President Biden has announced plans to cancel as much as $20,000 per person in student debt to help as many as 40 million borrowers. Response to Biden’s student debt cancellation plan has been mixed across the political spectrum. Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders hailed the plan as a “Big deal” but added, “We have got to do more.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell condemned Biden’s plan as “student loan socialism.” Meanwhile, many student debtors who owe far more than $20,000 say Biden’s plan does not go far enough. This is the artist and writer Maddy Clifford of the Debt Collective, who holds about $100,000 in student loan debt.
Maddy Clifford: “Biden’s announcement means that we need to continue to apply pressure, because it’s great that he’s made that decision, and he’s made the right decision, and he’s going in the right direction, but also, as people, we don’t have to accept crumbs.”
After headlines, we’ll hear more from members of the Debt Collective on the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness plan.
A federal judge has blocked portions of Idaho’s trigger ban on abortion from taking effect. On Wednesday, District Judge B. Lynn Winmill struck down a provision of Idaho’s law making it a crime for a doctor to provide abortion care to a pregnant person facing medical emergency. Federal law requires hospitals participating in Medicare to provide abortions when a person’s life is at risk.
The remainder of Idaho’s near-total abortion ban takes effect today — the same day that trigger bans affecting millions of people also go into effect in Texas and Tennessee. Two months after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, one in three U.S. women don’t have access to abortion in their states.
In Ukraine, at least 25 people were killed and more than 30 others injured Wednesday as an explosion ripped through a train station in the eastern town of Chaplyne. Two children were among the dead. Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed the missile attack but said that only Ukrainian soldiers had been killed.
The attack came as Ukraine marked 31 years of independence, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, by canceling public gatherings, citing the threat of Russian strikes on civilian targets.
Here in New York, the United Nations Security Council met Wednesday to discuss the war in Ukraine on the six-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres urged an end to what he called Russia’s “senseless war.”
Secretary-General António Guterres: “During this devastating period, thousands of civilians have been killed and injured, including hundreds of children, and countless others have lost their family members, friends and loved ones. The world has seen grave violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law committed with little to no accountability. And millions of Ukrainians have lost their homes and their worldly possessions, becoming internally displaced or refugees.”
In Russia, police arrested a prominent opposition leader Wednesday on charges of “discrediting” the Russian army. Yevgeny Roizman, the 59-year-old former mayor of Russia’s fourth-largest city, faces three years in prison under a new censorship law signed by President Vladimir Putin in March. Roizman said Wednesday his arrest came after he refused to describe Russia’s war in Ukraine as a “special military operation” and instead publicly called it an “invasion.”
In Ethiopia, the United Nations is calling for a renewed ceasefire after fighting erupted between government forces and separatist rebels in the northern region of Tigray. Both sides are accusing each other of being the first to break a five-month-old truce. The United Nations is calling for the resumption of peace talks and full access to the region, where some 30% of children face malnutrition amid one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
In California, environmental regulators are voting today on a plan to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered automobiles by 2035, with only zero-emission vehicles and a limited number of plug-in hybrids available after that date. The decision by California’s Air Resources Board will likely accelerate the U.S. transition to an electric vehicle fleet. Passenger cars that burn gasoline or diesel account for about 40% of U.S. transportation-related emissions.
In Texas, the Uvalde school district has fired police chief Pete Arrendondo over his response to the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, which left 19 fourth graders and two teachers dead. Arredondo is the first law enforcement official to lose their job over the bungled response to the massacre. Video from the scene shows police under Arredondo’s command waited one hour and 17 minutes before they finally entered the classroom to confront the teenage gunman. In total, 376 law enforcement officers responded to the attack in Uvalde. The school board’s decision to fire Arredondo came exactly three months after the mass shooting. It followed angry public calls for his ouster. This is 10-year-old Caitlyne Gonzalez, a Robb Elementary School fourth grader who lost two of her best friends in the shooting.
Caitlyne Gonzalez: “If a law enforcement’s job is to protect and serve, why didn’t they protect and serve my friends and teachers on May 24th? I have messages for Pete Arredondo and all the law enforcement that were there that day: Turn in your badge and step down! You don’t deserve to wear one!”
Pete Arredondo skipped Wednesday’s meeting, saying he feared for his physical safety. In a statement, Arredondo called his firing an “unconstitutional public lynching” and demanded he be immediately reinstated with full back pay and benefits.
In Oklahoma, Republican Governor Kevin Stitt has ordered condemned prisoner James Coddington to be put to death by means of lethal injection today — despite a vote by Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board to grant him clemency instead. Coddington is the first of 25 Oklahoma men scheduled to die over the next two years. Many suffer severe mental illness and had trials marked by racial bias and prosecutorial misconduct. It’s Oklahoma’s fifth planned execution since October, when it resumed the death penalty after a six-year hiatus that followed a botched execution in 2015. After headlines, we’ll hear from anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean and get the latest from Oklahoma.
A new report finds nearly 50,000 prisoners across the United States are being held in prolonged solitary confinement — conditions the United Nations considers tantamount to torture. Researchers at Yale Law School found some 6,000 of the prisoners have been held in isolation for over a year. The U.N. special rapporteur on torture says such practices are prohibited under international law and can lead to severe and irreparable psychological and physical consequences.
In related news, Brown University says it has acquired personal papers of longtime political prisoner and author Mumia Abu-Jamal, including his prison records, correspondence and artwork. The materials will anchor Brown’s new Voices of Mass Incarceration collection at the John Hay Library focused on first-person accounts of incarceration.
In Columbus, Ohio, 4,500 unionized educators are preparing to end their four-day strike after reaching a tentative agreement with the Columbus Board of Education. The deal will allow students to return to classrooms next Monday. The teachers, librarians and counselors were seeking pay increases, smaller class sizes and improvements to heating and air conditioning in classrooms.
In the occupied West Bank, a Palestinian hunger striker held by Israel is in critical condition and could die at any moment, according to the doctor who examined him earlier this week. Khalil Awawdeh has been on a hunger strike since March in protest of his so-called administrative detention, the Israeli policy of holding Palestinians without charge for up to years at a time. Awawdeh spoke to reporters from his hospital bed Wednesday.
Khalil Awawdeh: “My health condition is extensively deteriorating. I feel I am internally collapsing. I feel that my body is consuming itself internally in a strange manner.”
On Sunday, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Awawdeh’s lawyers demanding his immediate release due to his failing health. His family called the court’s decision a “death sentence.” This is Khalil’s father, Mohammed Awawdeh.
Mohammed Awawdeh: “When we first saw his picture on his lawyer’s camera, we were surprised and shocked … over his health condition. He now weighs 38 kilograms. He used to weigh 86. So, what can he be other than skin and bones?”
Meanwhile, over 50 Israeli civil society groups have condemned Israel’s raid on seven Palestinian civil society rights groups in the occupied West Bank last week. Israeli soldiers confiscated items and files before leaving behind notices declaring the groups unlawful. In October, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz labeled six of the groups “terrorist organizations.” Many international observers — including nine European nations — have condemned the designation. Even the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency rejected tying the Palestinian NGOs to terrorism in a classified assessment, according to The Guardian newspaper.