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The Biden administration is no longer accepting applications for student loan forgiveness after a second federal court shut down the program.

“Courts have issued orders blocking our student debt relief program,” the Education Department said on its federal student aid website. “As a result, at this time, we are not accepting applications. We are seeking to overturn those orders.”

Fulfilling a campaign pledge, President Joe Biden announced in August plans to forgive up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for individuals with incomes below $125,000 or households earning less than $250,000. The White House has estimated that more than 40 million people could qualify.

Already, about 26 million people have applied, and 16 million applications have been approved. However, because of court rulings, none of the relief has actually gone out. The Department of Education would “quickly process their relief once we prevail in court,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman in Texas ruled Thursday that Biden had overstepped his authority in creating the debt relief program without congressional approval.

“In this country, we are not ruled by an all-powerful executive with a pen and a phone. Instead, we are ruled by a Constitution that provides for three distinct and independent branches of government,” Pittman wrote. The administration has appealed that ruling.

Pittman’s ruling came after the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stopped the program while it considers whether to impose a permanent ban. That case was brought by a half-dozen Republican-led states.

Student loan forgiveness is likely to end up before the Supreme Court.

People with student loan debt have not been required to make payments during the pandemic. But payments are set to resume, and interest will begin to accrue again, in January.

Biden has said the payment pause would not be extended again, but that was before the court rulings. It was not clear whether the pause might be continued while the legal challenges to the program play out.

As for loan forgiveness, the Education Department said on its website that it would hold on to the applications for those who have already applied.


Charles Booker’s political stock rose in Democratic circles two years ago as he voiced outrage over the deaths of Black Americans in encounters with police, including in his hometown in Kentucky.

That climb out of obscurity has given the Black former state lawmaker from Louisville a springboard to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a nationally known former presidential candidate who is seeking a third term in ruby red Kentucky.

Seeking wider appeal beyond core Democratic voters in a conservative state, Booker has now jumped into the fray on abortion access in the Bluegrass State after the demise of Roe v. Wade. The issue is at the forefront of Kentucky’s Nov. 8 election, when voters will decide whether to amend the state’s constitution to declare outright that it doesn’t protect the right to an abortion. Abortion-rights supporters hope to build a majority coalition against the amendment that includes independents and moderates from both major parties.

In campaigning, Booker is showing the same zeal for abortion rights that he did for social and economic justice issues in 2020, when he barely lost his party’s Senate primary — a surprisingly strong showing and launchpad for securing the Democratic nomination this year.

And he’s using the issue to challenge Paul’s deeply rooted national reputation as a champion of keeping government out of people’s lives, even as the senator has vowed to support legislation toward ending legal abortion.


Lawmakers in the border state of Tamaulipas voted Wednesday night to legalize same-sex marriages, becoming the last of Mexico’s 32 states to authorize such unions.

The measure to amend the state’s Civil Code passed with 23 votes in favor, 12 against and two abstentions, setting off cheers of “Yes, we can!” from supporters of the change.

The session took place as groups both for and against the measure chanted and shouted from the balcony, and legislators eventually moved to another room to finish their debate and vote.

The president of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, Arturo Zaldívar, welcomed the vote. “The whole country shines with a huge rainbow. Live the dignity and rights of all people. Love is love,” he said on Twitter.

A day earlier, lawmakers in the southern state of Guerrero approved similar legislation allowing same-sex marriages.

In 2015, the Supreme Court declared state laws preventing same-sex marriage unconstitutional, but some states took several years to adopt laws conforming with the ruling.


While the nation waits for the Supreme Court’s opinion on a blockbuster abortion case that could overturn Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood of Washington is getting ready for an increase in out-of-state patients seeking an abortion.

“We are already seeing patients from Texas, from Oklahoma. I saw a patient a couple of weeks ago from Alabama,” Dr. Erin Berry, gynecologist and Washington state medical director of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, told KING-TV.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest said it’s working to see which locations in Washington could open up for additional days if needed and upping its patient navigation teams, which help patients with appointments and travel arrangements.

“There’s a lot of unknown,” Berry said. “We also ultimately do not know how many people will be coming in from where and what their needs will be.”

Twenty-six states are likely to have total or near-total bans on abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Idaho’s trigger law bans all abortions with exceptions for rape, incest and if the mother’s life is at risk.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, 230,000 patients could travel across state lines from Idaho seeking an abortion.

Berry said it’s expensive for patients to travel across the country to access medical care and fears for funding in the long term.

The looming decision is creating uncertainty for more than just patients. The Washington Medical Commission, which regulates physician license in Washington, said if Roe v. Wade is overturned it could raise practice concerns for Washington licensees.


A special grand jury was selected Monday for the investigation into whether former President Donald Trump and others illegally tried to influence the 2020 election in Georgia.

The investigation has been underway since early last year, and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis took this unusual step to help it along, noting in a letter to the chief judge that the special grand jury would be able to issue subpoenas to people who have refused to cooperate otherwise.

The chief judge ordered the special grand jury to be seated for a period of up to a year, beginning Monday. Of the pool of about 200 people called from the county master jury list, 26 were chosen to serve — 23 grand jurors and three alternates. Special grand juries focus on investigating a single topic and making recommendations to the district attorney, who then decides whether to seek an indictment from a regular grand jury.

Because of the intense public interest in this case, the court made arrangements for parts of Monday’s selection process to be broadcast live. Now that the special grand jury has been selected, however, everything it does will happen in secret.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who’s been tasked with overseeing the special grand jury, told the people summoned to the jury pool that they wouldn’t be hearing a trial, but would instead be serving on an investigative special grand jury looking into actions surrounding the 2020 general election.


A North Carolina lawsuit that attempts to block a law permitting four Charlotte-area municipalities to operate their own charter schools can’t go forward, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

Two years ago, the North Carolina and Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP chapters and two parents challenged the law approved by the General Assembly in 2018, saying it violated the state constitution in part by encouraging racial segregation and financial inequity in public schools.

Republican lawmakers and town leaders who pushed the measure said it had nothing to do with race, but rather addressed overcrowded public schools in their area that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system failed to address adequately.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier refused last year to dismiss the lawsuit — as Republican legislative leaders who were sued had sought — and referred it to a panel of trial judges, which handle claims of unconstitutionality.

But the GOP lawmakers appealed to the Court of Appeals, where a separate panel of appeals judges vacated Rozier’s ruling Tuesday.

The plaintiffs “have not alleged in their complaint they sustained a direct injury, or that they are in immediate danger of sustaining a direct injury, resulting from the (law’s) enactment,” Court of Appeals Judge Jeffery Carpenter wrote in the unanimous opinion.

The plaintiffs argued the new option for Matthews, Mint Hill, Huntersville and Cornelius would create essentially new town school districts that siphon money from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.


The 47-year-old man charged for a series of home invasions and sexual assaults that occurred nearly two decades ago appeared in Whitman County Superior Court for his arraignment Friday morning, where his lawyer asked for more time to review the case.

Kenneth Downing of Elk, Washington was arrested last week by the Spokane Police Department at the request of the Pullman Police Department. They had used DNA evidence collected from the crimes that occurred in 2003 and 2004 to identify a link with Downing, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News reported.

Downing was charged with four counts of first-degree rape, one count of indecent liberties, two counts of first-degree burglary, three counts of second-degree assault and three counts of unlawful imprisonment with sexual motivation, all felonies. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

At his first court appearance March 18, Judge Gary Libey imposed a $5 million bond or $500,000 cash bail and appointed public defender Steve Martonick to represent him.

On Friday, Martonick asked Libey for more time to review the 13 charges brought against his client before the arraignment. The arraignment is now scheduled for April 1.

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