Student loan forgiveness arrives — for 70,000 government employees

Source: USA Today

“The overhaul of a controversial loan forgiveness program was projected to erase the debt of 22,000 student loan borrowers in the effort’s first weeks. Three months in, more than triple that figure have had their debts wiped out. The U.S. Department of Education released the Public [sic] Service [sic] Forgiveness Loan figures Thursday, a year into President Joe Biden’s term as president. The loan forgiveness initiative, which was rolled out in 2007, was designed to entice people to work as teachers, police officers, firefighters or in other [government] jobs. After 10 years working in those jobs and making payments, their college debt would be erased. … Data from the department shows roughly 70,000 borrowers have qualified for nearly $5 billion in relief.” (01/20/22)

First contactless aid flights arrive in disaster-hit Tonga as islands aim to keep Covid-19 out

Source: CNN

“The first contactless aid flights arrived in disaster-hit Tonga on Thursday, as the coronavirus-free Pacific island nation takes precautions to keep the virus out of its borders in the wake of a devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami. Flights from Australia and New Zealand carrying humanitarian aid and disaster relief landed at Fua’amotu International Airport in Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, after the runway was cleared of volcanic ash and debris following Saturday’s violent eruption of the underwater Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano. It also comes as a senior Tongan politician warned of potential food shortages in the country. The aid will be delivered without any contact, to prevent the risk of Covid-19 spreading in the nation — which has only seen a single case since the start of the pandemic.” (01/20/22)

Nineteen-year-old British-Belgian woman sets record for youngest woman to circle the globe by plane

Source: The Hill
by Maureen Breslin

“Zara Rutherford, a 19-year-old Belgian-British woman, has become the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe by plane solo, setting a new world record when she landed in Belgium on Thursday, according to The Associated Press. The record had previously been held by a 30-year-old American woman, who made the flight in 2017, the AP reports. Rutherford’s flight had her cross 41 countries and went over 32,300 miles in a bespoke Shark ultralight aircraft, according to CNN Travel. The teenage pilot took off Aug. 18, 2021, and initially believed that her journey would take approximately three months, but she encountered setbacks along the way, though they did not impede her venture. Rutherford had to stop in Redding, Calif., because of the wildfires in the area causing poor visibility, and she was also denied permission to fly over China and narrowly avoided North Korean airspace, according to CNN.” (01/20/22)

His Name Wasn’t Really Robert Paulson: Meat Loaf, 1947-2022

Source: Rolling Stone

“Meat Loaf, the singer and actor best known for his best-selling Bat Out of Hell albums and roles in films as varied as The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Fight Club, died Thursday at the age of 74. The news was confirmed by the singer’s family in a post on his official Facebook page. A cause of death was not given. … Meat Loaf first found success on the Broadway stage in the groundbreaking musical Hair, and he had a brief, but memorable role in the Rocky Horror Picture Show as the ill-fated delivery boy Eddie — but it was his 1977 album Bat Out of Hell that turned him into a superstar and rock and roll icon.” (01/21/20)

Sources: Disgraced former president’s campaign officials, led by Giuliani, oversaw fake electors plot in seven states

Source: CNN Politics

“Trump campaign officials, led by Rudy Giuliani, oversaw efforts in December 2020 to put forward illegitimate electors from seven states that Trump lost, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the scheme. The sources said members of former President Donald Trump’s campaign team were far more involved than previously known in the plan, a core tenet of the broader plot to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory when Congress counted the electoral votes on January 6. … [House Capitol Riot Exploitation] Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi told reporters Thursday the panel is looking into whether there was a broader conspiracy or involvement from the Trump White House in the creation or submission of these fake electors.” (01/20/22)

TX: FBI conducts “court-authorized” search of Cuellar’s home

Source: CNN

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a statement Wednesday evening that it is doing a ‘court-authorized’ search of the Texas home of Rep. Henry Cuellar. The FBI also searched a second building housing his campaign office, CNN has learned. … A spokesperson for Cuellar told CNN that ‘Congressman Cuellar will fully cooperate in any investigation. He is committed to ensuring that justice and the law are upheld.’ Cuellar, a moderate Democrat, has served in Texas’s 28th Congressional District since 2005. He has not voted in person at the Capitol since January 12. He currently has an active proxy letter, which allows another lawmaker to vote for him in person in the House.” (01/20/22)

US jobless claims rise to three-month high

Source: Yahoo! Finance

“Weekly new jobless claims unexpectedly jumped last week by the most since October, with some renewed virus-related disruptions at least temporarily impeding the labor market’s recovery. The Labor Department released its latest weekly jobless claims report Thursday at 8:30 a.m. ET. … Initial unemployment claims rose for a third straight week, coming in near the 300,000 level. This represented some backsliding from recent progress in the trajectory of jobless claims. Claims had reached a 52-year low of 188,000 in December, as many employers attempted to keep their existing workforces in the face of widespread labor shortages. Continuing claims also came in higher-than-expected in the most recent data. These claims, which tracks filers still collecting regular state unemployment benefits, rose by more than 1.6 million in mid-January. Still, continuing claims had come in at the lowest level since 1973 just a week earlier.” (01/20/22)

Germany: Report on sexual abuse in diocese faults Benedict XVI

Source: Seattle Times

“A long-awaited report on sexual abuse in Germany’s Munich diocese on Thursday faulted retired Pope Benedict XVI’s handling of four cases when he was archbishop in the 1970s and 1980s. The law firm that drew up the report said that Benedict strongly denies any wrongdoing. The findings, though, were sure to reignite criticism of Benedict’s record more than a decade after the first, and until Thursday only, known case involving him was made public. The archdiocese commissioned the report from law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl nearly two years ago, with a mandate to look into abuse between 1945 and 2019 and whether church officials handled allegations correctly.” (01/20/22)

Blinken: Nuclear talks with Iran at “decisive moment”

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

“U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that talks with Iran over its nuclear program are at a ‘decisive moment,’ and warned that Washington and its allies may change tactics if a deal isn’t reached in the coming weeks. Blinken said that the longer Iran fails to comply with the 2015 Vienna accord (intended to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program) the closer it would get to being able to build an atomic weapon. ‘We are indeed at a decisive moment,’ Blinken told reporters in Berlin after meeting senior diplomats from Germany, France and Britain. He added that he believed modest progress had been made during the ongoing round of talks in the Austrian capital. ‘But we are not where we need to be. And if we don’t get there very soon, we will have to take a different course.'” (01/20/22)

Grisham: Disgraced former president held secret meetings in days before Capitol riot

Source: The Guardian [UK]

“The former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack that Donald Trump hosted secret meetings in the White House residence in days before 6 January, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The former senior Trump aide also told House investigators that the details of whether Trump actually intended to march to the Capitol after his speech at the Ellipse rally would be memorialized in documents provided to the US Secret Service, the sources said. … The secret meetings were apparently known by only a small number of aides, the sources said. Grisham recounted that they were mostly scheduled by Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and that the former chief usher, Timothy Harleth, would wave participants upstairs, the sources said.” (01/20/22)