A Loan Call Away
May 9, 2022
Some Good News
- Remote Work Doesn’t Negatively Affect Productivity, Study Suggests (Texas A&M)
- Turning seawater into drinking water with less power than a cell phone charger (SyFy)
“What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt, and has a clear conscience?” – Adam Smith
A Loan Call Away
For most of the pandemic, payments on federal student loans have been frozen, offering a temporary reprieve for 40 million Americans trying to pay down $1.7 trillion in debt. The pause, having been extended six times, is currently set to expire in September, and President Biden is starting to contend with his options for canceling some (or, in a dream world, all) student loan debt, especially as we head into midterm elections and both parties start to grasp for victories upon which to base their appeal. Reports say Biden may be moving further into the territory of forgiveness, a policy he largely avoided throughout his campaign.
Borrowers were able to save about $200 billion thanks to the pause, and with pressure from both Democratic lawmakers and left-wing activists to forgive more debt, it’s important to think about the two aspects of student loan policy: how much money can be forgiven, and who qualifies for it. The further left you go, the more lenient the proposal. Conservatives worry that wiping out too much debt may subsequently make inflation even worse. There are major concerns about losing the House among lower turnout for midterms and disappointment from younger and more progressive voters, but it remains to be seen how much those concerns will influence the student loan policies.
Back in the 2020 primaries, Biden said he could get behind forgiveness of up to $10,000 (this would cost about $373 billion, or the amount the federal government has spent on welfare in the last two decades), but he didn’t specify who would qualify. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said they have to “make sure it’s targeted at people who need help the most,” which could involve considerations like income limits of $125,000, if the school attended was public or private, loan types, and what level of schooling was achieved. An average American has about $30,000 in debt, so this is a fairly conservative amount. Senators Schumer and Warren have requested between $10,000 and $50,000, while many borrowers have hoped to see all of their debt forgiven, though that latter scenario is more of a pipe dream than any sort of realistic policy. (Vox)
A Hong Kong Time Coming
- Pro-Beijing candidate John Lee has been elected as Hong Kong’s next leader, winning nearly all of the 1,500 committee member votes. “I look forward to all of us starting a new chapter together, building a Hong Kong that is caring, open and vibrant, and a Hong Kong that is full of opportunities and harmony,” Lee said in his victory speech.
- Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s current leader, congratulated Lee following the vote, stating that she would submit the election results to Beijing. Her five-year term was marked by huge pro-democracy protests calling for her resignation, a security crackdown that has quashed virtually all dissent, and the recent Covid-19 wave that has overwhelmed the health system. Lee is set to replace Lam on July 1st. (AP)
- On Saturday, Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers created a mandate forcing all Afghan women to wear head-to-toe clothing in public. The decree also states that women should leave the home only when necessary, and that male relatives would face punishment for women’s dress code violations. The rules are the latest in a series of regulations issued by the Taliban leadership revoking and restricting the rights of Afghan women.
- “This decision contradicts numerous assurances regarding respect for and protection of all Afghans’ human rights, including those of women and girls, that had been provided to the international community by Taliban representatives during discussions and negotiations over the past decade,” said the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. The crackdown on women’s rights in the country has come more and more often, with bans on attending school and traveling alone issued over the past few months. (ABC)
Additional World News
- Desperate search for survivors in Cuba hotel explosion as death toll rises to at least 27 (CBS)
- Patriotism, unease mix as Russia marks Victory Day in WWII (NPR)
- Deaths of 3 Americans at Sandals resort in the Bahamas are under investigation, officials say (CNN)
- Seizing an Oligarch’s Assets Is One Thing. Giving Them to Ukraine Is Another. (NYT, $)
- Is Nato’s Nordic expansion a threat or boost to Europe? (BBC)
- Fires kill at least 8 people in Siberia as high winds hamper rescue (Reuters)
- Egyptian soldiers killed in armed attack in Sinai: Army (Al Jazeera)
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In The Danger ‘Zona
- Arizona is facing cuts to its water budget this dry season amidst a megadrought that’s been affecting the state for decades. The cuts are set to hit the state after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages water in the southwest, declared its first water shortage last year.
- Usually, Arizonans receive 2.8 million acre-feet of water from the Colorado River. This year, the Bureau of Reclamation has decided to leave 500,000 acre-feet of that water in reservoirs further up the river in order to keep key hydroelectric power plants running through the year.
- While many water experts have emphasized the importance of saving water this year, Arizona’s water department director has not enacted any water-saving measures for this year, stating that such measures would be put into motion only if water cuts continued into 2023.
Protest Of Time
- On Saturday, thousands of protestors gathered at Houston’s Discovery Green rallying for abortion rights following the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion which stated the court’s reasoning for overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade case. The protests in Houston were the largest in the nation this weekend, as other rallies were held in various cities across the country.
- Protests in blue states were generally smaller than Houston’s, as the ruling would essentially allow states to dictate their own abortion policies. According to Senator Amy Klobuchar, over 20 states have anti-abortion laws ready to be quickly enacted if Roe is officially overturned.
- In Chicago, Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker showed up to a rally, stating that “politicians do not belong in the doctor’s office, period.” Many people at the rallies held dialogues about their reasons for supporting women’s right to choose, ranging from health complications during pregnancies to lack of resources to properly support a child.
Additional USA News
- Greene court victory delivers latest blow to insurrection disqualification effort (The Hill)
- After the leaked Roe opinion, Justice Thomas says the Supreme Court can’t be bullied (NPR)
- Austin Set to Decriminalize Marijuana, Ban ‘No-Knock’ Warrants (Yahoo)
- Texas grand jury indicts three police officers for allegedly assaulting people during 2020 George Floyd protests (CBS)
- Potentially historic winds forecast as firefighters battle New Mexico wildfire (Guardian)
- Judge rejects Trump lawsuit challenging ban from Twitter (NPR)
- Oz’s ties to Turkey attacked in Pennsylvania’s Senate race (CBS)
Bust The Two Of Us
- Laura Young began selling some of her thrift store finds over a decade ago, and one item turned out to be quite a surprise. Back in 2018, Young had spent $34.99 on a 52-pound bust she found at a Goodwill outside Austin, Texas when she was “just looking for anything that looked interesting.”
- Young had a feeling there was something special about it, and began to contact experts and auction houses to see if anyone knew anything about it. She was quite surprised to find out the bust was from Ancient Rome, estimated to be about 2,000 years old. A specialist found photos in a database from the 1930s of it in Aschaffenburg in Bavaria, Germany. Lynley McAlpine, a postdoctoral curatorial fellow at the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA), said it is believed to be the bust of Sextus Pompey.
- Pompey was a Roman military leader, and his father, Pompey the Great, was an associate of Julius Caesar. The bust was housed in a replica of a Pompeii home until World War II, and then it disappeared until Young’s fated thrift shopping trip. The bust is being displayed at SAMA for another year before heading back to Germany. (CNN)
- In Alabama’s ’19th Unnamed Cave,’ a Trove of Ancient Dark-Zone Art (NYT, $)
- Nepali mountaineer Kami Rita Sherpa scales Mount Everest for 26th time, beating own world record (Guardian)
- NASA Artemis I Moon Mission Slips to Possible August Launch Date (CNET)
- Hear the Weird Sounds of a Black Hole Singing (NYT, $)
- ‘Record after record’: Brazil’s Amazon deforestation hits April high, nearly double previous peak (Guardian)
- Ukrainian scientists see working amid war as act of defiance (AP)
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