, isn’t going away. In fact, passage of this could probably make that friction even worse for him moving forward.

Taylor Wilson:

All right, Joey Garrison, always great insight for us from Washington. Thanks as always.

Joey Garrison:

Yeah, thanks Taylor.

Taylor Wilson:

US officials say that Chinese citizens posing as tourists have been trying to access military bases in Alaska, and they’re suspected of spying. I spoke with USA TODAY Pentagon Correspondent Tom Vanden Brook to learn more. Thanks for hopping on the podcast, Tom.

Tom Vanden Brook:

Sure thing, Taylor.

Taylor Wilson:

So you wrote about a series of incidents involving Chinese citizens posing as tourists, but suspected of being spies in Alaska. Why do US officials have these suspicions, Tom?

Tom Vanden Brook:

Well, there have been a string of incidents at bases in Alaska in which Chinese tourists have shown up at gates or actually run past security. They claim to have been tourists who are lost. Well, there are a lot of tourists, in fact in Alaska, and many of them are Chinese. But as one officer told me, not all tourists are tourists. And one of the reasons they suspect more is in one case a vehicle blew past a security checkpoint at Fort Wainwright near Fairbanks, and when it was stopped, they found a drone in the car. So, there’s this suspicion that a lot of these incidents are probing security to see where there are weaknesses, but also to see if there are ways to surveil the base from the inside. And this has happened before in other places, including Florida.

Taylor Wilson:

And Tom, why is Alaska such a place of interest?

Tom Vanden Brook:

There are a lot of very sensitive military sites in Alaska. The army bases, the interceptors that people may have heard about that are supposed to take down incoming ballistic missiles from North Korea, the military bases, some of its most sophisticated planes are there and radars. It’s where the Chinese spy balloon of all things entered US airspace back in January.

Taylor Wilson:

And Tom, what’s being done about these incidents and about some of these concerns? And I’m also curious in hearing from US officials and speaking with them, how do they weigh these concerns of Chinese spying with the privacy rights and other rights of Chinese Americans and Chinese citizens who are visiting the country and are just tourists?

Sure. Right. Some of these incidents are probably benign and they have to be aware of that and they’re not publicizing a lot of this stuff, you can say that as well. All of this stuff that I learned was from sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. And as I understand it, a lot of the information about these incidents remains classified. So, there’s not a ton we can know about it, but there are certainly benign reasons for people to visit Alaska. It’s a beautiful place. I was just there last week. But, I was told by the Pentagon’s number two official that intrusions in general are taken very seriously by the military, and they’re doing a lot to beef up security at some of these bases, including in Alaska. I talked to an official there who said that previously it’d been fairly lax there because it had been considered something of a backwater for the military until recent years when they’ve started basing more troops there and more sophisticated aircraft.

Taylor Wilson:

Can you put in perspective for us where US-China relations are right now kind of writ large, and where the officials you speak with feel these tensions will go next?

Tom Vanden Brook:

To start out with not great. The relations aren’t really good right now and we can cite a few different things, right? We had the Chinese spy balloon, which transited the entire width of the United States and maneuvered over sensitive military bases. We know that. It was filled with surveillance equipment before it was shot down off the coast of South Carolina. So that’s one incident. We know that tensions are rising over Taiwan, which receives billions in US military aid. China wants to reunite it with the mainland. So, that’s another friction point. And then finally, you’ve got China’s support, if not materially, but in terms of moral support for Russia and its invasion of Ukraine. So, there’s some real friction. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled his scheduled trip to Beijing last February after the Chinese spy balloon incident, and that hasn’t been rescheduled, so tensions remain very high.

Taylor Wilson:

All right, USA TODAY Pentagon Correspondent Tom Vanden Brook, thanks as always.

Tom Vanden Brook:

Thanks Taylor.

Taylor Wilson:

The majority of American teachers think arming themselves with guns would make schools less safe. That’s according to a newly released survey from the nonpartisan RAND Corporation. In the survey, 54% thought schools would be made less safe if teachers could carry. And another 26% said they didn’t think it would make a difference in school safety. Only about one in five said they felt schools would be safer if teachers were allowed to be armed.

Race and location played a factor in teachers’ views. White teachers were more likely than Black teachers to say they thought teacher carry policies would make schools safer. And teachers in rural areas were also broadly more likely to feel that way. Still, school shootings were far from teachers’ top safety concerns. Only 5% felt that was a top safety issue, while 49% believed it was bullying. And 25% said drugs. It’s already legal for teachers to carry guns on school campuses, often needing special permissions in at least 27 states, according to the Giffords Law Center.

Scientists and tech industry leaders issued a new warning yesterday about the dangers that artificial intelligence could bring to humankind. The statement read, “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”

Those who signed the statement included high level executives at Microsoft and Google, according to the AP. Sam Altman, the CEO of ChatGPT maker OpenAI, and Geoffrey Hinton, a computer scientist known as the godfather of artificial intelligence, also signed the statement. More than a thousand researchers and technologists signed a longer letter earlier this year calling for a six-month pause on AI development, saying it poses profound risks to society and humanity. Concerns about AI systems outsmarting humans, eliminating jobs and more, have crept up with the latest generation of chatbots. And countries around the world are trying to decide how to regulate them in the years to come.

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter has dementia. Her family made the announcement yesterday, a diagnosis that comes as her husband, former President Jimmy Carter, is receiving hospice care. The family said in a statement that they hope sharing the news will increase difficult conversations about dementia. The Carters are the longest married first couple in US history. Rosalyn has worked as an advocate for mental healthcare at the Carter Center, the humanitarian organization the couple founded in the 1980s that’s also behind global peace and health programs. The Carters also volunteered for decades with Habitat for Humanity, a Christian nonprofit that works to build homes.

Yesterday’s announcement of Rosalynn’s dementia led to a wave of support. The White House said the Bidens have stayed in touch with the Carters’ team, telling them they’re in the President and First Lady’s thoughts. And Senator Raphael Warnock, also from Georgia like the Carters, said he’s praying for them.

Thanks for listening to 5 Things. If you like the show, please subscribe and leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. And if you have any comments, you can reach us at [email protected]. I’m back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.

GOP hardliners are furious, Democrats play coy: What to know ahead of the House debt ceiling vote

Republican Kevin McCarthy’s razor-thin speakership faces its biggest test since he grabbed the gavel in January as his debt deal with President Joe Biden comes up for a vote Wednesday.

McCarthy and the president came to an agreement during an hour-and-a-half phone call just days before the United States ran out of money to pay its bills.

The plan raises how much the government can borrow until 2025, which was Biden’s top priority during talks with Republican leaders. It also freezes annual discretionary, non-defense spending for two years while delivering $2.1 trillion in other domestic spending cuts GOP lawmakers wanted.

“Republicans are changing the culture and trajectory of Washington—and we’re just getting started,” the speaker said in a Memorial Day tweet.

But not so fast, Mr. Speaker.

Any victory lap is contingent upon getting the Biden-McCarthy deal through a thorny Republican caucus filled with conservative lawmakers who have fealty to slashing government spending.

And there’s no guarantee progressive Democrats, who held a conference call Monday to discuss the plan, will back up Biden either. Liberals are likely to raise objections to parts of the deal such as expanding work requirements for some aid programs, keeping the Trump-era tax cuts and speeding up a natural gas pipeline project in Appalachia.

Here are three things to know ahead of Wednesday’s debt ceiling vote in the House.

Biden, GOP leaders like the deal

The president was all smiles and good vibes coming out of his phone call with McCarthy, and he exuded optimism Monday when asked if lawmakers would adopt the agreement

“I feel very good about it,” Biden told reporters outside the White House on Monday. “I spoke to a whole bunch of people, and it feels good”

Biden would like nothing more than to end what’s been a headache of negotiations that has brought the nation to the brink of default and economic disaster. If the deal passes, this means he won’t have to deal with the debt headache until after the 2024 presidential campaign.


House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks as he meets with President Joe Biden to discuss the debt limit in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, May 22, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ORG XMIT: DCAB417

But importantly, Biden will likely brag about saving domestic programs − from rental aid and scientific research − from House Republicans who wanted to make deeper cuts.

Besides keeping the same funding levels for the federal budget, the deal also spares Social Security and Medicare, which was a sticking point for the president during his State of the Union address earlier this year.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., rushed to defend the Biden-McCarthy plan within hours of its announcement in the hopes of giving the speaker cover. McConnell said it “makes urgent progress toward preserving our nation’s full faith and credit and a much-needed step toward getting its financial house in order.”

Conservative victories − but GOP House hardliners are furious

McCarthy’s allies in the House are telling reporters the deal will “absolutely pass” because it holds so many Republican victories.

Among the most obvious is that the deal claws back billions in unspent COVID-19 relief funding, yanks $10 billion in IRS funding and limits how long able-bodied adults 54 years old or younger without dependent children can receive food stamps if they do not meet certain work requirements.

May 30, 2023; Washington, DC, USA; Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Scott Perry, (R-PA), right, along with Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), center, organize before the start of a House Freedom Caucus press conference outside of the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, May 30, 2023 opposing the current debt ceiling agreement negotiated by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden.

“The deal on the debt limit is full of conservative wins,” South Dakota Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson, who leads the Main Street Caucus, tweeted.

Many GOP members are likely to echo Johnson, who argues that, by forcing Democrats to find money in the existing budget, most conservatives will support the plan.

Yet some fiscal hawks expressed their dismay publicly and have described McCarthy as a traitor to their cause.

“After I heard about the debt ceiling deal, I was a no,” Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, a Republican who challenged McCarthy for the speaker’s gavel, said in a May 29 tweet. “After reading the debt ceiling deal, I am absolutely no!!”

Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican who was one of the key votes needed for McCarthy to win the speakership, said the deal gives Biden and the Democrats a “free pass on defending their reckless spending” ahead of the 2024 campaign.

“This deal must be rejected,” he said.

On Tuesday, members of the House Freedom Caucus assembled outside Capitol Hill to denounce the plan, saying McCarthy failed.

But other conservative members who are equally known for their unwavering views expressed support for McCarthy’s agreement with the president.

Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, a fierce GOP fiscal hawk, praised it for including parts of his so-called “penny plan” that requires a cut to 1% of spending across the board if Congress doesn’t pass appropriations bills.

“I respect opposition to the Fiscal Responsibility Act, but I am voting yes,” Massie said in a tweet late Tuesday evening. “I’ve been in Congress for a decade and this is the first real bill that cuts spending. “

Congressional Democrats are playing coy, for now

With the spotlight on McCarthy and his caucus, the Biden administration is quietly calling House Democrats to win their votes.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., joined by fellow Democrats, speaks with reporters about the political brinksmanship over the debt ceiling negotiations, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, May 25, 2023. Democrats have balked at Republican efforts to tighten work requirements for social safety net programs. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) ORG XMIT: DCSA120

There’s little for House Democrats to celebrate in this proposal, but the charm offensive appears to be working in the sense that it has kept progressive lawmakers from speaking against the deal at the same volume as their right-wing colleagues.

Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, of California, said liberal-leaning members are “in flux” about whether they will support the plan. But leading up to Wednesday’s vote he took a swipe at the deal.

“The debt deal is cutting food stamps (and) social programs while we have an affordability crisis,” Khanna, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted Tuesday.

The congressman’s message linked to a 2022 survey by the Federal Reserve, which found about 37% of Americans said they don’t have enough money to cover a $400 emergency.

“It is not ‘extreme’ to speak up for low income Americans,” he said.

Other Democrats such as Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri said, as someone who once received food stamps, she is leaning against the deal, describing the work requirement as “racist, classist and inhumane.”

Limiting Democratic unrest will be critical for the White House given the growing number of House Republicans slamming the McCarthy-Biden deal, which might have to use Democrats as a crutch to save the bill.

US shootings, 2 deaths and 3 injuries, all victims under age

On the evening of the 17th local time, a shooting incident occurred inside and outside an apartment building in the southwest of Atlanta, Georgia, USA, killing five minors, two of whom died.

The local police said in a statement issued in the evening that the police received the alarm at 17:00 and found several victims of gunfire after arriving at the scene. Police officer Charles Hampton said that a group of armed people came to the apartment where the crime was committed and the dispute occurred. Another group of people with the same weapons opened fire first, and the conflict then moved to the outside. Police found two people dead outside the apartment and three injured inside.

Hampton said the two dead were boys, aged 14 and 16 respectively. Two other boys, aged 11 and 15, and a girl, aged 15, were hospitalized. At least two of the victims were students of the Atlanta Public School.

The Associated Press quoted Hampton as saying that the gunfight was escalated by “some kind of controversy” on social media. At present, the number of gunmen is not clear, but the police believe that many people shot.

Feature: Why did the US State Council set up the “China Group”?

The State Council recently established the “China Affairs Coordination Office” (“China Group”), which means that the newly established department will ensure that the United States can “responsibly manage” its competition with Beijing, and promote its vision of an open and inclusive international system. Experts analyzed that the “China Group” was established to strengthen the coordination of work with China between different departments of the Biden government.

When presiding over the launching ceremony of the newly established “China Group”, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the agency would bring together experts from the US State Department and from outside the State Department on China issues, who would work side by side with colleagues from the US State Department in other regions of the world, as well as experts in international security, economy, technology, multilateral diplomacy and strategic communication.

CNN reported that the “China Group” was headed by Rick Waters, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs of the State Council.

In fact, before that, several government departments in the United States had set up special departments for China. In 2020, McCarthy, the Republican leader of the US House of Representatives, announced the establishment of the Republican “China Task Force”. In July 2020, the US Department of Homeland Security under Trump established the “China Working Group”. In March 2021, the “China Working Group” set up by the US Defense Secretary Austin began to operate. In October 2021, CIA Director Burns said that he would establish a high-level working group on China, namely the “China Task Center”.

In May this year, when Antony Blinken delivered a speech on the US government’s policy towards China, he claimed that China posed “the most serious long-term challenge” to the so-called “international order”. On the other hand, he also stressed his determination to avoid a “new cold war” with China.

Why does the US State Department set up the “China Group” at this time? In this regard, Li Mingjiang, an associate professor of the Rajaratnam School of International Relations at Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, said in an interview with the China News Agency in Hong Kong on the 19th that it is clear that the US government now wants to deal with China through this department and strengthen coordination between their different departments. The main purpose is to adapt to the competition with big countries like China, but there are also aspects of cooperation with China. Its essence is a manifestation of the institutionalization of government departments, which makes the US work with China more effective.

It is also commented that the “China Group” is aimed at optimizing the functions of the State Council itself. In order to improve the efficiency of the US House of State in obtaining information and listening to the opinions of other departments, the final coordinating department for China policy should be the US National Security Council.

It is also analyzed that the relationship between the “China Groups” set up by different departments in the United States is full of competition and in step. Competition means that different departments in the government compete for the dominant power of the policy agenda on China related issues to gain political benefits; Coordination means that each department implements the US strategic competition policy towards China from their respective areas of competence, so as to continuously strengthen the policy system of sustained and intensive cross sectoral competition against China. Among them, the National Security Council is more prominent because of its special relationship with the President. It usually coordinates some major actions between different government departments.

Argentina returned to Buenos Aires after winning the championship

On December 20, in the early morning of the 20th local time, after winning the World Cup in Qatar in 2022, football king Messi and the Argentina team arrived in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina.

The Argentinian national team immediately moved into the center of the Argentine Football Association. At noon on the same day, coach Scaroni will lead the team members to take the bus to Buenos Aires, the capital, to bypass the city center. The ultimate goal is the obelisk, and a celebration will be held to enjoy with the people.

On the afternoon of the 19th, the Argentine government announced that the 20th was a national holiday. Both public and private organizations would receive “rewards” for staying at home. The banks and tax bureaus would work until noon to let the Argentine people celebrate together with the team that won the World Cup.

On the 19th, after the news of the championship, a large number of people in Buenos Aires celebrated the team’s winning of the World Cup outdoors.

On the 18th, in the final of the 2022 Qatar World Cup football match at the Russell Stadium, Qatar, Argentina and France tied 3-3 in regular time and extra time. Argentina won the championship 7-5 on penalties.

Russian Foreign Minister: Putin will make an annual summary “Who will never be trusted again”

China News Agency, December 20 (Xinhua) According to Russian media, on the 20th, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said that President Putin himself would make an annual summary, and he would have many contacts with his colleagues, pointing out that the main summary of this year was “finally clear who can’t be trusted”.

Lavrov said to reporters: “The main conclusion is that the situation has finally and irreversibly demonstrated what is happening in the world, who is trying to act with what intentions and plans on the international stage, who is negotiable, and who is no longer trusted.”

He also pointed out that most countries in the world do not support the dominance of the United States and its allies on the world stage, which nobody likes.

Putin once said that the situation in Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporoge is extremely serious. The security institutions in these “new regions” of Russia should make every effort to ensure the safety of citizens and safeguard their rights and freedoms to the greatest extent.

Putin called for strengthening the work of security agencies in key areas in the event of new threats, and instructed special forces to continuously control strategic transportation targets and energy infrastructure and other places. Putin said: “The counter intelligence agencies, including the military, now need to maintain maximum calm and concentration. It is necessary to severely suppress the actions of foreign special forces and quickly identify traitors, spies and saboteurs.”

In addition, according to the spokesman of Russian President Peskov told the “News” that after the former German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a statement on the Minsk Agreement, Russia has every reason to stop believing the words of European politicians. Merkel earlier talked about the Minsk Agreement in an interview with the German magazine Time. She pointed out that “the Minsk agreement in 2014 is an attempt to give Ukraine time”. Merkel added that she believed that the issue of Ukraine and Georgia joining NATO discussed in 2008 was a mistake.

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
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?
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.