Elizabeth Warren Unveils Plan to Eliminate Student Loan Debt

With Cory Booker and Kamala Harris dropping out of the presidential race, the three frontrunners remain poised to win over their supporters for the Democratic candidacy. 

U.S. Senator and Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren unveiled her student loan plan to cancel the debt that has affected millions of Americans

RELATED: US Democratic Candidate Cory Booker Quits Presidential Race

According to Warren, if she wins the presidency, on the first day of her tenure in office, she will cancel student loan debt by using the Department of Education’s pre-existing authority.

In her article on the website Medium, Warren said she would act without congressional approval because the Secretary of Education can “use its discretion to wipe away loans even when they do not meet the eligibility criteria for more specific cancellation programs.”

Warren backed up her claim by offering a letter from experts at Harvard Law School's legal services center, which concluded her plan “calls for a lawful and permissible exercise of the Secretary’s authority under existing law.”

The Democratic Senator previously called forthe cancellation of up to $50,000 in student loan debt for each of the approximately 42-million borrowers.

Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, detailed her latest proposal ahead of the seventh Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday evening, when she will be one of six candidates on stage.

Twelve Democrats remain in the nominating race to take on President Donald Trump in November 2020. National opinion polls show Warren in the top tier but trailing former Vice President Joe Biden and fellow U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. She has attempted in recent weeks to regain the momentum her campaign showed during the summer, with nominating contests set to begin in Iowa in early February.

Throughout her year-long presidential campaign, Warren has emphasized affordable college tuition as a way to reduce economic and racial inequality. In April, she rolled out a comprehensive plan to cancel $50,000 in student loan debt for borrowers with annual household incomes below $100,000, with some cancellation for those with household incomes between $100,000 and $250,000.

Warren said on Tuesday that the Higher Education Act, a law passed in 1965, gives the Education Department the ability to act as a “safety valve” for federal student loan programs.

Just 43% of students who attended two-year public colleges and 34% who attended for-profit colleges that began loan repayment in 2011 had begun paying down the principal after five years, Warren said.

Warren, in her proposals and speeches, often ties the high cost of U.S. higher education to decreasing home ownership rates among young adults, fewer individuals starting small businesses, and the so-called “brain drain” facing some rural areas.

  • Published in World

Trump considering dramatic expansion of travel ban

The White House is considering dramatically expanding its much-litigated travel ban to additional countries amid a renewed election-year focus on immigration by United States President Donald Trump, according to six people familiar with the deliberations.

A document outlining the plans -- timed to coincide with the third anniversary of Trump's January 2017 executive order -- has been circulating in the White House.  But the countries that would be affected are blacked out, according to two of the people, sources who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the measure has yet to be finalised.

It is unclear exactly how many countries would be included in the expansion, but two of the sources said that seven countries - the majority of which are majority Muslim - would be added to the list.  The most recent addition to the ban includes restrictions on five majority-Muslim nations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as Venezuela and North Korea.

A different source said the expansion could focus on several countries that were included when Trump announced the first iteration of the ban but that were later removed amid rounds of contentious litigation.  Iraq, Sudan and Chad, for instance, had originally been affected by the order, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in a 5-4 vote after the administration released a watered-down version intended to withstand legal scrutiny.  Trump later criticised the U.S. Department of Justice for the changes.

The White House did not immediately respond to questions about the effort, which several of the sources said was timed for release in conjunction with the third anniversary of Trump's first travel ban.  That order sparked an uproar when it was announced on January 27, 2017, with massive protests across the nation and chaos at airports where passengers were detained.

The latest deliberations come as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi prepares to transmit to the Senate the articles of impeachment that the Democratic-led House passed in the US Congress against Trump late last year, launching a formal impeachment trial just as the 2020 election year gets underway.  Trump in December became just the third president in history to be impeached by the House.  The Republican-controlled Senate is not expected to remove him from office.

Trump ran his 2016 campaign promising to crack down on immigration and spent much of his first term fighting lawsuits trying to halt his push to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico, prohibit the entry of citizens from several majority-Muslim countries and crack down on migrants seeking asylum in the U.S., amid other measures.  He is expected to press those efforts again this year as he ramps up his re-election campaign.

Just this past week, a coalition of leading civil rights organizations urged House leaders to take up the No Ban Act, legislation to end Trump's travel ban and prevent a new one.  The bill, introduced last year by Representative Judy Chu in the House and Senator Chris Coons in the Senate, would impose limits on the president's ability to restrict entry to the US.  It would require the administration to spell out its reasons for the restrictions and specifically prohibit religious discrimination.

Trump's revised ban eliminated some of the original's most contentious provisions, including making clear that those who held visas at the time of the signing could continue to enter the country.

  • Published in World

Cuban president rejects U.S. extension of ban on flights

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Saturday strongly rejected the U.S. extension of ban on charter flights between the United States and Cuban destinations except Havana.

"Cuba rejects new ban on charter flights imposed by the United States. The escalation of sanctions violates the human rights of Cubans and of Americans," the president tweeted.

On Friday, the U.S. government announced the suspension of all public charter flights to Cuba, except those to Havana's Jose Marti International Airport.

This new sanction, which affects nine airports on the island, is an extension of last year's ban on U.S. commercial flights to all Cuban destinations except Havana.

Public charter flight operators will have a 60-day wind-down period to discontinue all affected flights, according to the U.S. statement.

The prohibition on charter flights adds to a set of sanctions implemented by Washington against Havana since U.S. President Donald Trump took office, seeking to stifle the island's economy, especially the tourism sector.

  • Published in Cuba

U.S. targeted Iranian official in Yemen in failed strike

The United States military tried, but failed, to kill another senior Iranian commander on the same day a U.S. drone strike killed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard's top general, Qassem Soleimani, U.S. officials have admitted.

Officials said a military air attack targeted Abdul Reza Shahlai, a high-ranking commander in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), but the mission was not successful.  The officials spoke to the Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity in order to discuss a classified mission.  The Pentagon declined to discuss the highly classified operation.

"We have seen the report of a January 2 air strike in Yemen, which is long understood as a safe space for terrorists and other adversaries to the United States.  The Department of Defense does not discuss alleged operations in the region," said Navy Commander Rebecca Rebarich, a Pentagon spokesperson.  The Washington Post first reported the development.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury said Shahlai was based in Yemen and accused him of "a long history of targeting Americans and U.S. allies globally" -- including killing U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq.  It has offered a $15 million reward in connection with him under its "Rewards for Justice" program.

The unsuccessful operation against Shahlai may indicate that the Trump administration's killing of Soleimani last week was part of a broader operation than previously explained, raising questions about whether the mission was designed to cripple the leadership of the IRGC or solely to prevent an imminent attack on Americans as originally stated.

The Trump administration has been under fire by Democrats and two Republicans in Congress over its decision to order the drone strike that killed Soleimani.  In an interview that aired earlier on Fox News, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged that Washington did not know "precisely" when or where the imminent attacks allegedly being planned by Soleimani would take place, but said the threat was "real".

U.S. military operations in Yemen are shrouded in secrecy -- primarily because they are illegal under international law.  U.S. officials said the operation against Shahlai remains highly classified, and many declined to offer details other than to say it was not successful.

  • Published in World

Not So Fast, Mr President: Did Trump Abuse His Power by Ordering Soleimani's Assassination?

Following US President Donald Trump's decision to assassinate prominent Iranian General Qasem Soleimani on 3 January, Washington and Tehran wound up on the verge of a full-scale armed conflict. But for now, both sides seem to have chosen to avoid bloodshed, with Iran’s retaliation resulting in only minor damage to American bases in Iraq.

The POTUS' unilateral decision to assassinate Iran’s top commander of the Quds Force without consulting with Congress in advance has sparked heated debate among US lawmakers on whether the president abused his powers and should be limited in his ability to take action that could lead to a war with the Islamic Republic.

The American legislature has in the past limited the commander-in-chief's power to make war, but, despite this, the Democrat-dominated House of Representatives passed a resolution, albeit non-binding, seeking to limit Donald Trump's ability to start hostilities against Iran. Here is what the process of launching foreign military operations looks like and how it actually works in the US right now.

Genuine Commander-in-Chief or Just a Lame Duck?

The US Constitution designates the president as "commander-in-chief of the army and navy"; however, it does not explicitly describe the president as having the authority to initiate hostilities on their own (such as conducting an airstrike on a foreign state's territory). Instead, the Constitution names Congress as the body with the power to officially declare a war. It's generally believed by scholars that as commander-in-chief, the POTUS not only has the power to lead the military, but can also do so without a congressional declaration of war.

A napalm strike erupts in a fireball near U.S. troops on patrol in South Vietnam, 1966 during the Vietnam War
© AP Photo /
A napalm strike erupts in a fireball near U.S. troops on patrol in South Vietnam, 1966 during the Vietnam War

In fact, the US has engaged in several conflicts without declaring war officially, although presidents have usually received authorisation from Congress to do so in advance, as was the case with the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War in 1991, as well as with the War on Terror that started in 2001. However, US lawmakers decided to implement additional checks on presidential powers in the form of the so-called War Powers Resolution after the country was dragged into the disastrous 20-year-long Vietnam War due to President Lyndon Johnson interpreting a congressional resolution to protect US forces as a carte blanche to engage in a full-scale war.

So How Exactly Does the US Currently Start Its Wars?

The War Powers Resolution that was adopted by Congress in 1973 requires US presidents to seek congressional approval, in the form of a declaration of war or statutory authorisation, before deploying troops to fight abroad. Since 1942, the US has actually commenced all of its hostilities without an official declaration of war, relying instead on congressional authorisation or UN Security Council resolutions – another way for the US to engage in military activities abroad.

However, the 1973 resolution did leave one path open for a president to send American troops into hostilities – if US territories, possessions, or its armed forces are attacked (merely a threat is insufficient), then the POTUS can do so without a "go" from the legislative body. But in this scenario, the president is still required to consult with Congress before deploying troops, even if "imminent involvement in hostilities" is expected. Furthermore, the POTUS also needs to explain the reasons for and the duration of the deployment of US forces into hostilities within 48 hours.

How Many of These Rules Has Trump Really Followed?

When it comes to the recent assassination of Iranian General Soleimani, Trump, for starters, never notified Congress in advance of his plan to conduct the airstrike on 3 January. Additionally, the basis for the military operation, which had the potential to drag the US into a war with Iran, remains questionable.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks on human rights in Iran at the State Department in Washington, U.S., December 19, 2019
© REUTERS / ERIN SCOTT
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks on human rights in Iran at the State Department in Washington, U.S., December 19, 2019

Trump claims that Soleimani was planning attacks against US citizens in the near future, but later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confessed that Washington knew neither the date nor the place of the allegedly planned attack. Even if the US had evidence suggesting that an attack was possible, technically Trump still didn't have the right to order the airstrike without a nod from Congress, as the War Powers Resolution only mentions an actual "attack" on US interests as a prerequisite for such a move.

Was Trump the First President to Ignore the War Powers Resolution?

While it does look like Trump did interpret his authority under the War Powers Resolution rather loosely, to say the least, he was not the first president to ignore the law's provisions, to the discontent of Congress.

One major instance when the resolution was violated was President Bill Clinton's use of American forces in the bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War in 1999. Back then, US troops were conducting operations in a foreign country without authorisation from either Congress or the UN Security Council and without a clear threat to American interests (let alone any "attack" on them). In addition, this deployment lasted for 78 days, or 18 days longer than the War Powers Resolution allows for without congressional approval – which had not been granted.

Serbian protesters hold a banner reading, Clinton make sex not war outside the U.S. embassy in Munich, Germany during a demonstration against NATO airstrikes in Yugoslavia, Friday, March 26, 1999.
© AP Photo / Uwe Lein
Serbian protesters hold a banner reading, "Clinton make sex not war" outside the U.S. embassy in Munich, Germany during a demonstration against NATO airstrikes in Yugoslavia, Friday, March 26, 1999.

The War Powers Resolution was also violated by Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, who directed the US military join the campaign against Libyan air defences in 2011. While the operation was conducted under the pretext of implementing a UN Security Council-approved no-fly zone over the country, it had still not been backed by American lawmakers, some of whom expressed concern that the POTUS was abusing his status as commander-in-chief.

Obama justified his actions at the time by calling the operation necessary to "prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and address the threat" allegedly posed to "international peace and security" by the Libyan Civil War, which had largely been fuelled by Western countries themselves. He also argued that the US operations in the conflict would be "limited in their nature, duration, and scope", even though Washington actually contributed more than any other of its NATO partners to the intervention in the country.

But despite ignoring and violating the existing laws regulating when the US can enter into an armed conflict, no president has so far been directly punished for doing so, even if members of Congress have expressed their discontent. On the other hand, Trump has faced major opposition in the US Congress throughout his presidency and was recently impeached, meaning he could face something more serious than just grumbling from lawmakers. Although Democrats only control the lower chamber of Congress, Trump's actions in Iraq have made some Republican senators consider supporting their opponents' recent initiative to limit the POTUS' ability to engage in hostilities with Iran.

  • Published in World

Organizations Denounce U.S. Restrictions on Public Charter Airline Service to Cuba

Washington, D.C.—The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA), the Cuba Study Group (CSG), Engage Cuba, the Latin America Working Group (LAWG), and Oxfam denounce the announced halt to public charter airline service to cities outside of Havana and call on Congress to pass the Freedom for Americans to Travel to Cuba Act of 2019.

Marguerite Jiménez, Director for Cuba at WOLA, says, “The Trump administration’s decision to suspend the charter flights to all Cuban destinations except for Havana is petty and punitive. It will further complicate family travel, separate families on both sides of the Florida Straits, and impose more hardships on the Cuban people. Taken together, these measures will continue to harm relationships between our two peoples, cut off key resources for a burgeoning Cuban private sector, and fuel an already growing migration crisis from the island.” 

Emily Mendrala, Executive Director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, says, “Today’s State Department actions force Cuban families to travel further, pay more, and take convoluted routes to see their loved ones, while also bringing us one step closer to closing the door to Cuba altogether. These senseless and mean-spirited policies are unlikely to change the Cuban government’s behavior or force a new approach to Venezuela, and, if anything, create resentment among the Cuban people. But the policies will have a practical impact—an unfortunate one. The charter companies losing money are U.S. businesses. The passengers are largely Cuban families, U.S. church groups, and academics. The Cuban communities connected to U.S. travelers by these flights are remote and poorer than those in Havana. They are the losers of today’s announcement. The strategy of sanctions and isolation didn’t work 60 years ago and it’s unlikely to work today.”

Ricardo Herrero, Executive Director of Cuba Study Group, says, “This latest travel ban is another desperate move by an administration that is clearly frustrated with the impotency of its maximum pressure policy to usher regime change in Cuba or Venezuela. The Cuban government has been down this road before. Havana officials have trained their entire lives to counter U.S. aggression, and with the help of international allies will once again assume all necessary measures to adjust and survive. Cuban families, American travelers, and US-based charter businesses will be the parties most harmed by this travel ban. Strangely, the president’s South Florida advisors seem to believe that they’ll win the Cuban-American vote this November by punishing Cuban families. They have also been down this road before, but forget that family travel bans contributed to their loss in the 2008 election. So this strategy is as confounding as it is immoral.”

James Williams, President of Engage Cuba, says, “Stopping Cuban Americans’ ability to see their families is a violation of human rights. It is a cynical, cruel political act that is beneath the values and dignity of this great country. The vast majority of Cubans on the island are not the Cuban government. They should be supported and not attacked by the United States. Once again we see the Trump administration trying to score political points with their base, regardless of the cost and cruelty.”

Linda Delgado, Director of Government Affairs of OXFAM America, says, “The Trump administration’s action today to further restrict US air travel to Cuba is just a continuation down the road of destructive and counterproductive policy that hurts Cuban families. It is not only an assault on the Cuban people, particularly those outside the capital who will suffer from reduced business opportunities from US travelers, it is also a direct affront to the American people whose freedom to travel to Cuba and form their own opinions about the island will now be further curtailed. We urge Congress to quickly pass the Freedom for Americans to Travel to Cuba Act of 2019 and force the administration to reverse its harmful policy agenda toward Cuba that is opposed by a majority of US public opinion.”

Mavis Anderson, Senior Associate at the Latin America Working Group, says, “In another attempt to damage Cuba, the Trump administration has again managed to damage Cubans. The most recent move, today banning charter flights into nine Cuban airports, is an embarrassment before the world. A cruel embarrassment. It makes family reunification of Cubans much more difficult; it further hurts Cuban citizens by removing a needed source of income and independence; it limits the freedom of travel by US citizens to Cuba. LAWG condemns this action in the strongest terms.”

The Freedom for Americans to Travel to Cuba Act of 2019, introduced by Senator Leahy in the Senate (S.2303) and Representatives McGovern and Emmer in the House (H.R.3960), would allow United States citizens and legal residents to travel between the United States and Cuba.

  • Published in Cuba

Cuban festival to feature Chicago style jazz

The legendary jazz tradition of the US city of Chicago will be represented at the 2020 International Jazz Plaza Festival with the presence of guitarist Stanley Jordan and multi-instrumentalist David Liebman, according to organizers.

Already in its 35th edition, the event once again attracts performers from all over the world and brings together some of the best contemporary jazz musicians.

The inclusion of the likes of Jordan and Liebman add prestige to the line-up of the event, which will take place on different stages of this capital from January 14 to 19. Audiences will also be able to enjoy jazz from other latitudes such as Spain.

Jordan is an exceptional guitarist who has carved out a unique career within jazz by becoming one of the greatest exponents of the technique known as 'touch' or 'tapping,' an unconventional way of playing the instrument.

Meanwhile, Liebman masters instruments such as the saxophone, flute, clarinet, piano and drums. He is also an acclaimed composer and has worked with renowned musicians such as Miles Davis and Chick Corea.

Both have produced an interesting discography that has established them among the most striking jazz musicians of the late 20th and 21st centuries.

In addition to the musicians from Chicago, the Jazz Plaza Festival boasts other figures of renowned prestige in the genre, such as saxophonists Billy Evans and Puerto Rican Miguel Zenon, his fellow countryman Eddie Gomez, and bands from New Orleans, the birthplace of the genre.

The events will also welcome instrumentalists from Spain, Austria, Chile, Holland, Martinique, Mexico, Canada, Argentina, Norway, Australia, Japan, Venezuela, Brazil and Germany, among other countries.

A wide range of the country's best musicians will take to Havana stages, including winners of the National Music Prize, Grammy and Latin Grammy nominees. The program will also feature a tribute to the emblematic Irakere band and diva Omara Portuondo.

  • Published in Culture

Silk-covered Poison

Since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Washington and its acolytes (aware or unaware) have acted on a very complex board.

They don’t forgive, firstly, that it put an end to its status as a U.S. neo-colony.

Neither, that it began to promote a socio-economic program in favor of the majority.


Those first signs were more than enough for Washington to decide to eliminate the new power.



Only hours after the arrival in Havana of the Rebel Army with Fidel Castro leading, a campaign of lies against Cuba began.



The main version assured that in the midst of a "bloodbath" opponents of the Revolution were executed.



What happened actually? The trials of torturers and murderers of the pro-North American tyranny of Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar.



There were so many slanders, that Fidel Castro called a huge press conference named Operation Truth.



In the middle of that first month of 1959 several hundred foreign journalists arrived in Havana.



Those lies were then smashed, although Washington has never given up using them.



The propaganda machinery of the United States has gone through the most unthinkable anti-Cuban lies.



Their objective? Essentially misinterpret the reality of that neighboring nation and adjust it to their convenience.



In order to achieve this goal, as a permanent style they use three key elements:

The falsehood, the half lies, and everything that contributes to raise doubts.



They pay close attention to those they value as local enemies, the uninformed, and the naive.



They save some space next to those for the hyper-critics who can’t even run their own houses properly.



Finally, those self-proclaimed untouchables, or at least difficult to touch.

This is how the silk-covered poison has existed until today.

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