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A couple in Britain plans to sue an adoption agency, claiming they were turned away from adopting a white baby because they're of Indian descent. CBS News foreign correspondent Charlie D'Agata joins CBSN with more on this adoption controversy.
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Husso makes 31 stops for first NHL shutout, Blues beat Wild
Ville Husso stopped 31 shots for his first career shutout and David Perron had a goal and two assists in the St. Louis Blues' 4-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night.
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The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is exposing a deep schism in the Democratic Party
Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks to reporters outside the Capitol on January 4, 2019. | Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images Democrats have moved left on Israel. Biden hasn’t. Over the past several years, the Democratic Party has moved further left on US policy toward Israel, showing a greater willingness to criticize Israel and speak up in defense of the rights of Palestinians. But President Joe Biden doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo. And that gap between him and the more progressive members of his party is becoming a visible rift as the Biden administration struggles to address the escalating conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The recent fighting between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist militant group that has controlled Gaza since 2007, has so far left at least seven people in Israel dead from Hamas rockets and around 70 Palestinians, including 16 children, dead, more than 300 injured, and entire apartment buildings flattened in Gaza from Israeli airstrikes. The Biden administration has firmly and publicly denounced Hamas for firing rockets indiscriminately at civilians in Israel. Yet it has refused to say a single harsh word to Israel publicly for its precision bombing of civilian targets in Gaza, instead repeating the constant refrain that “Israel has the right to defend itself.” A summary of National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan’s Tuesday call with his Israeli counterpart said that “He conveyed the President’s unwavering support for Israel’s security and for its legitimate right to defend itself and its people, while protecting civilians.” That kind of unwavering defense of Israel wouldn’t have ruffled many feathers in the Democratic Party 20 or maybe even 10 years ago. But times have changed. The party has changed. And now it’s doing more than just ruffling feathers. “By only stepping in to name Hamas’ actions — which are condemnable — & refusing to acknowledge the rights of Palestinians, Biden reinforces the false idea that Palestinians instigated this cycle of violence,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) tweeted on Wednesday. “This is not neutral language. It takes a side — the side of occupation.” This is becoming a problem for Biden, who promised to put human rights at the “center” of his foreign policy. Instead, he’s finding himself calcified in the US-Israel policy of yesteryear, while his left flank on Israeli-Palestinian issues becomes ever more vocal. “It is splitting the party,” a Democratic Senate staffer told me. “It’s splitting between those who think support for human rights includes Palestinians and those who don’t.” Congressional Democrats are more willing to criticize Israel than Biden is Biden is standing still as his party is moving on this issue. In March, a Gallup poll showed that 53 percent of Democrats favored placing more pressure on Israel to make compromises to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — a 10-point jump from 2018, and 20 points higher than in 2008. That finding tracked with poll after poll showing liberal Democrats are less sympathetic to Israel than they were in years past, although most Americans still say they support Israel and America’s alliance with it. Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images Fire billows from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza on May 13. Why the change? Much of it has to do with former President Donald Trump’s favoritism toward Israel. Trump gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nearly everything he wanted, including recognition of Israeli sovereignty over disputed territory like the Golan Heights, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, and a “peace plan” that fulfilled nearly all of the premier’s wishlist. Meanwhile, Trump closed a Palestinian political office in Washington, DC, stopped aid to the West Bank and Gaza, and effectively cut ties with top Palestinian officials. As a result, Israel went from receiving broad bipartisan support to seeing concerns over its actions split along partisan lines. “Donald Trump politicized US support of Israel,” said Halie Soifer, CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America and a former national security adviser to then-Sen. Kamala Harris. That’s why you see congressional Democrats with more willingness to lambast Israel. Take Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), a close Biden confidante who fashions himself one of Israel’s strongest supporters in Congress. He used a Twitter thread to denounce Hamas’s rocket attacks but also called out Israel for the attempted evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and other provocations. I urge all parties to exercise restraint and call on Israeli and Palestinian officials to de-escalate tensions, refrain from further provocations, and renounce the violence immediately.— Senator Chris Coons (@ChrisCoons) May 10, 2021 Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), a Jewish lawmaker and chair of the House Judiciary Committee, also issued a statement criticizing aggression by Israeli authorities last week that helped trigger the current conflict: “I remain deeply concerned by the violence in Jerusalem, including Israeli police violence, and I urge all parties to exercise restraints.” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Middle East panel, told me “it’s important for members of Congress to acknowledge that over the last few years, both the Palestinians and Israelis have taken a bunch of steps to make a two-state future less likely and create cultures of grievances.” Instead of making a big deal out of noting the Palestinian plight or finding ways to punish Israel, though, he said the goal is to seek deescalation. “We’re in the middle of a nightmare right now. People are dying,” he said. Once the crisis is over, then it makes sense to have a broader policy discussion about America’s stance toward Israel. But given the way the administration is acting so far, it doesn’t look like it wants to have that discussion at all. Biden has yet to say anything about the Palestinians The Biden administration rejects accusations that it’s taking only Israel’s side or that it’s standing pat as rockets and bombs rip through civilian buildings in Israel and Gaza. On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said US officials “have spoken candidly with Israeli officials about how evictions of Palestinian families who have lived for years, sometimes decades, in their homes and of demolitions of these homes work against our common interests in achieving a solution to the conflict.” The next day, she told reporters US officials had held 25 high-level calls and meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as other regional governments with stakes in the conflict. “So our engagement is, a lot of it is happening privately through diplomatic channels,” she said, “and our objective here is deescalation as we look to protecting the people in the region.” Drew Angerer/Getty Images President Biden delivers remarks at the White House on May 12. That’s all well and good, experts say, but they say it’d be better if Biden came out and showed support for Palestinians himself. “I think it’s reached a point where that might not be a bad idea,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel advocacy group J Street, after I asked him about the president’s silence. But Ben-Ami added, “he’s not going to focus on this day in and day out.” At a minimum, they’d like to see Biden do something — anything, really. For the moment he has yet to appoint a special envoy for the peace process or an ambassador to Israel, though a State Department official is headed to the region to speak with regional leaders. Psaki said Wednesday that the president will name someone to the ambassadorial post in the “coming weeks.” Meanwhile, Biden has barely reversed Trump’s actions against the Palestinians, except for restoring aid to refugees. When the US acted recently, it was to block a statement by the United Nations Security Council on the conflict. “The US doesn’t see that a statement will help de-escalate,” an unnamed diplomat told AFP on Wednesday. There doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency in the administration. Congressional aides and activists who have recently spoken to the White House told me the attitude of Biden’s team is “there’s a lot going on right now.” In all fairness, there is. Biden is still contending with the Covid-19 pandemic at home and now looking to quash it abroad, all while trying to push trillions in domestic programs through Congress. Blasting Israel could harm his standing with Republicans. Biden also has diplomats negotiating America’s reentry into the Iran nuclear deal, a pact Israel hates and might speak openly against if the president publicly denounces Jerusalem. What’s more, the US is far from being the only outside influence over the crisis. Ilan Goldenberg, an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian issue at the Center for a New American Security think tank in Washington, DC, tweeted on Wednesday that “The key mediators in this conflict and the ones with real leverage with Hamas and a close relationship with the Israelis are the Egyptians. Ultimately this round of violence will most likely end with an agreement in Cairo,” not the White House. Between those considerations and Biden’s more traditional view of the US-Israel relationship, it’s possible the president simply wants to stay out of the fray. But that’s concerning, as most say a clear statement from Biden — denouncing Hamas’s attacks but also noting Israel’s complicity in the violence — might get Jerusalem to consider deescalating this crisis. After that, Biden could hold Israel accountable for its human rights abuses with the same vigor as his team does Hamas and other Palestinian leaders. His silence on that front — for now, at least — has consequences. “The permanent occupation of Palestinian territory by the state of Israel, and millions of people in the occupied territory, held for decades and generations without rights remains an unsustainable situation,” said J Street’s Ben-Ami. “That will lead to these regular outbreaks of violence if there is not an effort consistently made to, at a minimum, prevent the situation from getting worse.”
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The case for canceling student debt
Students march through London to protest against tuition fees and student debts. | Matthew Chattle/Barcroft Media via Getty Images Why a leading activist on student debt thinks Biden’s proposal to cancel $10,000 isn’t enough. Forty-five million Americans now owe a total of $1.7 trillion in federal and private student loans. For many people, that debt is the biggest drag on their adult lives. It prevents them from buying a home or starting a family or investing in their future. They are stuck in a perpetual loop. This crisis has led to calls to cancel all that debt and liberate an entire generation of Americans — something I instinctively support. But when you start to think about all the obstacles and trade-offs, you quickly realize how politically fraught such a proposal would be. Is there any way to do it fairly? What about the millions of people who spent decades paying down their loans? And what about the people who didn’t go to college because they didn’t want the debt — how would this land for them? So I reached out to Astra Taylor, documentary filmmaker and author of the 2019 book Democracy May Not Exist, But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone. Taylor has become a leading advocate for debt forgiveness, and she treats it as not just an economic problem but as a small-d democratic problem. We talk about why that is and how it shapes her argument. If you’re looking for a snapshot of the wider debate around student debt cancellation, read this exhaustive essay by my Vox colleague Emily Stewart. Here I wanted to focus on the case for forgiving student debt and why Taylor argues it’s just one part of a much deeper struggle for a just society. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows. Sean Illing Your argument requires that we think of debt less as a financial instrument and more as a form of top-down power. How so? Astra Taylor People who are in debt have to worry about making that next payment. It’s a source of anxiety and stress. It changes your psychology. If you don’t make your payments on time, you’re penalized harshly. Your credit scores are trashed, and that limits your options in terms of being able to rent an apartment or secure a job. The stakes are enormously high. In some places, if you default on your student loans, your license can be taken away so you can’t even do your job. All of this forces us to think very narrowly about education. When you’re enrolling in college, and you’re taking on a vast sum of debt, it changes the way you think about what you need to do. It makes you think about the need to get a return on investment. That’s the disciplining function. If you’re young and want to think about how best you can contribute to society, if you want some time to pursue your curiosities, you think, “Well, damn, I can’t do that because I have to be pragmatic and pay all this debt back.” This distorts the whole framework for education. You go to school knowing you have to take on a bunch of debt and you shape your education around the singular goal of being able to pay it back. Ronald Reagan famously said that the state shouldn’t be in the business of subsidizing curiosity, so then the question is, “Well, what should the state be in the business of?” And right now, it’s in the business of lending to students so that they can then have a chance at social mobility. But that compact has totally broken down. That myth was sold to us for decades and it has collapsed. Sean Illing You’re calling for “economic disobedience.” What does that mean? Astra Taylor I come from the tradition that sees social change as a struggle. It would be wonderful if we lived in a political reality where we just had to make the best arguments and propose rational policies. I think there’s a very persuasive argument for education as a public good, for health care as a public good. But that’s not the way politics works. It’s not actually just about persuasion and deliberation. It’s about power. Debt has become a disciplinary form of power. Over the last few decades, as debt has exploded, it has disempowered people. Every time we sign a lending contract, it feels like an individual act, but that obscures the fact that it’s part of a broader social and economic phenomenon. We tend to see poverty and debt as personal failings, but it’s really the product of failed policies. We say in our book Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay that “The problem isn’t that we’re living beyond our means. We’re denied the means to live.” You’re in debt because your wages don’t cover your daily needs. You’re in debt because what you’re offered is student loans and not public education. The reason you have to put medical bills on your credit card is because there isn’t universal health care. So under these conditions, we think it’s justified for debtors to push back and to revolt. And so economic disobedience is a way of saying, “We have to push back, just like civil disobedience pushes back against immoral laws. Civil disobedience is about doing an accounting and saying, “This might be the law, but to enact my values, I might have to break it.” Sean Illing Biden has suggested forgiving up to $10,000 of student loan debt per borrower, which would eliminate the burden for roughly a third of borrowers. That’s a good start, right? Astra Taylor No. Sean Illing Really? Astra Taylor That was Biden’s promise, and it’s important to acknowledge that he never would have promised anything if debtors hadn’t been organizing for the last 10 years around this. Because Joe Biden is someone who was in the opposite camp. He’s someone who famously pushed to eliminate what limited bankruptcy protections student borrowers had around private loans. So Biden campaigned on the immediate cancellation of a minimum of $10,000. And that was for everyone, for any borrower, across the board. Then he also promised the cancellation of all undergraduate student debt for people who went to public colleges, HBCUs, and other things. But he hasn’t done these things. And he actually has the power to do it. But $10,000 is woefully inadequate because the average Black borrower owes over $50,000 in debt four years after graduation [and that was 2016 data, so things have likely gotten worse]. The average student debtor graduates with around $30,000, and it goes up every year. So for a lot of people, many of whom have six figures [in debt], $10,000 is a drop in the bucket. It just won’t make a material difference in their lives. And I think the question of justice comes in when we say, “Well, what is just about leaving the rest of this debt?” And instead of accepting the burden of rationalizing eliminating it, I ask, “What’s the rationalization for leaving it there?” Sean Illing Does Biden actually have the power to do this unilaterally? Astra Taylor Student debt forgiveness is something that the Biden administration has the executive authority to do. So it’s not like it’s some extraconstitutional overreach. This is authority granted thanks to the Higher Education Act of 1965. Congress granted the Secretary of Education the ability to cancel student debt. But it’s obviously one of these executive moves that you can’t undo once it’s done. Sean Illing I’m trying to see this from the perspective of someone who spent years paying down their debt, or someone who wanted to go to college but decided against it precisely because they didn’t want to take on the debt. These aren’t necessarily arguments against doing it, but it is part of the political calculus, right? Astra Taylor Yeah, but I think a lot of these concerns are raised in bad faith. They’re raised by people who work for conservative think tanks quite often. And they pretend to be suddenly concerned about equity and whether student debt cancellation disproportionately benefits the privileged. My main response to these concerns is that they still think of the problem in terms of the individual, which is how debt trains us to think. We sign a loan contract and then we’re responsible for paying it back. But there are broader social benefits to canceling student debt. Some of the money now going to the federal government would instead circulate in the broader economy. It would allow people to improve their economic circumstances, to take more risks and be more entrepreneurial. It would also go a long way in closing the racial wealth gap. Lastly, I will say that student debt cancellation is very popular across the political spectrum because it impacts people across the political spectrum. It’s one of those things where I can imagine a world where you would lead with that, where you would lead with the social good, where you would lead with the fact that it’s popular even with Republicans, and articulating those broad social benefits. Sean Illing But not all of those arguments are bad faith, right? The main objection I hear, even from people who are sympathetic to the idea of debt cancellation, is that it’s economically regressive, not progressive, because higher-income people — college graduates — would benefit disproportionately. Astra Taylor Student debt cancellation isn’t the end-all and be-all. It’s one policy among many. If we care about targeting relief, then you don’t do it through student debt cancellation. You do it by taxing income and wealth. This is one of those things where it kind of breaks your brain. It shouldn’t even be a debate. Let people go to college for free and earn what they earn, and let’s try to create justice in that, in terms of access to college if people want to go. But then let’s tax people, tax their income, and use that money to fund public services. And I also believe that you don’t make good jobs by making more college graduates. So let’s improve the jobs that exist so that you don’t have to get a college degree to earn a living wage and have a dignified life. The people who are making the arguments that student debt is regressive are fixated on targeting, “Well, who gets this Pell Grant? And who will get this tiny amount of debt cancellation?” because they’re not coming from a broader framework devoted to distributing wealth more equally. That’s what I mean by bad faith. And we can’t make this point enough: student debt is regressive. Student debt cancellation is not regressive. Student debt is regressive because if your parents have the means, they pay for you to go to college. As AOC famously said, “The children of millionaires and billionaires do not take on student debt to go to school.” And that is absolutely true. Sean Illing If only to grease the political tracks, do you think we’ll need some kind of reparations for people who already paid their student debts? Astra Taylor If that was on the table as part of a deal for debt forgiveness, sure! I’d just say that that’s not how we approach other forms of social progress. For example, it’s tragic that some people didn’t have access to the Covid-19 vaccine. But we cheer the fact that other people will have access to it, right? Hopefully people will see that they’ll benefit because perhaps their children, or their loved ones, or their friends, will be able to pursue higher education without the weight of these debts. I’d also stress again that this isn’t the only policy. The federal government can erase any debts it’s owed. So it could erase debts for farmers. It could erase debts for veterans who go to its hospitals. This should be coupled with all sorts of policies that aim to reap the benefits of a debt jubilee. Erasing student debt would make a lot of people’s lives a lot better and hopefully set the stage for the deeper fight. It’s part of the pathway to where we need to be, but it’s not the whole piece. Sean Illing So what’s the real goal of debt forgiveness in your mind? To liberate indebted individuals? To boost the economy? To close the wealth gap? To make our democracy more democratic? Astra Taylor All of the above. The Debt Collective is not just a student debt organization. We are trying to open a new avenue in the fight against inequality. So just like the labor movement organized people on the wage gap, we see a complementary motive organizing around indebtedness, where people can connect their personal struggles to the lack of public goods and make demands of the state, and to collectively push for debt cancellation. To your specific question about college, pushing for free college has a double meaning for me. It should be free in the sense that it doesn’t cost anything, but it should also be free in the sense that it frees people to pursue the things they’re interested in and to become whole citizens. In other words, contra Reagan, the state should be in the business of subsidizing curiosity because that is good for society. That’s good for democracy. And it’s worth fighting for.
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