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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.

How dangerous was Russia’s attack at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant?

Russian troops have occupied Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, after fierce fighting near the Ukrainian facility that drew international condemnation and sparked fears of a potential nuclear incident.

Those concerns were quickly downplayed by experts, who warned against comparisons with the plant at Chernobyl, where the world’s worst nuclear disaster occurred in 1986.
Modern plants are significantly safer than older ones like Chernobyl, they said. But analysts nonetheless expressed horror that Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine has spilled into nuclear facilities, a development with few recent parallels.
And the operator and regulator of the site have communicated that the situation on the ground is “extremely tense and challenging,” according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“No country besides Russia has ever fired upon an atomic power plant’s reactors. The red wing shoes first time, the first time in history,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Facebook post.
The IAEA called for fighting around the facility to end, and world leaders were swift in their criticism of Russia’s move.
Radioactive material was not released from the plant, but it was a “close call,” Rafael Grossi, the IAEA director-general, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Friday.
Following the Russian attack, “there was great alarm if the physical integrity of the nuclear power installation had been compromised, with the … possible risk that that entails,” Grossi said.
Grossi had earlier told reporters that what happens next at Zaporizhzhia is “a situation that is very difficult to sustain, very fragile” while there is an active military operation and Russian forces in control. “This is unprecedented,” he said. “Completely uncharted waters.”

What happened at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant?

Reports of an attack on the facility emerged early Friday morning, with video of the scene showing bursts of gunfire apparently directed at the Zaporizhzhia plant before dawn.
“Russian army is firing from all sides upon Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.
A large number of Russian tanks and infantry “broke through the block-post” to Enerhodar, a few kilometers from the Zaporizhzhia power plant, according to Grossi.
A Russian projectile then hit a building within the site of the plant, causing a localized fire, but none of the reactors were nearby and they were unaffected, the IAEA chief said.
In a Facebook post early Friday, Zelensky accused Russian troops of committing a “terror attack” by intentionally firing at the power plant — potentially risking the lives of millions.
“Russian tanks, equipped with thermal imagery, are shooting at the atomic blocks. They know what they are shooting at. They’ve been preparing for this (attack),” Zelensky said in the post, adding “our guys are keeping the atomic power station secure.”
In a statement Friday morning local time, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate (SNRI) confirmed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine was occupied by Russian military forces, but said officials remained in contact with plant management.
The power plant’s six reactors remain intact, though the compartment auxiliary buildings for reactor unit 1 had been damaged, the SNRI said in its statement. Four of the remaining units are being cooled down while one unit is providing power, the statement said.
Separately, Ukraine’s nuclear power operator, Energoatom, said the “administrative building and the checkpoint at the station are under occupiers’ control.” It said staff are working on the power units to ensure stable operation.

How dangerous was the attack?

Ukrainian officials quickly sounded the alarm about the potential implications of the attack. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that “if (the plant) blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chernobyl,” and Zelensky said that such an incident would mean “the end of Europe.”
But experts were quick to stress that they did not believe a reactor could blow up, pointing out fundamental differences between Chernobyl and the Zaporizhzhia plant.
The IAEA said Ukrainian authorities had reported background radiation levels were normal and the fire had not affected “essential” equipment. The plant had not sustained any critical damage in the attack, Andrii Tuz, a plant spokesman, told CNN on Friday.
Ukrainian nuclear power plant fire extinguished as Russian troops 'occupy' facility
“The design is a lot different to the Chernobyl reactor, which did not have a containment building, and hence there is no real risk, in my opinion, at the plant now the reactors have been safely shut down,” Mark Wenman, a reader in nuclear materials at Imperial College London, told the Science Media Centre (SMC).
The Chernobyl disaster took place at a plant that used Soviet-era, graphite-moderated RBMK reactors. But the Zaporizhzhia facility uses a pressurized water reactor known as a VVER model.
“The design of the VVER is inherently more safe and protected than the Chernobyl RBMK systems,” explained Jon Wolfsthal, a senior adviser at Global Zero and former senior Director for Arms Control and Nonproliferation at the National Security Council, on Twitter on Friday.
A VVER reactor cannot “‘run away with itself’ as the RBMK could,” Malcolm Grimston, an honorary senior research fellow at the Imperial Centre for Energy Policy and Technology in London, told the SMC.
But even if an explosion at a reactor was most unlikely, other incidents could occur as a result of shelling or fires at the site.
“It’s really the electricity and the plumbing that you’re thorogood boots worried about,” Joseph Cirincione, a distinguished fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, told CNN on Friday.
Electricity at the Fukushima plant in Japan was cut off during the nuclear disaster there in 2011, while the reactors themselves remained intact. “That meant you could no longer pump the cooling water through the reactors, or the cooling ponds,” Cirincione said.
“I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet. We have to make sure that the Russians who are taking over know what they’re doing,” he added.
Grossi, the IAEA director-general, told CNN on Friday: “What I’m telling (Russia) and everyone is that the utmost restraint is to be exercised in and around this type of facility. Because wittingly or unwittingly, you can very quickly go into a disaster, and this is why we’re so concerned.”

How safe are modern nuclear facilities?

The differences in design and safety standards mean that the possibility of a nuclear reactor at the site exploding and causing a disaster is not something concerning nuclear experts.
They noted that the threat would be somewhat higher if a nuclear reactor were to come under a targeted, sustained attack with the intention of causing a nuclear incident, which was not the case in Zaporizhzhia and would make little sense given the proximity of Russia’s major cities to all of Ukraine’s plants.
The pressure vessel of a modern reactor “is very robust and can withstand considerable damage from phenomena such as earthquakes and to an extent kinetic impacts,” Robin Grimes, a professor of materials physics at Imperial College London, told SMC.
Six power units generate 40-42 billion kWh of electricity at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

“It is not designed to withstand” attacks by explosive weaponry, he added. “It seems to me unlikely that such an impact would result in a Chernobyl-like nuclear event (but) this has never been tested and it is not impossible.”
“It is therefore staggering and reckless to the extreme that shells have been fired close to a nuclear plant,” he said. “Even if they were not aiming for the nuclear plant, artillery is notoriously inaccurate in a time of war.”

How many nuclear plants does Ukraine have?

Ukraine relies heavily on nuclear power. The Zaporizhzhia plant contains six of the country’s 15 nuclear energy reactors, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the facility alone accounts for one-fifth of the average annual electricity production in Ukraine, according to Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear power operator.
That makes its seizure by Russian forces hugely significant; if the plant were to stop running, it would severely affect the energy supplies to millions of Ukrainians.
In total Ukraine has four nuclear plants — two, including Zaporizhzhia, in the south of the country, and two more in the northwest, in regions Russian troops have not occupied.
Those do not include the closed Chernobyl plant, in the north of the country, which was occupied by Russian forces on the first day of their invasion of Ukraine. According to Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, control of the Chernobyl zone was lost after a “fierce battle.”
More than 90 members of the Chernobyl power plant operational personnel were held hostage by Russian forces after they took the plant, Ukrainian Ambassador to the US Oksana Markarova said.
The Chernobyl plant was shut down after the 1986 disaster, and has sat within an exclusion zone ever since, but construction and recovery efforts have continued at the site to reduce the risk of future radiation leaks.

How the world of travel is responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

From professional sports to Hollywood to food and beverage, a wide range of industries have announced boycotts, bans and other forms of retaliation against Russia in response to its violent invasion of Ukraine.
Now, the travel sector is starting to take action, too.
Cruise lines, including prominent brands like Carnival, tour operators and various industry organizations have announced plans to cancel upcoming tours in Russia and also restrict participation of Russian entities in their business dealings.
These developments come on the heels of continued upheaval in air travel, as the European Union, Canada and Moscow all issued reciprocal airspace bans this week. In his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, President Joe Biden also announced the US thorogood boots will be closing its skies to Russian aircraft.
Not surprisingly, Russia’s travel industry is responding in kind. On Tuesday, its Federal Tourism Agency recommended for its citizens to avoid visiting countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia and advised tour operators to suspend sales of tours to such countries.
Meanwhile, many prominent tourist landmarks and monuments have glowed with the yellow and blue colors of the Ukrainian flag, adding to the momentum from massive protests around the world. On a smaller scale, at least one major travel brand — booking platform Kayak — has added Ukraine’s national colors to its digital logo.
How such moves will impact Russia’s tourism sector, which brought in about $84 million in 2019, remains to be seen. For now, though, some industry leaders say a united, industry-wide show of support is crucial.
“Most tourism corporations, including ours, see our mission as being global ambassadors of cultures,” Catherine Chaulet, president and CEO of Global DMC Partners, a network of independently owned destination management companies, told CNN Travel via email. “In a time of war, it is even more important to share the history, values and stories of those affected. More than ever, our role today is to share and protect what unites us, not what divides us.”
Here, a look at some noteworthy developments so far.

Canceled tours

A nightime long-exposure shot shows central Moscow in December 2021.
A nightime long-exposure shot shows central Moscow in December 2021.
Famed guidebook writer Rick Steves was one of the first and most high-profile names in the industry to share news about his tour company, Rick Steves’ Europe, canceling all trips with a stop in Russia.
Steves announced the decision in a February 24 blog post entitled “Comrades No More,” writing, “Our mission at RSE is to help Americans better know and understand our neighbors through travel. But when we bring travelers to another country, we also bring their dollars — dollars that would support Putin’s aggression.”
Another prominent travel provider, Toronto-based G Adventures, took its own response a step further. In addition to canceling tours with stops in Russia, the adventure travel outfitter will not accept bookings from Russian travel agencies or Russian nationals as clients “for the foreseeable future,” G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip told CNN Travel.
“The goal of sanctions, the goal of the globe coming together, is to put pressure internally within the country,” Poon Tip said. “So, as businesses, we should [all] do our parts.”
In 2019, G Adventures had more than a dozen trips that included stops in Russia; all such offerings have now been removed from its website. The company announced the news in an email to employees and clients Tuesday evening. “I oofos shoes have always said travel can be the fastest path to peace, so it breaks my heart that it has come to this,” Poon Tip wrote in the email.
BusinessClass.com, an Oslo-based search platform specializing in premium travel, also announced it’s blocking all Russia-based bookings and content from its site, a move CEO Jason Eckoff is urging his industry colleagues to make. “I am now calling on ALL travel companies in the world, to join us by excluding everything relating to Russia in their respective services until this terrible, unprovoked invasion comes to an end,” Eckoff wrote in a LinkedIn post.
Other operators are making similar moves. Charles Neville, marketing director for JayWay Travel, a US-based provider of custom tours to several eastern European destinations, told CNN Travel that it’s no longer promoting or booking travel to Russia, Ukraine or Belarus.
Combined, trips to those countries made up less than 5% of the company’s business, Neville said, and the company has remained in close communication with clients who have already booked regarding options for postponing or reorganizing their trips.
Far more complex, however, is the complicated issue of whether JayWay Travel will eventually promote travel to Russia again — an especially difficult task for organizations that have employees with firsthand experience and family history of oppression from dangerous regimes.
“We have a colleague in Ukraine and [local] providers there who this is happening to right now, and for them, this is, pardon my language, “Screw Russia, why would we ever send people there?’,” Neville said. “I think it’s a discussion a lot of travel companies are going to have to have. I mean, there are very few companies sending people to North Korea. Is that where Russia ends up?”

Rerouted cruises

The State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace is one of the attractions that draws tourists to St. Petersburg.
The State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace is one of the attractions that draws tourists to St. Petersburg.
Cruise operators were among the first travel companies to announce rerouting of itineraries with stops in Russia, with key players including Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Viking and Carnival Corporation, the parent company of nine cruise lines.
Other operators that have announced similar changes include Atlas Ocean Voyages, a new player in the industry, MSC and boutique brand Sea Cloud, Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic, a leading online resource in the cruise industry, told CNN Travel via email.
Many itineraries include St. Petersburg, sometimes known as Russia’s “cultural capital,” which, according to its tourism board, drew some 10 million visitors in 2019.
Rerouting itineraries to avoid bad weather or destinations where conflict has broken out in order to keep passengers and crew safe isn’t uncommon within the cruise industry.
However, the recent shifts away from Russia also reflect a decidedly humanitarian stance: Carnival Corporation, for example, concluded its February 26 announcement, which happened on Twitter, with the statement “We stand for peace.”
McDaniel said that’s in line with the underlying values of many cruise passengers. “This does reflect what we’ve seen on our boards and on social media as well, with guests reporting that they will also speak with their dollars,” she said.
Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean International, which owns Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Silversea, on Tuesday issued a statement announcing cancellations of its itineraries with stops in Russia, a RCI spokesperson confirmed to CNN Travel via email.
Saga Cruises and Hurtigruten Expeditions both have ships scheduled to call in Russia ports this summer and are continuing to monitor the situation, according to McDaniel.


The sails of the Sydney Opera House were illuminated with the colors of the Ukrainian flag on March 1, 2022.
The sails of the Sydney Opera House were illuminated with the colors of the Ukrainian flag on March 1, 2022.
At least one Eastern European tourism group has made good on the popular hashtag #StandWithUkraine. ANTRIM, a nonprofit organization representing the private sector in the tourism industry of Moldova (which shares its nearly 760-mile eastern border from Ukraine), announced on Instagram plans to make hotels, guesthouses and restaurants available to the country’s influx of refugees fleeing the war.
“Dear ukrainian neighbours [sic], we stand by you in these difficult times. The sad events in your country have forced you to cross our borders. We hope that the borders and walls of our country will make you coach outlet feel safe,” the agency wrote, directing refugees to its website or visitor information center in Chisinau. A subsequent post shared details on how to donate to an account to provide financial support set up by the country’s Ministry of Finance.
Rental platform Airbnb also announced plans Monday to offer free temporary housing to up to 500,000 Ukrainian refugees.
Greece’s Tourism Minister, Vassilis Kikilias, meanwhile, announced plans this week to open 50,000 jobs in tourism to Ukrainian refugees or Greek expatriates.
Other displays of solidarity with Ukraine can be seen in tourist landmarks across the globe.
On Friday, as Russian forces moved into Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, many of the world’s most famous monuments were illuminated with the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag. Among them: New York City’s Empire State Building, the London Eye, the Eiffel Tower, and Rome’s Colosseum.
In Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate glowed with the blue-and-yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag over the weekend. And on Sunday, more than 100,000 people walked around and through Germany’s famed landmark during one of the biggest protests against Russia’s invasion.

Police chief reveals how 6-year-old girl was found alive under staircase two years after she was reported missing

A child who was reported missing in 2019 when she was 4 years old was found hidden under a wooden staircase with her noncustodial mother, in a home officials had visited several times while investigating her disappearance, authorities said.

The child, Paislee Joann Shultis, now 6, was reported missing on July 13, 2019, from Cayuga Heights, a village on the outskirts of Ithaca, New York. At the time, she was believed to have been abducted by her noncustodial parents, Kimberly Cooper and Kirk Shultis Jr., police said in a news release.
Paislee and her mother were found Monday when investigators spotted “a pair of tiny feet” in a secret space under wooden steps leading to a basement.
“We should all wait until the facts come out,” said Carol K. Morgan, who represents Cooper. “Everyone should be patient before they draw their own conclusions.”
In the basement of the hoka shoes for women house, detectives searching for the girl found an apartment, including a bedroom with Paislee’s name on a wall, Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra told CNN on Wednesday. The bed appeared to have been slept in.
“Our officers asked, ‘Is she here?’ … And they denied that anybody was living in that house, in that particular room,” the chief said in an interview. “They said they had set the room up like that in the event that Paislee should ever return.”
Paislee Joann Shultis in a photo released by the Saugerties Police Department.

Throughout the 2.5-year investigation, authorities received several tips about the Saugerties-area home where the child was eventually located — but each time, the residents denied knowing anything about the girl’s whereabouts, the release said. Saugerties is about 160 miles east of Cayuga Heights.
“The quick answer: That’s our criminal justice system,” Sinagra said of his department’s inability to find the girl earlier, adding that Monday was the first time officers were able to obtain factual information — not hearsay — and secure a search warrant.
Sinagra said the homeowners were always “adversarial” with the officers, accusing police of “harassing” and “badgering” them and “insisting we should be out looking for Paislee.”
Sinagra told CNN on Wednesday that officers previously had been in the home roughly a dozen times but were not allowed in the basement or bedroom areas.
“We’re bothered by the fact that this went on for two years,” the hoka shoes chief said. “They lied to us for two years — including the father stating that he had no idea where his daughter was.”
On several occasions, investigators were allowed into the home without a warrant, but they were given “limited access” by Kirk Shultis Jr. and Kirk Shultis Sr., police said in the news release.
That changed Monday when police received information the child was being hidden and got a warrant for the home.
Officers arrived outside the house about 4 p.m to ensure that no one left. Police then executed the warrant a little after 8 p.m., the chief said. The homeowner denied knowing the girl’s whereabouts, saying he had not seen her since she was reported missing in 2019.
Police said the secret location underneath the stairs to the basement appeared to have been built to hide the girl.

Kate at 40: How the Duchess of Cambridge’s style evolved from youthful sparkle to timeless elegance

02b Kate Duchess of Cambridge 40th birthday portraits

Since joining the royal family in 2011, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge — known by many as Kate — has rarely faltered on her unwritten obligation to appear manicured and immaculately dressed in the public eye. And while the duchess is renowned for her preppy tweeds and tailored blazers, she earned her true fashion credentials through a sharp eye for occasion wear.
Take, for example, the gilded Jenny Packham dress she olukai shoes wore for the 2021 premiere of “No Time to Die” that set the internet alight, or her custom Alexander McQueen wedding dress with detailing so precise that seamstresses had to replace their sewing needles every three hours, according to British Vogue.
But even before she became a duchess, a young Kate Middleton kept her wardrobe well stocked with statement looks. For the queen-consort-in-waiting’s 40th birthday, we look back at some of her best outfits, from her heady college days to the most formal of royal occasions.
The Duchess shone in a golden gown for the latest Bond premiere in London.
The Duchess shone in a golden gown for the latest Bond premiere in London.

The college years

While a pre-royal Kate was studying at St Andrew’s University in Scotland, her social life seemed similar to that of many people her age. Bunched in the back of taxi cabs, she may have worn shorter hemlines than she does now, but Kate’s love for dressing up was evident from the start.
Kate Middleton wears sequins at a charity roller disco in London in 2008.
Kate Middleton wears sequins at a charity roller disco in London in 2008.
Paparazzi photos snapped of Kate as a bright-eyed 20-something suggest a penchant for sparkle: glittering black mini hey dude dresses and emerald green sequin halter-neck tops were go-to looks. Even before she became the one of the world’s most photographed women, her sartorial sensibility skewed bold — for instance, if friends wore all-black ensembles for a night on the town, Kate donned a baroque-printed silk dress.

Royal engagements

Today, a decade after she married into the royal family, the duchess is still reaching for sequins. At the UK-Africa Investment Summit at Buckingham Palace in January 2020 she wore a shimmering red sequin and lace dress from Needle & Thread, and just last year she arrived at London’s Royal Albert Hall wearing a dazzling malachite-colored gown.

Do you have a cold, the flu or Covid-19? Experts explain how to tell the difference

Do you have a sore throat, a runny nose and muscle aches? It could be a common cold, a case of the flu — or Covid-19.

The illnesses all share similar symptoms, sometimes making it hard to distinguish which is putting you under the weather.
Case rates of Covid-19 have been on the rise as the Omicron variant has spread, but hospitalization numbers appear to be staying relatively low. For vaccinated people, evidence suggests that infection with this variant seems less likely to be severe, epidemiologist and former Detroit Health Department executive director, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed said.
Daily Covid-19 case rates have now surpassed Delta's surge. Hospitalizations so far have yet to match
“The important thing to remember is a vaccine is like giving a ‘be on the lookout’ call to your immune system. So its capacity to identify, target and destroy viruses is so much higher every time we take another boost of the vaccine,” El-Sayed said. “It makes sense that the symptoms you would experience are milder if you have been vaccinated.”
That does not mean, however, that infections shouldn’t be taken seriously, he added, especially when considering the risk of overwhelming health care systems.
“Just because the per-individual risk of severe illness may be lower, that doesn’t mean on a societal level Omicron doesn’t pose a real risk,” he said. “Even a small proportion of a relatively large number can be a relatively large number.”
Many Covid-19 infections may look like a cold or flu. The best way to know is to get a test, said Dr. Sarah Ash Combs, attending physician at Children’s National Hospital.
“Short of getting a test, I would say it’s really tricky to distinguish right now,” Combs said. “We need to just treat cold-ish symptoms in pretty much the same bucket” as Covid-19.

What symptoms to look for

Early signs of cold, flu and Covid-19 tend to be similar, El-Sayed said.
Both Covid-19 and the flu often cause symptoms such as fever, fatigue, body aches, sore throat, shortness of breath and vomiting or diarrhea, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Covid-19 infection can be distinguished, however, by the headache and dry cough that often go along with it. The loss of taste and smell that has been the biggest warning sign of a Covid-19 infection is still a possible symptom, though it is less prevalent now than it has been with other variants, El-Sayed said.
Between Christmas and New Year's, doctors expect the US Omicron surge to grow
“For people who are feeling serious chest pain, particularly with a dry cough that has gotten worse, that’s when you really ought to seek medical attention,” he warned.
The most important factor to consider is exposure.
“If you are starting to feel any of these symptoms, it’s worth asking: Has anybody with whom I’ve come into contact been infected with Covid? It’s also worth isolating and taking a rapid test,” he advised.
Even if you’re not feeling symptoms yet, it may be best to exercise caution if you have been around someone who tested positive for Covid-19.
“I do think it is worth keeping a high suspicion that it could be Covid considering that we have the Omicron variant spreading like wildfire,” El-Sayed added.
At this point, it is safest to treat all cold symptoms carefully, Combs said.

When to test for Covid-19

It is often good to address your suspicions of Covid-19 by taking a test, although when you do it makes a difference.
If you are feeling symptoms, now is the time to take a test, El-Sayed said.
For those who have been exposed but aren’t feeling symptoms, there is a possibility that the virus hasn’t developed enough to show up on a rapid test, he explained. In those cases, it is best to wait five days after exposure before testing and to remain on the lookout, according to the CDC.
“Just because you get a negative test doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not Covid,” El-Sayed said. “The best approach is to test and then maybe test again in 12 to 24 hours, and if you get two negatives, you can be more certain that it’s not.”
Whether it is Covid-19 or the common cold, it has always been a good idea to isolate while you fight a viral illness, he said. It has become even more important with the risk of spread increasing with Covid-19.

What to do if your child starts sniffling

Looking ahead to the return to school after the winter break, the US is at a point where people need to treat cold or flu symptoms the same as Covid-19, Combs said.
When a family comes into her emergency room with a child that has sniffles and a sore throat and asks what it is, she is honest: She can’t know for sure without a test, said Combs.
Children are experiencing Omicron much in the same way adults are in that the symptoms are much more wide-ranging and often milder, like a cold, she said.
Getting a flu shot for your child is important to reduce the chance of adding another virus to the mix, Combs said. Children under 5-years-old are still waiting on Covid-19 vaccine approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, but those older can get vaccinated to reduce the risk of spread and serious disease.
As they go back to a school environment, testing is going to be essential to protecting against outbreaks, Combs said.
The latest on coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant
“If you’re looking to be really careful, if you’re looking at a child going back to a school environment is to spread to other people, I would say really the only way to know is taking that test,” Combs said.
The good news is we know how to manage infections when children return to school, Combs said. When it isn’t clear if your child was exposed or if their test is still pending, protocols like masking, sanitizing, distancing and reducing indoor gatherings are still believed to be effective in reducing spread, she added.
And know that advice may evolve as time goes on, El-Sayed cautioned.
“It’s changing quickly. We’re learning a lot more,” he said. “Omicorn is a variant we’ve really only known for about a month.”

How Naomi Campbell surprised this Nigerian designer on the runway

campell arise fashion week 2020

Supermodel Naomi Campbell has been turning heads since she first started modeling in the 1980s. But for Nigerian fashion designer Chukwuma Ian Audifferen, her appearance at the Arise Fashion Week “30 Under 30” showcase got his attention for another reason.
“Naomi Campbell closed the runway show in my piece and it was sublime,” said Audifferen of the December event, which celebrates young African designers.
The 30-year-old said he was “startled” when he olukai shoes saw the supermodel strutting down the runway in Lagos, Nigeria in the geometric-patterned poncho. “I had no idea that she was going to wear my piece. She just looked like perfection.”
In a hyper-competitive industry, the “surreal” moment is cemented in Audifferen’s mind as one of his career highlights.
“It was one of those moments that made fashion so worthwhile for me,” he said.
Supermodel Naomi Campbell wearing a Tzar Studios poncho, which designer Ian Audifferen has now named after her.
Supermodel Naomi Campbell wearing a Tzar Studios poncho, which designer Ian Audifferen has now named after her.

From backstage to onstage

Audifferen didn’t always want to be a designer. After high school, he studied microbiology at the University of Lagos — a career he said his father was keen for him to pursue.
But Audifferen’s interests didn’t lie in lab work, and during his studies, he interned for Lagos Fashion Week and Arise Fashion Week, a competition for young designers hosted by Nigerian media group Arise. It gave him a taste of the fashion world — and he was eager for more.
After graduation, Audifferen began making shirts. “(People) bought these items off my back,” he said. “I’d wear a shirt that I had made to an event or somewhere, and they would just want it.”
“The Tzar Studios ethos is pretty much comfort and functionality. I hey dude believe that when you’re comfortable in your clothing, it’s a confidence booster.”
Ian Audifferen, designer
That’s when he decided to put together a small collection, and in 2014 he founded Tzar Studios. The initial designs were “resplendent and flamboyant” he said, with a variety of bold and clashing prints and colors. Initially focused on menswear and androgynous unisex pieces, in 2018 Audifferen also began working on womenswear.
Now, his designs are more minimalist: “The Tzar Studios ethos is pretty much comfort and functionality,” he said. “I believe that when you’re comfortable in your clothing, it’s a confidence booster.”
Minimalist and sleek with a muted palette, Audifferen's designs prioritise functionality.
Minimalist and sleek with a muted palette, Audifferen’s designs prioritise functionality.
That year, he returned to Arise Fashion Week — but this time, as a designer. “I had worked backstage and coordinated the models; fast-forward years later, I’m on the runway showcasing my pieces. I see that as growth,” he said.
After his first appearance on the runway in 2018, Audifferen red wing boots says his designs started to get more recognition. Featured in magazines including Vogue and Genevieve, his work began attracting the attention of Lagos’s fashion-savvy socialites.

Nigeria’s flourishing fashion industry

Audifferen is now a key player in Nigeria’s flourishing fashion scene, where an increasing number of young designers are taking the spotlight. Of the 30 designers selected for the Covid-compliant Arise Fashion Week in December 2020, 23 were Nigerian, including Audifferen.
A model walks the runway for Tzar Studios during Arise Fashion Week 2020.
A model walks the runway for Tzar Studios during Arise Fashion Week 2020.
Arise Fashion Week is an important event to help elevate these designers and give their work global exposure, Naomi Campbell told CNN.
“I feel that it’s been long going on for too long, that designers on the continent have not gotten a platform in the fashion capitals of the world,” said Campbell. “Fashion is not supposed to discriminate, yet we have excluded this part of the world and other emerging markets.”

How children were used in a 48-hour deadly rampage for gold

The men were shot as they slept outside, having spent their days underground, choking in the Sahel dust, digging and panning for gold.

They were killed by children — some apparently as young as 12 — and men who had arrived on dozens of motorbikes and were egged on in their murderous spree by women who knew the village well, according to witnesses. The local militia had left. The army came to the rescue for a matter of hours in the morning but then left before dusk, letting the attackers return the following night to burn the village down and most likely steal what gold it had.
In the end, somewhere between 170 and 200 people died, according to estimates by a local police source and other officials, and it still remains unclear who the killers were.
The massacre in Solhan, northern Burkina Faso, took place over two nights of extraordinary brutality in June 2021. The killings soon faded from international headlines, absorbed into the rhythms of persistent violence in the Sahel region, an arid stretch of land olukai shoes sandwiched by the Sahara Desert and the African savannah, and wracked by the climate emergency.
In the lawless and remote communities of the Sahel, jihadists increasingly hold sway. Yet one likely culprit in this incident, al Qaeda’s local affiliate JNIM, condemned the attack’s brutality. And the other main suspect, ISIS, chose to blame it on al Qaeda, according to an ISIS-affiliated newspaper.
Dozens of interviews by CNN with survivors, local witnesses and Burkina Faso officials paint the most complete and disturbing narrative yet of a rampage perpetrated over 48 hours, partially by children, that the US-backed and trained Burkina Faso military was powerless to stop.
Yet few officials or witnesses agree on a coherent and consistent motive for the attack. Were the child attackers sent for Solhan’s gold, as currency for their Islamist masters? Was it a punishment killing ordered by jihadists against villagers loyal to the government?
The story of Solhan is a notable mark in the patina of brutality spreading across the Sahel. The intervention — and now ongoing drawdown — of the French military, the arrival of European Union forces, and the Pentagon’s sustained support mean billions have been spent in attempts to bolster the local security forces. Yet violence has spiraled instead, particularly in Burkina Faso over recent years.
The crisis in some of sub-Saharan Africa’s poorest states presents an imminent threat to Europe’s security, and by extension the United States, analysts say, in providing a secure and spacious breeding ground for terror networks. US officials have described the “wildfire of terrorism” in the Sahel, with al Qaeda and ISIS “on the march” in West Africa, aiming to “carve out a new caliphate.”
Illicit gold has emerged as a key source of funding for jihadist groups, who have been seizing so-called “informal mines” — small-scale mining sites which rely largely on physical labor and basic technology to extract precious metals and minerals — in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger since 2016, according to a Crisis Group report from 2019.
In this file photo taken in February 2020, miners work at a gold mine in Bouda, Burkina Faso. A growing number of small-scale gold miners are out of work in Burkina Faso as jihadists try to seize control of the country's most lucrative industry.

Bachir Ismael Ouédraogo, Burkina Faso’s minister of energy and mines, told CNN the country lost 20 tons of gold through informal mining and exports every year, worth roughly $1 billion on the open market.
Ouédraogo describes it as a “war economy,” a system that uses well-coordinated routes across the African continent. “The gold you end up buying is financing terrorism, and affecting our families here,” he added.

The first night: Massacre

Trapped in the arid plains around 400 kilometers (250 miles) northeast of the capital Ouagadougou, Solhan’s gold is the village’s only asset, and its curse.
Satellite images of the village show the damage that informal mining has done to the terracotta soil — the charred grey tailings and spoil from the intense activity of men who spend so many hours digging underground that they must sleep outdoors to recover.
A satelite view of the site of the attack on Solhan in Burkina Faso.

A local government-backed militia called the VDP (a French acronym meaning Volunteers for the Defense of the Country) provides some security. Yet on the night of June 4, Solhan was left mostly defenseless.
More than 100 jihadists, on dozens of tricycles and motorbikes, had been spotted 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Solhan that afternoon, according to Boureima Ly, the emir of the local region of Yagha.
The army was warned of a possible attack, but it was unclear if it would target Solhan or nearby Sebba — according to Aly Bokoum, an activist with the Sahel Regional Youth Council in Burkina Faso — so the local unit chose to stay in Sebba, where it is based. The VDP in Solhan also contacted hoka shoes for women the army about the threat but were told to leave the village, according to Bokoum.
CNN has made multiple attempts to contact Burkina Faso’s army for comment.
Gold appeared to set the attackers’ priorities. Mines at Mousiga, a tiny settlement to Solhan’s east, were hit first, according to a mining official and a miner who were present. Many of the survivors, witnesses and officials requested anonymity for their safety.
“Their faces were hidden with scarves,” the miner said of the assailants. “There were many of them on bikes and they started shooting. I started running for my life — for 30 kilometers, all night, to safety.” This miner said he did not see children among this group and two other officials denied the involvement of children at the Mousiga mines.
The distant gunfire from Mousiga was misinterpreted by the Solhan miners, who “thought it was the army coming” on a routine patrol and so “stayed next to their wells,” said the mining official. The attackers then hit a VDP base on the road into the village, before moving on to their main target.
On entering Solhan, the convoy of children, women and likely some men split. One group turned left towards the mines. Another drove calmly into the center of the village.
A local shop in Solhan was completely destroyed in the attack.

The first shots in Solhan, heard by witnesses at 2:08 a.m., were at the mines, the police source said. “The gold-diggers were first … ambushed … killed at random,” he said, while describing the typical night-time scene. “Most of the [miners] sleep outside, on site. They can’t sleep indoors, and they don’t go home either. Usually only a few of them get into the well late at night, and most come out because of the heat.”
One miner said some victims were shot dead as they slept outside and others were slaughtered as they worked, trapped underground. “All [the attackers] found outside were people sleeping,” he said. “That’s what made it possible for them to massacre them like that.”
Another miner said: “People started coming out of the pits and running … running for our lives.” He added that others hid inside the 30-foot-deep wells.
The mining official described how a large gun was positioned beneath a nearby tree for use in the attack. “Many ran away, but when you run, you’re going to be seen and they shoot,” he said, adding that some miners survived by hiding in the pits until 8 a.m. “The first person who went down to the site [the following day] called me, and said the bodies were lying like fish,” the official said.
Several witnesses and officials told CNN that the attackers had in-depth knowledge of Solhan’s layout. “These are people who take the time to study their target,” confirmed the police source, who said witnesses mentioned distinctly hearing women’s voices among the attackers. “They indicated to ‘go to into this guy’s house, do this and that,’ and told children to ‘go here and there,’ that they couldn’t let one person leave,” the source said.
Local activist Abdou Hoeffi, from the human rights group Burkina Faso Movement for Human and People’s Rights (MBDHP), said the women played a cheerleading role with the child assailants, with shouts of: “You are a good shooter! You go!”
One witness, who said his parents were killed in the attack, told CNN in Solhan: “They came with women and little children holding guns. Francois, a shopkeeper, he was taken away, my friend. If it was a man, they killed him — a boy, they kidnapped him. A little one like that,” he said, gesturing the embrace of an infant in his arms, “who was breastfeeding [was taken away]. His mother lost her mind.”
The road leading into Solhan. The attackers arrived on motorbikes, according to eyewitnesses.

One Solhan woman, her bright blue dress glistening as she sifted grains through a sieve, described surviving the night: “They destroyed everything … I fled into my house with my child on my back … I couldn’t sleep all night. We saw the light from the bullets all over the place … It was only God who saved us, otherwise they were going to exterminate us all.”
Another witness said he and his wife were in bed with their 5-day-old baby when they heard the gunfire. “Three terrorists passed by my house, in front of me, talking. They did not stop. I could see the bullets raining down everywhere in the night.” The witness, a former hoka shoes security guard for the local cellphone antenna, said the attackers disabled the phone mast that night and removed its battery, cutting the village off from the outside world and a chance of help.
The attackers left at dawn, and the same witness said that the villagers started to venture outside again by 5 a.m. “I couldn’t count the number of corpses that were on the side of the road,” he recalled. “Everywhere you go, there are bodies lying around.”
The mine was also an apocalyptic scene. “We found that everyone died at the well. I made up to eight trips with a motorcycle cab to carry corpses,” said another survivor.” The mining official added that “everyone was loaded on and off the motorbikes like bags of grain.”
The area around the mine at Solhan was left damaged.

Then the army finally arrived. One miner told CNN the attackers depended on the military’s slow reaction when launching their assault. “This is Burkina Faso. There is no fast response,” the miner said. “If they knew that in 30 or 40 minutes the army would come, they wouldn’t [attack]. But they took all their time.”
When the military did arrive, there was little to do but bury the dead, he said. “They dug a big hole. There was no other solution.”
The ex-phone antenna guard said the security forces asked villagers “to go back home and lock the door, and to not hide any terrorists.”
Six bodies were found at this location after the attack on Solhan in June 2021.

Two officials said the militants’ convoy did not really leave at first light but instead relocated to a hideout in the brush, and waited. The mining official specified a remote border area where he believed they had hidden. The police source said it was not clear if they met leaders there for further instructions, or just waited for the cover of night.
Some of the villagers who remained in Solhan tried to flee, said the police source. “They didn’t know if it was over or not,” he said. The hospital in the nearest city, Dori, was “overwhelmed,” he said. But it was unclear if the attackers were finished with Solhan. At dusk, the answer came.

The second night: Destruction

“I heard the sound of their motorcycles and said, ‘Ah, they are [here] again,'” one witness said. “I went back to my yard, turned off the lights in my house, took my mat, took my blanket.” He said he left for another village — traveling on foot with a group of Solhan’s children, elderly residents and pregnant women.
But the convoy’s focus was different this time: They wanted to eradicate or loot all that remained. “They started to burn. They entered the houses,” said one survivor. “At the stores, they took clothes, drinks, money, put them in their vehicles.”
“They came back, they found four motorcycles at our place,” another survivor said. “They burned everything. They burned all our houses, until even the sheet metal was gone. They took rice, sugar, oil and boxes of other things.”
Showing a cameraman around what remained of his home, the survivor gestured to the devastation — the walls black with soot, apart from a patch where the TV was fixed before it too was looted. “The grenade went through the wall and went to the other side,” he said, pointing at a missing patch of plaster. “The whole roof is gone.”
The mining official said 80 sheep were also slaughtered in the violence.
Young men who survived the onslaught sought medication for the psychological trauma in nearby Dori, he added. “They were given pills or injections, because they say they couldn’t close their eyes, because they could still see the dead bodies.”
Video filmed in July shows the charred village clinic — the hospital beds and consultation room beyond use. Shops and homes were incinerated, and rows of buildings left collapsed or with only their metal gates remaining. Motorcycles were torched. Even the mining machinery used to break rocks was half-smashed, yet in the video some of it still hummed around the mines that remained functioning.
Shell casings still lay on the ground. The scale of destruction — fueled, it seemed, by something more nihilistic than just looting — surprised some officials.
Shell casings were found at the site of the attack in Solhan.

Since June, officials, experts and survivors have been seeking to understand more about the massacre.
The government, facing protests in Dori over its inaction and security failings, blamed jihadists.
Government spokesperson Ousseni Tamboura told Radio France Internationale that two suspects had been detained before the attack and the arrests had led officials to link it to a little-known group called Mujahed al Qaeda, which is connected to the al Qaeda affiliate JNIM. Tamboura said gold was also a motivating factor. In the immediate aftermath, the government fired some security personnel and declared three days of national mourning.
Tamboura told CNN in November the government believes al Qaeda affiliate JNIM was behind the massacre. He put the death toll at 132, which includes attackers killed in the incident, and fatalities from a neighboring attack.
Tamboura declined to comment on the army’s absence in Solhan that night, and said that the Burkina Faso military followed all protocols set between them and the US as a condition for aid. The spokesman added that the jihadi groups were fueled by hunger to control resources, not by ideology.
A French military intelligence official, who didn’t want to be named discussing sensitive information, agreed that jihadists were likely responsible, saying the massacre was likely committed by a group “in the process of being formed,” linked to JNIM. The official said attacks against the general population, as indiscriminate as those on Solhan, were more the hallmark of ISIS, however.

Display of violence

Beds inside the local health clinic were burnt.

The display of violence has once again highlighted the rapid deterioration of social structures and security in the Sahel region.
A US intelligence official said: “There is absolutely a continued need for Western involvement and engagement to address the expansion of the al Qaeda- and ISIS-based groups in the area and not give them complete freedom of movement — as well as to build [the] capability [and] capacity of African partners.”
The US official added that the crisis seemed to be fueled by local partnerships between jihadists and not an influx of ISIS fighters from the collapse of the former ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria. They said that they have not noticed a broad trend of ISIS fighters moving from the Middle East to the Sahel area, with the exception of one or two persons of interest.
The official said the main concern was how ISIS affiliates across Africa were able to share tactics and build each other’s capabilities.
“Whether it’s physical facilitation capabilities from a group like ISIS Somalia with more skilled fighters [or] better media coordination from other groups, and being able to rapidly disseminate those capabilities more widely … it is hugely concerning,” they explained. “You could take a group that is probably not very effective and make them very effective quickly, if they’re able to leverage some of that skill set.”
In Burkina Faso and its Sahel neighbors Mali and Niger, armed Islamist groups have killed more than 800 civilians in attacks during 2021 alone, according to Human Rights Watch.
Three days of mourning was declared in Burkina Faso after an August attack in the village of Gorgadji, about 50 kilometers west of Dori, where militants killed 80 people, reported Agence France-Presse.
Fourteen soldiers were reportedly ambushed and killed in October near Yirgou, also in the north, the site of a similar attack that killed 15 police in June, according to Reuters.
Gunmen killed dozens of people in another massacre in Yirgou in 2019, according to Amnesty International.
People protest on June 22, 2019 in front of the Ouagadougou courthouse to demand "truth and justice" for the victims of a terrorist attack in Yirgou that left 49 dead.

This rise in violence has occurred despite the US’s enduring, low-profile military mission in Burkina Faso, which pumped in tens of millions of dollars in aid during 2018-19.
Dozens of advisers are reported to mentor elements of the country’s military, while a US embassy factsheet said the US has trained and equipped 3,000 soldiers and gendarmes.
Yet significant swathes of Burkina Faso’s volatile north remain outside of the government’s control. Long-running accusations of abuses by the military have also complicated its relationship with its key military backers, specifically France and the US.
Human rights organizations also face difficulties in Burkina Faso. The government suspended the operations of the Norwegian Refugee Council in September after the humanitarian group noted the country’s speed at registering displaced people.
For the police source, however, the massacre at Solhan was particularly methodical and unparalleled in its brutality. “These are people who take the time to study their target,” he said. “It is painful to see a woman instructing a child to kill such and such. Painful.”
And for the survivors, the initial absence of the army, as well as its departure as night fell, are indications of the dark place they live in.
“If the [army] are not with the people, how is that possible?,” one survivor said. “As soon as the army left, [the attackers] came again. This is a strange country. It’s a strange country.”

Future proof: How Scotch distilleries are crafting whisky for tomorrow’s world

Scotland and whisky are such an iconic duo that they spawned their own moniker. Here’s how distillers of Scotch are preserving its heritage with one eye firmly on the future.


Ask Cameron Ewen or almost any other pro in Scotland’s whisky industry if there’s a “correct” way to drink your Scotch, and they’ll all tell you the same thing: Drink it however you enjoy it best — it’s your drink, after all.

Given that Ewen — kilt-clad, bushy-bearded and standing 6 feet, 4 inches tall — is the very vision of Scotland itself, it comes as a surprise that he’s particularly partial to a pink and fruity whisky-based cocktail. As manager of the Scotch Bar hoka shoes at The Balmoral, Edinburgh’s most prestigious and iconic hotel, you might expect him to be preciously preservationist in his approach to imbibing his country’s national drink, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

“We’re a fantastic little sanctuary of whisky within the Balmoral Hotel here. It’s a very traditional room, certainly, but our attitude isn’t,” he says in his lilting Scottish accent. “We take the view that whisky should be approachable in a wide array of styles.”


The Balmoral’s Cameron Ewen.

Upon tasting his carefully crafted cocktails adorned with slices of crisp apple and summer peach (priced at £15, which is $20 or AU$28), there’s no question he knows what he’s talking about. Ewen mixes drinks with names like Banks of the River that bring together whisky and homemade sodas and syrups and strained teas in a way that could make even the most buttoned-up purist swoon.

Along with Ireland, Scotland boasts one of the world’s longest and best-documented distilling histories, which can be traced back to 1494. Combined with Scotch whisky’s reputation for quality — often shortened to just Scotch, the term refers to whisky that happens to be made in Scotland — the result is a product that’s nothing short of iconic. It’s a drink molded and shaped by the environment: by the water that runs from the hills, by the peat in the bogs, by the consistently mild climate that provides the hey dude shoes perfect conditions for the spirit to mature. It runs through the veins of whole Highland towns and small islands, fueling the local economy and forming the cornerstone of every celebration. In total, the industry provides £5.5 billion ($7.5 billion) in gross value to the UK economy every year, and the US is its most valuable market, worth more than £1 billion ($1.4 billion).

Compared with whiskey made in the US, which is known for its vanilla notes, Scotch whisky is maltier and generally considered more complex, making it more of an acquired taste. When it comes to discerning its flavors, smelling or “nosing” Scotch is as important as drinking it. Its taste is shaped not only by the reused wooden casks it matures in (from sherry, bourbon or wine), but also by the local environment, for instance, the smoky flavors of Scotland’s peated whiskies, which are made from waters that accumulate in boggy areas.

“For me it’s a very evocative spirit,” says Ewen. “A single sip can take you to the west coast of Scotland, to the rugged hills and the wind-battered beaches, or it can take you up to the rolling hills of the east coast and the barley fields.”


Scotch is evocative of the areas where it’s made, such as Craigellachie in Speyside.

It would be easy to assume that with such a reputation, the industry could largely rest on its laurels. But even as it’s now wrestling with how it can become more sustainable and adapt to changing tastes for cocktails, the rest of the world is snapping at Scotland’s heels. In recent clarks shoes uk years Japanese and Taiwanese distilleries have been producing some excellent whiskies largely distilled in the Scottish tradition (whiskey with an “e” is made in Ireland and the US; when it’s made elsewhere it’s whisky with no “e”). Taking into account newer entrants to the market such as India and New Zealand, as well as efforts in the US to artificially expedite the maturation process with technology, Scotland can’t afford to sit still.


Japan and other countries are producing high-quality whiskies in a similar tradition to Scotch.

“Scotch whisky is probably one of the strongest category brands in existence,” says Christopher Coates, editor of Edinburgh-based Whisky magazine. As Belgium is to chocolate, as Switzerland is to watches, as Germany is to cars, so Scotland is to whisky, he adds.

Future-proofing Scotch

But Scottish distillers don’t just live in the past. Given that whisky needs to mature for a decade or more,  they’re accustomed to looking ahead 18, 20, 32 years into the future. Right now, many are thinking about the world not as it is in 2021, but about what it’ll be when the whisky they’re currently putting into casks for maturation comes of age. They know that when the spirit next sees the light of day, we’ll be feeling the effects of climate change more keenly, and the conversation about sustainability will be at the forefront of everything.

Scotch distillers are looking to the future while upholding tradition.”People want sustainable products,” says Lindesay Low, deputy director of legal affairs at the Edinburgh-based Scotch Whisky Association, which was formed in 1942 and represents more than 80 members, from small distilleries to giant global spirits producers. “They want products that treat the environment fairly and treat the producers of the ingredients fairly.”

Just as it’s changing, the industry is also growing — “it’s boom time,” as Coates puts it. According to the Scotch Whisky Association, 16 new distilleries brooks shoes opened in the country over the past four years, bringing the total to 134. It expects 10 more to come into production in the next year.

With new distilleries come new ideas. Today, people who think anything other than a neat, ice-free dram is sacrilegious are likely to find themselves out of step with a whisky making and drinking culture that’s as much about delighting in new taste discoveries as it is about heritage and upholding tradition.

Graduates of the brewing and distilling course at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh are experimenting with flavor profiles on a molecular level. Ancient grains that were phased out by big distilleries for being low yield are making a comeback. And some micro-distilleries are toying with the idea of introducing vintages rather than aiming for the year-on-year continuity the big dogs are famous for.

There’s still room for experimentation using traditional distilling methods.

Over time, there’s been something of a cyclical boom-and-bust nature to the Scotch whisky industry, says Coates. But in spite of everything that’s been thrown at it — including over the past two years, COVID and tariffs on US imports imposed by Donald Trump (lifted earlier this year by President Joe Biden) — Scotland still sets industry trends, all while maintaining its traditions. Both Coates and Low have noticed that other countries (aside from the US, which has its own unique distilling tradition) tend to build distilleries and shape their regulation in similar ways to Scotland.

“I do sense a lot of them are modeling themselves on Scotch single malt, or they want to make a similar product,” says Low. “And that’s all good. It’s up to our members to raise their game and make sure that people still choose Scotch — and hopefully they will.”

How to meet America’s climate goals: 5 policies for Biden’s next climate bill

<span class="caption">President Joe Biden wanted to have a clear plan before the U.N. climate conference starting Oct. 31 in Scotland.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/president-joe-biden-speaks-about-his-bipartisan-news-photo/1349024147" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images">Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images</a></span>
President Joe Biden wanted to have a clear plan before the U.N. climate conference.

President Joe Biden’s new climate strategy, announced after his original plan crumbled under opposition in Congress, will represent a historic investment in clean energy technology and infrastructure if it is enacted. But it is still not likely to be enough to meet the administration’s emissions reduction goals for 2030.

As director of the Fletcher School’s Climate Policy Lab at Tufts University, I analyze ways governments can manage climate change.

As the new plan comes together, and the steve madden shoes administration considers future steps, here are five types of policies that can help get the United States on track to achieve its climate targets. Together they would reassure the world that the United States can honor its climate commitments; help stave off the effects of a carbon border tax planned in Europe; and, if designed right, position U.S. workers and firms for the low-carbon economy of the 21st century.

Industrial policy

The United States’ ability to compete in low-carbon and resilience technologies such as energy storage has eroded over the past two decades.

Part of the problem has been the political impasse in Washington over clean energy and climate policies. Over the past 20 years, tax credits, loan guarantees and regulations have started and stopped, depending on the political whims of whoever is in power in Congress and the White House. U.S. companies have gone bankrupt while waiting for markets to materialize.

Meanwhile, European companies, with backing from their investment and development banks, and Chinese companies have surged ahead, using their home markets to demonstrate new technologies and build industries. Wind turbines are a good example. European companies, led by Denmark’s Vestas, controlled 43% of the wind turbine market globally in 2018, and China controlled 30%. By contrast, the United States accounted for only 10%.

I believe the United States as a country needs to make choices about where it has comparative advantage, and then the federal government can chart a clear course forward to develop those industries and compete in those global markets. Will it be electric vehicles? Electricity storage? Technology for adaptation such as sea wall construction, flood control or wildfire management? Independent advice could be provided to the administration and Congress, perhaps by the National Academies of Science, and then Congress could authorize an investment plan to conditionally support these industries.

Tempting as it is to support all technologies, public dollars are scarce. Companies that receive subsidies must be held accountable with performance requirements, and taxpayers should get a return when those companies succeed.

Two men standing on a slanted roof preparing to install a solar panel
Workers install solar panels on a Virginia church. 

As part of industrial policy, officials also need to squarely face up to the fact that some workers, states, cities and towns with industries closely tied to fossil fuels are vulnerable in the transition to cleaner energy.

On an expert panel convened by the National Academies of Science and recent study, colleagues and I recommended that the government establish a national transition corporation to provide support and opportunities for displaced workers and affected communities. These dr martens boots communities will need to diversify their economies and their tax bases. Regional planning grants, loans and other investments can help them pivot their economies to industries that contribute less to climate change. Establishing a U.S. infrastructure bank or green bank to fund low-emissions and resilience projects could help finance these investments.

Equally important is investing in the workforce needed for a low-carbon economy. The government can subsidize the development of programs at colleges and universities to serve this economy and provide scholarships for students.

Fiscal tools

Other policies can help generate the revenue needed to support the transition to a clean economy.

Obviously, removing subsidies for fossil fuel industries is a crucial step forward. One analysis estimated, conservatively, that the U.S. provides about US billion a year in direct subsidies to the fossil fuel industries. Estimates of indirect subsidies are much higher.

Tax reform can also help, such as replacing some individual and corporate income taxes with a carbon tax. This policy tool would tax the carbon in fuels, creating an incentive for companies and consumers to reduce use of fuels with the greatest impact on the climate. To avoid overburdening low-income households, the government could reduce income taxes on lower-income households or provide a dividend check.

Tax credits, loan guarantees, government procurement rules and investments in innovation are all useful tools and can shape markets for American companies. But these fiscal policy tools should not be permanent, and they should be phased down as technology costs come down.

Investing in markets as well as innovation

The government has the ability to both “push” and “pull” climate technologies into the marketplace. Government investments in research and human capital are “push”-type policies, because supporting research ensures that smart people will keep moving into the field.

The government can also “pull” in technologies by creating vibrant markets for them, which will provide further incentives to innovation and spur widespread deployment. Carbon taxes and emissions trading systems can create predictable markets for industry because they hey dude provide long-term market signals that let companies know what to expect for years ahead, and they at least partially account for a product’s damage to the environment.

An electric vehicle charging next to an EVs-only parking space
Electric vehicles are among the examples of a new market.

While the United States is investing in clean-energy research, development and demonstration, it has been less successful than China or Europe – both of which have emissions trading systems – in developing predictable, durable markets.

Performance standards

A tried-and-true U.S. policy tool is the use of performance standards. These standards limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions per unit, such as fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles, energy efficiency standards for appliances and industrial equipment, and building efficiency standards at the state level. Fuel economy standards on automobiles since 1975 have saved about 2 trillion gallons of gas and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by about 14 gigatons, roughly three times the country’s annual emissions from energy in 2020.

Performance standards give companies the flexibility to find the best way to comply, which can also fuel innovation. The Biden administration could develop new performance standards in each major emitting sector – vehicles, power plants and buildings. Federally imposed building codes, which are set at the state and local levels, would be a difficult political lift.

The laws that established the government’s authority to set standards, such as the Clean Air Act and Energy Policy Act, have some ambiguities that can leave standards vulnerable to court challenge, however. Legal challenges have led to a zigzag in regulations in some sectors, most obviously the power sector.

Nature-based solutions and state legislation

A final area where policy is needed is for nature-based solutions. These might be fiscal incentives for restoring forests, which store carbon, or protecting existing lands from development, or they might be regulations.

Laws and regulations at the state level can also be enormously powerful in changing the U.S. emissions trajectory.

Biden’s Plan B

The centerpiece of Biden’s original climate plan was a program designed to reward and pressure utilities to shift electricity production away from fossil fuels faster. With the Senate split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin’s opposition sank the plan.

The Biden administration’s new Plan B has a number of heroic assumptions and relies heavily on fiscal and regulatory tools, along with lots of state-level actions.

Missing from Plan B is the emphasis on innovation and industrial policy, both of which might have a larger impact on U.S. emissions. The elephant in the room that cannot be ignored is that the United States needs a climate bill that puts its targets for reducing emissions by 2030 and 2050 into law, gives the right government agencies the authority to set policies and addresses industrial and workforce needs.