Posts

student loans

President Biden To Forgive $7.4 Billion In Student Loan Debt For More Than 270,000 Borrowers

President Biden’s administration announced last week that it will be using existing student loan forgiveness programs to cancel more student loan debt. They’re planning on forgiving $7.2 billion for around 277,000 borrowers, according to reports.

The Department of Education has seemingly made it easier for groups like public sector workers to qualify for loan forgiveness. The administration also launched a repayment plan to make it easier for low-income borrowers to pay back their loans. 

Embed from Getty Images

The Biden administration has authorized, in total, the $153 billion in student loan debt cancellation for around 4.3 million people; more than 9% of all outstanding federal student loan debt. 

The Biden administration has eagerly been showing how much student loan debt they’re canceling especially due to the election in November. Around $3.6 billion of student loan debt relief will be delivered to individuals enrolled in the SAVE plan. 

“Republicans in 18 states want to prevent their own constituents from benefiting from the SAVE plan. They want to end SAVE, make their constituents’ payments go up and keep them under mountains of loan debt with no end in sight,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

The SAVE plan launched last year and around 8 million borrowers have enrolled with about 360,000 people getting their remaining debt canceled.

Embed from Getty Images

Biden has previously attempted to implement a student loan forgiveness program in 2022, however, it was rejected by the Supreme Court before it could actually deliver any debt relief. 

Biden has, however, canceled more student loan debt than any other president, and he’s mainly been utilizing existing programs. The administration has used the existing programs but made it easier to access for more US citizens. 

“Since the fall, the Biden administration has been working on set of new proposals, based on a different legal authority, to deliver relief to certain groups of borrowers.
For example, those whose student loan balances are bigger than what they initially borrowed could see their accumulated interest wiped way,” wrote Katie Lobosco for CNN

“Those proposals have yet to be finalized, but some could go into effect as soon as this fall, according to administration officials.”

sold

‘Shark Tank’ Star And Real Estate Expert Barbara Corcoran Discusses When Housing Prices Will Increase 

Barbara Corcoran is one of America’s largest public figures in the realms of commerce, finance and real estate. In a recent interview, she discussed when she believes the housing market will see another dramatic shift of increased home pricing.

dengue fever

Public Health Emergency Declared In Puerto Rico Over Dengue Fever Outbreak

Puerto Rico’s hot and humid climate makes dengue fever an ongoing risk for its citizens. This year, however, “cases have exceeded historical figures,” according to Puerto Rico Health Secretary Carlos Mellado. 

Mellado has officially called a public health emergency this week as a means of decreasing the current rise in dengue fever cases. The declaration will help guarantee Puerto Rico has access to the resources they need in order to combat the current outbreak. The declaration is currently set to last for 90 days, and will be renewed if necessary. 

Embed from Getty Images

Besides just Puerto Rico, Brazil, Peru, and other Latin American countries have also declared a state of emergency over dengue fever. 

The Puerto Rico Department of Health stated that they first noticed an increase in dengue fever cases at the end of 2023, according to NBC News. By the third week of January, there had been 146 cases reported, and the rates kept increasing. 

As of March 10th, there have been about 550 dengue fever cases reported in Puerto Rico since the beginning of the year. According to the Health Department, most of the cases are in the capital of San Juan. 

62% of patients have been hospitalized, according to reports, and only 29 cases have been considered severe so far. 

Embed from Getty Images

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease in which the most common symptom is fever, as well as serious headaches, nausea, vomiting, rash, and body pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC also stated that most dengue fever patients recover in a week, but severe cases can be life-threatening and require hospitalization, as it can lead to shock, internal bleeding, and death. Individuals who have experienced dengue fever in the past are more likely to develop severe symptoms. 

The CDC, the Puerto Rico Health Department, and other local agencies are working together to implement a dengue fever prevention and control plan. The plan involves eliminating and cleaning up areas of stagnant water where mosquitoes breed. 

The plan also involved urging the public to use mosquito repellents and wire mesh panels to keep mosquitos out of their home. 

In a statement Monday, Mellado said “that all parts of Puerto Rican society must join forces to prevent contagion and the spread of this virus.”

haiti

Dozens Of US Citizens Evacuate Haiti On State Department Charter Flight Amid Increase In Gang Violence 

Dozens of US citizens have been evacuated from Haiti on a State Department charter flight this past Sunday while others wait to be taken back to the states as well. The departures are a result of increasing gang violence and political instability which has left necessities like food and gas in short supply. 

The State Department said that the flight departed from Cap-Haitien and landed in Miami International Airport, but they warned Americans to only consider taking the flight if they could reach Cap-Haitien safely. Government officials are now “assisting with next steps,” after more than 30 Americans made it safely to Miami over the weekend, according to CNN

Embed from Getty Images

A Florida-based nonprofit has also been working to rescue the more than 100 people that are asking for assistance in leaving Haiti. 

The problems in Haiti have increased greatly within the last month. Security sources have stated that rival gangs and coalitions have been “wreaking coordinated havoc,” according to CNN

More than 100 miles from Cap-Haitien, in Port-au-Prince gangs took the airport under siege, and they now control 80% of Port-au-Prince, according to estimates from the United Nations. Through this control, the gangs have “severely limited supplies of food, fuel, and water across the city.” 

Vedant Patel of the State Department said that they will continue to help US citizens truing to leave Haiti, calling it a “fluid and quickly evolving situation on the ground.” 

Embed from Getty Images

“We’ll be in touch with them should additional measures materialize. [Haiti is now] one of the most dire humanitarian situations in the world.”

Project DYNAMO is a non-profit, veteran-led, donor-funded international search, rescue, and aid group based in Florida that has also been conducting evacuations, receiving more than 100 rescue requests from Americans currently in Haiti. 

“What we find is, every time we rescue one person, that actually turns into three or four or five. That’s usually how it works. It is very hard, [we’re] trying to focus on Americans who are in remote areas where no other rescue resources exist. We’ve been working day and night,” co-founder and CEO Bryan Stern told CNN Monday afternoon.

Stern also stated that the waiting list of Americans needing rescuing in Haiti is currently in triple digits, but Project DYNAMO is in need of more funding.

“We need people’s help, and we need it badly. Some of these people are in extremely dire circumstances, and we can do it. I just need help with resources,” he said. 

pill

Olivia Rodrigo’s Team Stops Distributing Morning After Pill At Her Concerts 

Olivia Rodrigo was previously being praised for allowing Plan B emergency contraceptives to be distributed at her shows on her GUTS World Tour. Now, however, her team is stepping back on giving out the emergency contraceptive, citing that there are children present at many of the shows.

home

President Biden’s New Affordable Housing Plan 

The housing market in the US has been hitting historic lows within the past few years. Sales are slow, current homeowners are unable to move because they don’t want to lose the record low mortgage rates they got during the pandemic, and first-time homebuyers are finding starter homes to be less and less affordable. 

In a recent survey from Redfin, 53% of respondents stated that the housing affordability issues in the US will impact who they vote for in the next presidential election. The White House is aware of these potential impacts on the upcoming election, and President Biden is hoping to combat these issues with a new proposed housing plan. 

Embed from Getty Images

According to reports from Forbes, Biden’s plan to make housing more affordable will involve rent relief, tax credits for homebuyers and sellers, and plans to develop 2 million homes as a means of addressing the housing shortage. 

Freddie Mac Housing Experts have estimated that the US is short about 4 million homes, so by adding 2 million the nation, home pricing and rent growth would slow down and affordability will improve. 

Mortgage rates have been fluctuating constantly since the pandemic especially. During the initial months of quarantining mortgage rates hit a record low, which increased demand and pricing. In 2022 and 2023, however, mortgage rates increased again, so existing homeowners who were able to lower their rates are now reluctant to sell. 

Biden’s new housing plan places a focus on first time homebuyers looking for their starter home, and those looking to move out of what once was their starter home. The proposed plan includes a one-year tax credit of up to $10,000, according to Forbes. This credit will ideally encourage homeowners to sell their first home to then free up that space for other first-time homebuyers. 

Embed from Getty Images

It’s also been reported that another proposal from Biden would be a mortgage relief credit for first-time homebuyers in the middle-class. The credit would be up to $5,000 for two years, and would help make homeownership more accessible by reducing the buyer’s mortgage rate by over 1.5% points for two years, according to Daryl Fairweather, the chief economist at Redfin. 

“This policy and Biden’s plan to provide down payment assistance for first-generation homebuyers would increase demand for homes. In places where the supply of homes has been increasing, such as Texas, there is enough capacity to meet increased demand. However, in places with limited supply, these credits would mostly lead to buyers competing for a limited number of existing homes and bidding up home prices,” Fairweather wrote for Forbes. 

Marshall Park, the Redfin market manager in Washington D.C., recalled how homebuyer tax credits, like the one being proposed from Biden, motivated more homebuyer’s to buy during Obama’s first year as president in 2009.

“Homebuyers who qualified definitely took advantage, and I recall a surge in demand and motivation to purchase while the tax credit was available,” said Park. “I do think that a homebuyer tax credit might bring more buyers into today’s market, but the main issue with the market right now is the lack of inventory,” Park stated.

 The biggest solution to helping the housing market will be the increase in supply and development of 2 million homes that Biden is planning on implementing. The presidential and congressional elections this year, however, will impact how much of that plan actually gets done.

wegovy

US FDA Approves Weight-Loss Drug Wegovy To Be Marketed For Heart Health Benefits 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an application from drugmaker Novo Nordisk that allows the weight loss drug Wegovy to add cardiovascular benefits to the medicine’s label, according to CNN

This marks the first weight-loss drug to be marketed to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, or heart-related deaths in people who are at higher risk for cardiovascular issues and/or events. 

The addition to the label may improve some insurance coverage for Wegovy; the “sister drug” to Ozempic. The drug currently costs around $1,300 per month out of pocket, and many insurers don’t cover weight loss drugs. 

Embed from Getty Images

“The evidence is that they reduce risk and save lives – and so it is indefensible to deny people access, or make it difficult for people to access, medications that will directly improve their health,” Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist and scientist at Yale University and Yale New Haven Hospital, said Friday

“The point is that these drugs are not about appearance but about health. By treating obesity, we know we can reduce cardiovascular risk, and that may be only a part of the benefits that accrue.”

The approval occurred after a study involving 17,000 patients. The study, according to reports, showed that the patients who took Wegovy had a 20% lower risk of having a cardiac event than those who took the placebo. 

Wegovy is meant to be used for individuals who are considered to be obese or overweight, meaning they have a body mass index of anything between 27 – 30, as well as have a weight-related health condition such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. 

“Wegovy is now the first weight loss medication to also be approved to help prevent life-threatening cardiovascular events in adults with cardiovascular disease and either obesity or overweight,” Dr. John Sharretts, the FDA’s director of the Division of Diabetes, Lipid Disorders, and Obesity, said in a news release.

Embed from Getty Images

“This patient population has a higher risk of cardiovascular death, heart attack and stroke. Providing a treatment option that is proven to lower this cardiovascular risk is a major advance for public health.”

The trial performed prior to this classification was done with patients with cardiovascular disease. They’ve either previously had a heart attack, stroke, or symptoms of peripheral artery disease: which is when one has clogged arteries in their arms or legs. 

Wegovy, however, has and is in a shortage currently, and drugmakers are struggling to keep up with the demand. Novo Nordisk released a statement last month that stated it would be gradually increasing the supply over this course of this year.

“The shortages are really, really bad right now,” Dr. Jody Dushay, an endocrinologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said Friday. 

“[I hoped] the expanded approval would improve insurance coverage, particularly as generic weight-loss drug alternatives can carry heart risks, but if insurance comes on board with this indication, [I have] no idea how manufacturing will ever catch up,” she said. 

Dushay added, “this might also help prioritize use of [the drugs] among those with highest-risk obesity, those who also have cardiovascular disease.”

tiktok

America’s Still Moving To Ban TikTok 

Last week, a key house committee introduced and approved a bill that is targeting the social media platform TikTok. The full House is set to vote this week potentially, and the White House has stated that President Joe Biden is also prepared to sign it, according to reports from CNN.

The bill itself, if fully approved, would give TikTok about five months to separate from its Chinese parent company ByteDance. If they refuse, app stores in the US will be prohibited from hosting the app on their platforms. 

Besides TikTok, the bill will also restrict other apps that are allegedly controlled by foreign adversaries like China, Iran, Russia, or North Korea. The bill would also set up a process for Biden, and future presidents to identify apps that should be banned under the specific legislation. 

Embed from Getty Images

Any app store that violates said legislation could be fined based on the number of users of the banned apps; specifically a fine of $5,000 per user of the banned app. For example, if the bill passes and Apple or Google decide to keep TikTok on its app stores, they could face fines up to $850 billion. 

One of the bill’s lead cosponsors, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, says “the bill does not ban TikTok; it simply offers TikTok the choice to be divested.”

TikTok has responded to this recent bill’s momentum, stating that it’s an attack on the First Amendment rights of its users, according to CNN. It’s even launched a call-to-action campaign within the app itself, urging users to call their states representatives in Washington to oppose the bill. Multiple congressional offices have already stated that they’ve been “flooded” with calls. 

In a statement, TikTok said: 

“The government is attempting to strip 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression. This will damage millions of businesses, deny artists an audience, and destroy the livelihoods of countless creators across the country.”

Lawmakers have long been alleging that TikTok poses a national security threat because the government in China can use its intelligence laws against ByteDance to force them to hand over the data of US TikTok users. If done, that information can then be potentially used to identify intelligence targets or enable disinformation or propaganda campaigns. 

Embed from Getty Images

The US government has not yet presented any evidence that China has accessed user data from TikTok, and according to reports, cybersecurity experts have stated that it still remains a hypothetical scenario. 

During the Trump administration, there was a major effort to ban TikTok, however, others debated whether or not the president had the power to ban a foreign-owned social media app. With this new congressional legislation, the president would have clear, new authorities to do that. 

With the speed in which House leaders are promising a floor vote, it can be assumed that they’re confident in the bill’s clearance. There is still not a lot of information regarding if the bill will have a chance in the Senate. 

Gallagher stated that the bill will likely fall to the Senate Commerce Committee. Senator Maria Cantwell, who chairs the Commerce Committee, told CNN that she will be talking to her “Senate and House colleagues to try to find a path forward that is constitutional and protects civil liberties.”

Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said that “passing a nationwide privacy law regulating how all companies, not just TikTok, handle Americans’ data would lead to the same result without raising First Amendment concerns.” 

“By that precedent, it would be unconstitutional for the government to ban TikTok even if it were blatantly a direct mouthpiece for the Chinese government,” Jaffer said.

“If you give the government the power to restrict Americans’ access to propaganda, then you’ve given the government the power to restrict Americans’ access to anything the government deems to be propaganda.”

subway

New York Governor Sending National Guard Into Subways To Combat Crime 

New York governor Kathy Hochul has announced that she will be sending the national guard into New York City’s subway system in order to combat surges of crime. The move has been met with disagreement from some city residents and police reform activists. 

Hochul stated on Wednesday that 750 national guard patrolmen as well as 250 state police and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officers will also be deployed to patrol the stations, as well as conducting bag checks. 

Embed from Getty Images

“These brazen heinous attacks on our subway system will not be tolerated,” she stated according to the New York TImes. 

New York City residents and police reform activists have spoken out against the new measure from the NY Governor. 

The founder of the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP), Robert Gangi, spoke to the Guardian and stated that an increased police presence in the NYC subways would work to further criminalize Black and brown commuters. 

“This is overkill. This is a waste of resources,” he stated. 

The Guardian also reported some residents social media posts who were against Hochul’s motion for the national guard to be in the subways. 

Embed from Getty Images

One user posted a photo of his commute and stated: “Seriously I take the subway every day with my kid and it’s fine and safe, Does this look like we need bag checkers or national guard?”

“Seems a bit insane to deploy the national guard to check folks’ bags on the subway. Just random bag checks for public transit customers minding their own business?” wrote another user on X.

The announcement was made citing high-profile crimes in recent weeks, such as a 64-year-old man being pushed onto the tracks at Penn Station, and an MTA employee being cut while working an early morning shift. 

The New York Times reported, however, that the data regarding whether or not subway crime is increasing is unclear. The same can be said when it comes to the data showing that an increased police presence in subway systems is actually needed. 

There’s already a record number of New York City Police officers patrolling the subway systems. 

According to reports from Gothamist, there are approximately 3,500 NYPD officers overseeing the subways, and New York City has spent a record-breaking $155 million in overtime pay for subway patrol officers in 2023.

measles

Measles Outbreak In Florida Has Health Officials And Parents Concerned 

As of Monday this week, health officials in Broward County, Florida have confirmed eight cases of the measles virus, including one in a child under the age of 5.

The outbreak has mainly been traced to the Manatee Bay Elementary School in Weston, near Fort Lauderdale, which the 5-year-old patient doesn’t have a direct connection to. However, experts knew that with a virus like this, spreading to various age-groups in different areas is almost guaranteed, according to reports from NBC News.

According to Dr. David Kimberlin, the co-director of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, “cases are not going to stay contained just to that one school, not when a virus is this infectious.”

So far in 2024, there have been at least 35 cases of the measles reported across 15 states, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, Florida’s outbreak is the biggest in the US. 

Embed from Getty Images

Experts are warning parents about just how contagious measles is, especially with its long incubation period. Health officials are warning residents to take it seriously, and that State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo’s decision to let parents decide whether or not to quarantine their children or continue to allow them to go to school, will likely allow cases to spread. 

“Measles is the most infectious pathogen in humans that we know of. It’s like a heat-seeking missile. It will find the people who are not immune, and they’re going to get sick.”

NBC News also reported that unvaccinated individuals have a 90% chance of becoming infected if exposed to the measles virus. Katelyn Ketelina tracks illnesses for a website called “Your Local Epidemiologist,” and she stated that “Epidemiology 101 is identify and isolate. This is especially true for outbreaks of measles because of how incredibly contagious the virus is and the fact that people who are infected can spread it for up to three weeks.”

Dr. Ladapo wrote a letter sent to parents at the elementary school last week, stating: “Due to the high immunity rate in the community, as well as the burden on families and educational cost of healthy children missing school, DOH is deferring to parents or guardians to make decisions about school attendance.” 

Embed from Getty Images

Back in 2022, Ohio experienced its own measles outbreak where 85 children, mainly unvaccinated toddlers, were infected. 42% of those children had to be hospitalized, and when the outbreak began, Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts took a different approach to advising parents.

Roberts encouraged parents of unvaccinated children who became infected to have their kids receive one dose of the mumps-measles-rubella vaccine as a “form of post-exposure prophylaxis.” Kids who received the treatment would only need to quarantine for 72 hours, as opposed to the 21-day quarantine requirement for those who remained unvaccinated. 

The MMR vaccine offers 97% protection against infection. According to the CDC, 1 in 5 measles patients are hospitalized, and 1 in 3 out of every 1,000 patients will die. 

“More and more people are questioning vaccines and why people need vaccines. They’re gonna find out pretty soon,” said Dr. Kimberlin.