World Inside

Biden forgives millions of student loans

Publish: 12:25 PM, 26 Aug, 2022


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President Joe Biden said on Wednesday the US government will forgive $10,000 in student loans for millions of debt-saddled former college students, keeping a pledge he made in the 2020 campaign for the White House.

The move could boost support for his fellow Democrats in the November congressional elections, but some economists said it may fuel inflation and some Republicans in the US Congress questioned whether the president had the legal authority to cancel the debt, reports Reuters.

Debt forgiveness will free up hundreds of billions of dollars for new consumer spending that could be aimed at homebuying and other big-ticket expenses, according to economists who said this would add a new wrinkle to the country's inflation fight.

The actions are "for families that need them the most - working- and middle-class people hit especially hard during the pandemic," Biden said during remarks at the White House. He pledged no high-income households would benefit, addressing a central criticism of the plan.

"I will never apologize for helping working Americans and middle class, especially not to the same folks who voted for a $2 trillion tax cut that mainly benefited the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations," Biden said, referring to a Republican tax cut passed under former President Donald Trump.

Borrower balances have been frozen since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, with no payments required on most federal student loans since March 2020. Many Democrats had pushed for Biden to forgive as much as $50,000 per borrower.

Republicans mostly opposed student loan forgiveness, calling it unfair because it will disproportionately help people earning higher incomes.

"President Biden's student loan socialism is a slap in the face to every family who sacrificed to save for college, every graduate who paid their debt, and every American who chose a certain career path or volunteered to serve in our Armed Forces in order to avoid taking on debt," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday.

The administration has yet to determine the price tag for the package, which will depend on how many people apply for it, White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice told reporters. Student loans obtained after June 30 this year are not eligible, she said.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters the administration has legal authority to forgive the debt under a law allowing such action during a national emergency such as a pandemic. Earlier, Republican US Representative Elise Stefanik had called the plan "reckless and illegal."

American university tuition fees are substantially higher than in most other rich countries, and US consumers carry $1.75 trillion in student loan debt, most of it held by the federal government. Biden said other countries could bypass the United States economically if students are not offered economic relief.

PANDEMIC PAUSE, PELL GRANTS

The administration will extend a Covid-19 pandemic-linked pause on student loan repayment to year end, while forgiving $10,000 in student debt for single borrowers with annual income under $125,000 a year or married couples who earn less than $250,000, the White House said.

Some 8 million borrowers will be affected automatically, the Department of Education said; others need to apply for forgiveness.

The government is also forgiving up to $20,000 in debt for some 6 million students from low-income familieswho received federal Pell Grants, and proposing a new rule that protects some income from repayment plans and forgives some loan balances after 10 years of repayment, the Education Department said.

A New York Federal Reserve study shows that cutting $10,000 in federal debt for every student would amount to $321 billion and eliminate the entire balance for 11.8 million borrowers, or 31 per cent of them.

INFLATION IMPACT

A senior Biden administration official told reporters the plan could benefit up to 43 million student borrowers, completely cancelling the debt for some 20 million.

After December 31, the government will resume requiring payment on remaining student loans that were paused during the pandemic. The official said this would offset any inflationary effects of the forgiveness. Payment resumptions could even have a dampening effect on prices, the official said.

Former US Treasury secretary Larry Summers disagreed. He said on Twitter that debt relief "consumes resources that could be better used helping those who did not, for whatever reason, have the chance to attend college. It will also tend to be inflationary by raising tuitions."

Similarly Jason Furman, a Harvard professor who headed the Council of Economic Advisers during the Obama administration, said debt-cancellation would nullify the deflationary powers of the Inflation Reduction Act. "Pouring roughly half trillion dollars of gasoline on the inflationary fire that is already burning is reckless," he said.

Moody's analytics chief economist Mark Zandi sided with the White House, saying the resumption of billions of dollars per month in student loan payments "will restrain growth and is disinflationary."


US   Joe Biden   Student loan   Inflation   US Govt  


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World Inside

Israel strikes Gaza's Rafah as truce talks under way

Publish: 01:54 PM, 22 Feb, 2024


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Israel launched air strikes Thursday on southern Gaza's Rafah after threatening to send troops into the city, where around 1.4 million Palestinians have sought shelter from around the territory.

Global powers trying to navigate a way to end the Israel-Hamas war have so far come up short, but a US envoy was expected in Israel on Thursday to try to secure a truce deal.

International concern has spiralled over the high civilian death toll and dire humanitarian crisis in the war sparked by Hamas's October 7 attack against Israel.

More than four months of relentless fighting and air strikes have flattened much of the Hamas-run coastal territory, pushing its population of around 2.4 million to the brink of famine, according to the UN.

International concern has in recent weeks centred on Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah, where more than 1.4 million people forced to flee their homes elsewhere in the territory are now living in crowded shelters and makeshift tents.

The last city untouched by Israeli ground troops, Rafah also serves as the main entry point via neighbouring Egypt for desperately needed relief supplies.

Israel has warned it will expand its ground operations into Rafah if Hamas does not free the remaining hostages held in Gaza by next month's start of the Muslim holy month Ramadan.

- 'My daughter' -

The war started when Hamas launched its attack on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Hamas militants also took about 250 hostages -- 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.

Israel's retaliatory campaign has killed at least 29,313 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by the Hamas-run health ministry in the territory.

War cabinet member Benny Gantz said Israel's operation in Rafah would begin "after the evacuation of the population", although his government has not offered any details on where civilians would be evacuated to.

In the early hours of Thursday, AFP reporters heard multiple air strikes on Rafah, particularly in the Al-Shaboura neighbourhood.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said early Thursday that 99 people had been killed around Gaza during the night, most of them women, children and elderly people.

Abdel Rahman Mohamed Jumaa said he lost his family in recent strikes on Rafah.

"I found my wife lying in the street," he told AFP. "Then I saw a man carrying a girl and I ran towards him and.... picked her up, realising she was really my daughter."

He was holding a small shrouded corpse in his arms.

- 'Possibility of progress' -

Brett McGurk, the White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, was expected to arrive in Israel Thursday -- his second stop in the region after Egypt as part of US efforts to advance a hostage deal and broker a truce.

Hamas's chief Ismail Haniyeh was in Cairo for talks as well, according to the group.

Israel's Gantz said there were efforts to "promote a new plan for the return of the hostages".

"We are seeing the first signs that indicate the possibility of progress in this direction."

Matthew Miller, US State Department spokesman, said Washington was hoping for an "agreement that secures a temporary ceasefire where we can get the hostages out and get humanitarian assistance", but declined to give details on ongoing negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted the army will keep fighting until it has destroyed Hamas and freed the remaining hostages.

Israel's parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly backed a proposal by Netanyahu to oppose any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

The vote came days after the Washington Post reported that US President Joe Biden's administration and a small group of Arab nations were working out a comprehensive plan for long-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

It included a firm timeline for the establishment of a Palestinian state, the report said.

Separately, a report by an Israeli group that fights sexual violence said Hamas's October 7 attack also involved systematic sexual assaults on civilians, based on witness testimonies, public and classified information, and interviews.

The report came the same week UN rights experts called for an independent probe into alleged Israeli abuses against Palestinian women and girls -- which Israel rejected as "despicable and unfounded claims".

Israeli officials have repeatedly alleged the militants committed violent sexual assaults during the attack -- something Hamas has denied.

- 'Waiting for death' -

Combat and chaos have stalled sporadic aid deliveries for civilians in Gaza, while in Khan Yunis -- a city just north of Rafah -- medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said an Israeli tank had fired on a house sheltering their employees and families.

Two relatives of MSF staff were killed and six others injured, it said, condemning the strike in the "strongest possible terms".

When contacted by AFP about the incident, the Israeli army said its forces had "fired at a building that was identified as a building where terror activity is occurring", adding that it "regrets" harm to civilians.

In the same town, the Palestinian Red Crescent said another hospital was also hit by "artillery shelling".

Israel has repeatedly said Hamas militants use civilian infrastructure including hospitals as operational bases -- claims that Hamas has denied.


Israel Strikes   Gaza's Rafah  


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World Inside

PM for doing business with India thro Tk, Rupee

Publish: 08:31 AM, 18 Feb, 2024


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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today stressed the need for expanding business between Bangladesh and India using their own currencies.

"We can do our business through exchanges of Bangladeshi Taka and Indian Rupee. It has already started, but we have to expand it further so that we can increase our businesses," she said while Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar paid a call on the Prime Minister.

The meeting was held at Hotel Bayerischer Hof, the conference venue, here on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) 2024, this morning.

Foreign Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud briefed newsmen about the outcome of the meeting upon its completion.

The Foreign Minister said the Bangladesh Premier and Jaishankar attached importance to doing business between the two friendly countries through their own currencies to reduce dependency on other currencies like the US dollar.

He said Bangladesh and India have excellent bilateral relations and it has elevated to another height under the leadership of the prime ministers of the two countries.

"The relations between the countries are getting stronger day by day," he said, adding that the two leaders discussed the issues during the meeting.

Quoting Jaishankar, Hasan said, "Our relations will further be closer in the days ahead." 

Bangladesh Ambassador to Germany Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan and PM's Deputy Press Secretary Md. Noorelahi Mina were present during the briefing.

Bangladesh Prime Minister arrived in Munich on February 15 evening on a three-day official visit to join the Munich Security Conference 2024.

Upon completion of the tour, Sheikh Hasina will leave Munich tomorrow night and is scheduled to reach Dhaka on February 19.


(BSS)



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World Inside

PM calls for stopping Russia-Ukraine war as she talks with Zelenskyy

Publish: 08:27 AM, 18 Feb, 2024


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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called upon all concerned to find ways to stop Russia-Ukraine war while holding a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy here.

"Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina always says we are against all kinds of war. Today, she discussed time and again about how the war can be stopped while holding talks with Zelenskyy," said Foreign Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud at a news briefing after the meeting.

The meeting between the two leaders was held at Hotel Bayerischer Hof here on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) 2024, this morning.

Hasan also said that they also discussed how the attacks on innocent men and women in Gaza can be stopped.

The Premier reminded all that war can't bring wellbeing for any one.

"Others can be benefitted from the war. But the war cannot bring welfare for the countries  involved in war and their people have to be affected by the war," said Sheikh Hasina.

In this connection, the Prime Minister recollected her memories about the sufferings of  the countrymen and she herself faced during the Great War of Liberation in 1971.

She recalled her inhuman sufferings and the birth of her only son Sajeeb Wazed Joy under the captivity of the Pakistani occupation forces during the War.

"Bangladesh's foreign policy - 'Friendship to all, malice to none’ - prominently came up in the discussion between Prime Minister and Zelenskyy," the foreign minister said.

Replying to a query, Hasan said the friendly relations between Bangladesh and Russia which got foundation during the Liberation war , will not hamper at all.

"Our relationship with Russia is very wonderful. Russia stood beside us during the Liberation War and played a pivotal role in rebuilding Bangladesh after the war," he said.

He said they only discussed how to stop the war.

Bangladesh Ambassador to Germany Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan and PM's Deputy Press Secretary Md. Noorelahi Mina were present during the briefing.

Bangladesh Prime Minister arrived in Munich on February 15 evening on a three-day official visit to join the Munich Security Conference 2024.

Upon completion of the tour, Sheikh Hasina will leave Munich tomorrow night and is scheduled to reach Dhaka on February 19.


(BSS)



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World Inside

Imran picks Ayub Khan's grandson as PM

Publish: 08:19 PM, 16 Feb, 2024


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Imran Khan has named Omar Ayub Khan, the grandson of military dictator Ayub Khan, as his pick for Pakistan's prime minister.

Ayub, one of the former prime minister's party leaders, is currently wanted by police on criminal charges. It doesn't stop him from running, though.

However, despite Khan's independents unexpectedly winning the most seats in last week's election, they do not have enough to form a government.
 
Currently, the two main rivals appear on course to take control, after they formed a coalition - Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's Pakistan People's Party (PPP).
  
A senior leader of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, Asad Qaiser, announced Ayub as his pick for PM after meeting with the former premier in prison.
 
Members of Pakistan's National Assembly will elect the new prime minister and 56-year-old Ayub will face off against the PML-N's Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz Sharif's brother.
 
Ayub is on the run from criminal charges over riots sparked by Imran Khan's arrest in May last year. But that does not disqualify him from seeking the PM post.
 
If elected PM, Ayub said his top priority is to free political prisoners. He won last week as an independent backed by PTI.
 
He is the grandson of Mohamed Ayub Khan, a military dictator and Pakistan's president from 1958 to 1969.
  
With the PPP's support, Sharif on Wednesday put forward his brother Shehbaz as the PML-N's PM candidate.
 
The vote for Pakistan's next prime minister will take place after all new members of the National Assembly take their oaths, and the speaker and deputy speaker have been elected.
 
Independent candidates - a majority affiliated with Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) - won 93 of the 265 National Assembly seats that were contested in last Thursday's election. The PML-N won 75 seats while the PPP came third with 54 seats.
 
The PTI argues that its allies should have won even more votes and seats, alleging vote fraud and interference - which electoral officials have denied.
 
Earlier this week, a politician from the Jamaat-e-Islami party gave up his seat because he says the vote was rigged in his favour.
  
"We will not allow our mandate to be stolen," Ayub said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
 
"PTI as a party will work for strengthening democratic institutions in Pakistan so that the country's economy can be put on a path of positive trajectory and we can initiate our reforms programme to benefit the people of Pakistan," he said.
 
Ayub was first elected into the nation's National Assembly in 2002 as a candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, a breakaway party from the PML-N.
 
He joined PML-N in 2012, and then moved again in 2018 to join PTI. He was a minister in Khan's cabinet from 2018 until the ex-PM's ouster in April 2022. He was appointed PTI's secretary-general since 27 May 2003, shortly after Khan's arrest.
 




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World Inside

Trump asks Supreme Court to stay ruling rejecting his immunity to prosecution

Publish: 11:26 AM, 13 Feb, 2024


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Donald Trump on Monday appealed to the US Supreme Court to block a lower court ruling that had denied his claim to immunity for alleged crimes while he was president.

The appeal for the top court to stay the earlier ruling is crucial to deciding whether Trump can be put on trial for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election in which he lost to current President Joe Biden.

The appeal puts Trump's fate in the Supreme Court's hands nine months before election day in which the hard-right former president is likely to be the Republican nominee to face Biden for a second time.

Trump is the first major presidential candidate in US history to be running under the cloud of multiple criminal and legal investigations and trials.

He faces 91 counts in four criminal cases over his removal of top-secret documents from the White House when he left, his use of hush money to silence damaging allegations of extramarital sex, and the multi-pronged attempt to overturn Biden's 2020 victory.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court -- the level just below the Supreme Court -- ruled that he could not claim immunity.

Trump's claim that he is immune from criminal liability for actions he took while in the White House is "unsupported by precedent, history or the text and structure of the Constitution," the judges said.

Trump has continued to insist that a president must have full legal immunity to be able to carry out duties without "fear" of "retribution."

However, the Washington appeals court said that putting a president "beyond the reach" of the judiciary and legislature through granting of immunity would "collapse our system of separated powers."

The appeals court put the ruling on hold until Monday to give Trump the opportunity to appeal to the US Supreme Court.

The nine justices there must now decide whether to take the case or potentially decline -- automatically allowing the lower court's ruling to stand.

Trump's trial over the attempts to subvert the 2020 election had originally been meant to start March 4, but was delayed by the appeal.

The timing of the Supreme Court's response will further impact the calendar, with the presidential election rapidly looming.

Trump is accused of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to obstruct the certification by Congress of Biden'swin on January 6, 2021.

The allegation is related to Trump's organizing of a raucous rally on the day of the certification vote, then telling his supporters to march on the Capitol, where they stormed past overwhelmed police officers and ransacked the building, delaying certification before finally being expelled.

Special Counsel Jack Smith filed the election conspiracy case against Trump in August and had been pushing hard for the March trial start date.

If Trump is able to get the trial delayed until after the election and wins another term, he could potentially order federal cases against him to be dropped.


(BSS)



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