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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Resigns

(The Center Square) – Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey is resigning as CEO, effective immediately, according to a statement he released Monday.

He said Parag Agrawal, chief technology officer, will assume the role of CEO.

"I've decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders," Dorsey said. "My trust in Parag as Twitter's CEO is deep. His work over the past 10 years has been transformational. I'm deeply grateful for his skill, heart and soul. It's his time to lead."

Twitter became profitable under Dorsey's leadership but was widely criticized for censoring content it deemed misleading or objectionable, including suspending the accounts of some conservative voices, including former President Donald Trump's.

RISE: Federal Taxpayers Fund Millions for CRT Training Program that Pays Students $5,000

(The Center Square) – Federal grant records show the U.S. Department of Education has awarded millions of taxpayer dollars to fund critical race theory training for future educators at several colleges across the country.

In 2016 under the Obama administration, the federal government awarded its first five-year grant of $1,116,895 to North Carolina Central University (NCCU) for “training” college students in critical race theory.

The program is called, “The Research Institute for Scholars of Equity," or RISE. RISE promises to produce “a cadre of scholars who value and advance equity.” As part of the program, these students receive a $5,000 stipend, money for food and housing, and a travel allowance. According to promotional materials and grant documents, RISE students are trained to use critical race theory as a means of evaluating teacher quality, among other things.

NCCU partnered with the University of North Carolina, Wilmington on the project, which provided one-year fellowships to about 60 students.

While some of the students will likely go on to be teachers, the program also puts an emphasis on training students with "research careers that will inform policy and practice in education" on a broader scale, helping propel critical race theory conversations nationwide.

"This is an example of federal funding for CRT at the post secondary level that also has an impact on K-12 schools based on the goals and activities of the fellowship," said Jonathan Butcher, an education expert at the Heritage Foundation. "This directly exposes the claims that CRT is not used in K-12 schools as false."

Butcher went on to add that "the grant clearly has goals for teacher training that include instruction in CRT."

The program is part of a collaborative effort with other higher education institutions around the country. Various schools have been involved over the years, including Penn State, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Duke University, University of Pittsburgh, University of South Carolina, University of New Mexico, and the New School for Social Research. Though RISE remained based out of NCUU, the program allowed certain “students and faculty mentors from collaborating institutions” to receive training in critical race theory, according to the federal grant.

"Given the prevalence of CRT in K-12 curriculum elsewhere in the country, lawmakers and the media should identify examples of this racially discriminatory teaching and reject the application of such racial obsessions in classroom work," Butcher said.

The principal investigator for the RISE program, NCCU faculty member Wynetta Lee, was approved under the Biden administration for another five-year grant of $1,533,384 in July of this year, putting her over $2.6 million in taxpayer dollars for the program. For this second grant, RISE 2.0, Pennsylvania State University has partnered with Lee.

Lee did not respond to questions about RISE, its students, and the role of critical race theory in her program.

The more recent 2021 grant document does not include the term “critical race theory” in the “Research Institute for Scholars of Equity (RISE) 2.0” grant, though in all other respects it appears to be a continuation of the same work. The slight change in the 2021 grant omits mention of the exact phrase "critical race theory" but is almost identical in all other respects.

From the 2016 grant:

“One core feature of the fellowship is the eight-week summer research institute in which fellows will be introduced to critical race theory (as well as mixed-methods research techniques) as a means of studying issues such as teacher quality, education policy, and race and social justice in education,” the 2016 grant reads. “In addition to coursework, fellows will conduct several short research projects and begin conducting research related to the RISE theme as part of research interest groups (RIGs) under the supervision of their faculty mentors. Fellows will continue to conduct research through their RIGs during the academic year.”

The 2021 grant has the same wording but omits "critical race theory."

From the 2021 grant:

“One core feature of the fellowship is the 8-week summer research institute in which fellows will be introduced to mixed-methods research techniques as a means of studying issues such as teacher quality, education policy, and race and social justice in education,” the grant reads.

Lee did not respond to a question asking whether she removed the term because of recent controversy surrounding it.

Despite the latest grant’s omission of the term “critical race theory,” the group’s website makes clear that is still its focus.

North Carolina Central University touts the RISE program on its website, boasting that it is training young leaders in CRT to send them out to mold education policy for the nation, or as the school puts it, “to grant them a seat at the policy table.”

From NCCU’s website:

“RISE employs Critical Race Theory (CRT) (Bell, 1970; Delgado & Stefanic; 2001), a conceptual, analytical and interpretative framework compatible with developing cultural competence among interdisciplinary teams of future researchers. CRT is a lens for examining policies that impair social equity and advances understanding of the broader context of American schooling and the diverse experiences of students, families and teachers. CRT offers methodological tools that can disrupt discourses that impact communities of color: the counter-narrative (Milner & Howard, 2013) and cultural wealth analysis (Yosso, 2005). RISE mobilizes its recruitment efforts to include Underrepresented Minorities (URMs) to swell the number of URMs who are well-trained individuals such that they can pursue careers that grant them a place at the table in the policy arena.”

The two federal grants operate under the U.S. Department of Education’s Pathways to the Education Sciences Research Training program, which is tasked with helping “talented education researchers who bring fresh ideas, approaches, and perspectives to addressing the issues and challenges faced by the nation's diverse students and schools.”

A flyer on the University of New Mexico’s website advertises the summer of 2020 program, calling it a “Paid Virtual RISE Summer Research Experience in Critical Race Theory & Education for Undergraduate Students.”

Penn State touted its partnership on the 2021, 2.0 version of the RISE program which includes teaching on "critical theoretical frameworks." The program is “designed to improve the schooling experiences and academic attainment of pre-kindergarten through university-level African American and Latino/a students.”

The grant comes amid a national debate over the merits of critical race theory and its role in the K-12 education system. A proposal to ban federal funding of critical race theory has taken center stage in Congress, where senators duked it out over an amendment that would do just that as part of Biden’s reconciliation spending.

Whether that bill gets across the finish line with the controversial CRT measure intact remains to be seen.

Federal Appeals Court Tells Biden to Stop Implementation of Private Sector Vaccine Mandate

(The Center Square) – A federal appeals court late Friday ordered the Biden administration to stop implementation of its private sector vaccine mandate until multiple legal challenges work their way through the court system.

The ruling, from the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, comes in response specifically to a case from a Louisiana businessman, but dozens of lawsuits been filed by coalitions of states, business groups and individuals challenging President Joe Biden's orders requiring American workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, agree to regular testing or lose their jobs.

"The Fifth Circuit's decision to put a stop to the Biden Administration's illegal vaccine mandate is a huge win for liberty and cements the reality that this mandate is an overreach by the federal government that would cause irreversible damage to American businesses and workers," Sarah Harbison, general counsel at the Louisiana-based Pelican Institute for Public Policy, said in a statement.

The Pelican Institute and Chicago-based Liberty Justice Center are representing businessman Brandon Trosclair, who owns 15 grocery stores in Louisiana and Mississippi, employing nearly 500 people.

Under Biden's direction, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last week released details of the vaccine mandate, which seeks to require private employers with 100 or more workers to provide proof they are vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing. The mandate, which could affect an estimated 74 million American workers, includes a Jan. 4 deadline for vaccination.

The policy also would impose nearly $14,000 in fines per employee if businesses are caught letting their workers skirt the mandate.

"Today’s ruling marks a tremendous success because the court recognizes how this mandate would impair our liberty and infringe on our constitutional rights," Trosclair said in a statement provided by Liberty Justice Center. "I am proud to be in this fight on behalf of not just my employees, but all Americans. It's wrong for the federal government to order me to interfere in the private medical decisions of my team members or to impose insurmountable costs on my businesses."

The Fifth Circuit last Saturday issued a temporary stay on the private sector vaccine mandate, citing "grave" constitutional concerns. In it's Friday's ruling, a three judge panel of the court added to its concerns.

“The Mandate threatens to substantially burden the liberty interests of reluctant individual recipients put to a choice between their job(s) and their jab(s)," the panel wrote.

The court also said "occupational safety administrations do not make health policy” and it ordered that the private sector mandate "remains stayed pending adequate judicial review of the petitioners’ underlying motions for a permanent injunction. In addition, it is further ordered that OSHA take no steps to implement or enforce the Mandate until further court order.”

Other lawsuits also are pending.

An 11-state coalition consisting of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming filed a lawsuit last week in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals against OSHA.

A similar lawsuit was filed in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by the attorneys general of Tennessee, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma and West Virginia.

Georgia, Florida, and Alabama have also filed a lawsuit in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals arguing the new rules exceed the Department of Labor’s “statutory authority, fails to comply with the standards for issuing an [Emergency Temporary Standard], and conflicts with the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

Other lawsuits also are pending against the Biden administration's vaccine mandates on health care workers and members of the U.S. military.

Federal Court Temporarily Halts Biden’s Private Sector Vaccine Mandate Over ‘Grave’ Constitutional Issues

(The Center Square) – The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Saturday temporarily halted the Biden administration's vaccine mandate on private sector businesses with 100 employers or more, citing "grave" constitutional issues.

Ruling on lawsuits filed by Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as a Louisiana businessman seeking to prevent the mandate from taking effect, the appeals court issued a stay over constitutional questions.

"Because the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate, the Mandate is hereby stayed pending further action by the court," the ruling reads.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) this week released details of the vaccine mandate, which until Saturday's ruling required private employers with 100 or more workers to mandate vaccinations or weekly testing. The mandate, which could affect an estimated 100 million American workers, includes a Jan. 4 deadline for vaccination.

The policy also imposes nearly $14,000 in fines per employee if businesses are caught letting their workers skirt the mandate. "Willful violations” could result in fines up to $136,000.

Republican-led states filed multiple lawsuits on Friday challenging the mandate's legality. Louisiana businessman Brandon Trosclair, with assistance from the Liberty Justice Center, a public interest law firm, and the New Orleans-based Pelican Institute for Public Policy, also filed suit.

Trosclair employs nearly 500 people across 15 grocery stores in Louisiana and Mississippi. Under the mandate, he would be forced to fire unvaccinated workers who do not comply with the strict federal rules.

"This is an incredible first victory for all Americans that the Fifth Circuit so quickly realized that the Biden employer vaccine mandate would cause great harm to businesses like mine," Trosclair said in a statement provided by Liberty Justice Center and the Pelican Institute. "As the legal process continues, I look forward to sharing more of my story. This stay is a great first step by the court."

Other lawsuits are pending.

An 11-state coalition consisting of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming filed a lawsuit Friday in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals against OSHA.

A similar lawsuit was filed in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by the attorneys general of Tennessee, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma and West Virginia.

Georgia, Florida, and Alabama have also filed a lawsuit in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals arguing the new rules exceed the Department of Labor’s “statutory authority, fails to comply with the standards for issuing an [Emergency Temporary Standard], and conflicts with the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

The Fifth Circuit in New Orleans was the first to issue a ruling.

"I am confident that the courts will see this mandate for what it truly is: An attempt to make laws while bypassing Congress,” Sarah Harbison, general counsel at the Pelican Institute, said in a statement.

Op-Ed: At Youngkin HQ, a Hat Tip to Harnessed Parent Anger

As the vote tally began racking up Tuesday night, Glenn Youngkin was clearly overperforming in key suburban areas, and conservatives were applauding his decision to lean into culture-war issues in the final months of the campaign. At the candidate’s victory party at a Marriott hotel in this leafy Loudoun County suburb, supporters waved a variety of pro-Youngkin signs, each representing a different voting bloc: business owners, farmers, veterans and Latinos. One stood out: Parents for Youngkin.

After the economy, voters said education was the most important issue facing the state, and Youngkin led McAuliffe on those two issues by double digits, according to exit polls.

In his victory speech delivered shortly after 1 a.m., Youngkin promised to “restore excellence” in the commonwealth’s school system and institute “school choice.”

“We’re going to embrace our parents, not ignore them,” he pledged.

Some of his fiercest supporters were clearly elated after months of fighting school boards on their policies at public meetings and in the media.

“Get your hands off our cubs,” Asra Nomani, vice president of Parents Defending Education, self-declared “Mama Bear” and former Wall Street Journal columnist, told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham Tuesday night. “We are not going to allow you to claim our babies – none of this nonsense is going to be acceptable anymore.”

Some savvy members of the opposition saw this coming. Just a few months ago, veteran Democratic campaign consultant James Carville had a blunt warning for his party: “Wokeness is a problem, and we all know it.”

Democrats are in control in Washington for now, he said, but last year they only narrowly defeated Donald Trump, whom Carville dismissed as a “world-historical buffoon,” and his party also lost congressional seats and failed to pick up state legislatures. The reason was simple: National Democrats’ messaging is out of sync with most voters, he stressed in a desperate and prescient attempt to set the party’s communications strategy on a new course.

But the now-failed Terry McAullife campaign for Virginia governor wasn’t listening, even when Youngkin, a political newcomer, was surging in the final weeks.

A national Democratic political operative who once wrestled an alligator as a fundraising stunt and served a previous stint as Virginia governor from 2014 to 2018, McAuliffe misread the voters and the issues, repeatedly alienating parents fed up with the liberal hold on local school boards. Extended school lockdowns during COVID awakened mama and papa bears across the country opposed to union control of many local school boards. That concern snowballed this year as parents voiced their opposition to the far-left education agenda, including allowing biological male athletes to compete in girls’ sports as well as curricula focused on racial divisions and influenced by critical race theory.

McAuliffe was still tone-deaf when it came to these hot-button education issues, saying that parents shouldn’t tell schools what to teach in a debate with Youngkin. Later, he claimed everyone in the hall that night clapped when he said it.

On the final day of the campaign, the former Democratic National Committee chairman was so convinced he was on the right side of the issue, he invited Randi Weingarten, the divisive head of the American Federation of Teachers, to stump for him. Weingarten is a favorite target of Republicans, who mock her as the “union boss responsible for shutting down schools” during COVID.

As a win looked more likely throughout the night, prominent Republicans and conservative leaders said leftist policies and President Biden’s declining popularity are to blame and called it a bad sign for Democrats in next fall’s crucial midterm elections, which will determine control of Congress.

“People are reacting to the radicalism of the Democratic Party in Washington, and a lot of Democrats are voting for [Youngkin] because they want to reject that,” former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, a Republican, told RealClearPolitics. “They’re most concerned about the grocery tax, education, safety in our schools and attempts to indoctrinate in our schools.”

Gilmore predicted that the Youngkin win would help Republicans wrest back control of at least two Democrat-held House seats in Virginia next fall.

Rep. Jim Banks, a Republican from Indiana who chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee, issued a statement Tuesday night urging the GOP to nationalize the education fight and become “the party of parents. … The concerns of parents need to be a tier-one policy issue for Republicans.”

Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America, a conservative policy offshoot of the Heritage Foundation, argued that the Youngkin victory shows the power of “kitchen-table issues.”

“When parents say how lockdowns & woke policies hurt their children, they stepped up,” she tweeted. “This movements is real and not going away. Elected officials across the country should take note.”

Many Republican elected officials already have done so. Rep. Rob Wittman, a Virginia Republican whose district stretches from the Washington suburbs to the Hampton Roads area, argued that Democrats and their teacher union allies overplayed their hand. The National School Board Association letter to Biden that likened parents to “domestic terrorists” dramatically backfired on the group and McAuliffe, even after they apologized for the offensive language, he said.

“[Youngkin’s win] elevates the issue as it relates to parents wanting to be involved in their children’s education,” Wittman told RCP Tuesday night. “We have parents that have gone from not knowing who is on their school board to serving on it. The message from parents is ‘I want schools to teach my children how to think, not what to think.’”

In the campaign’s homestretch, McAuliffe escalated his attacks on Youngkin, accusing his campaign of using “racist dog whistles” by vowing to ban critical race theory if elected – all as a defense over his own ill-considered remark that parents shouldn’t be telling schools what they should teach.

The Democratic nominee never acknowledged a separate, discordant element undermining charges of racism against Virginia Republicans. Winsome Sears, a black Marine veteran and the Republican, won the lieutenant governor race in a GOP sweep that included Jason Miyares, a Cuban American, as attorney general. Sears will be the first woman and first minority to hold the state’s second highest office.

“I didn’t run to make history. I just wanted to leave it better than I found it,” she told the crowd Tuesday night at the Youngkin victory party. “Hold on, Virginia, help is on the way. The cavalry has arrived.”

Before any votes were tallied, the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in the nation, on Tuesday afternoon labeled Youngkin a right-wing “extremist” on “anti-equality” issues because of his opposition to gay marriage and what it characterized as “anti-transgender misinformation” from his campaign. HRC said it invested an unprecedented six-figure sum to turn out Virginia voters sympathetic to its cause and wrongly predicted Youngkin’s strategy would be a “losing” one that would also place him “on the wrong side of history.”

Youngkin’s supporters countered that he won because he didn’t shy away from the tough issues and was willing to take the conservative stands that most parents support.

“He was the better candidate, and he was talking about issues that matter to me – the vaccine mandates and the mask-wearing, especially for small children … and school choice, the [tax] money should follow the child,” Todd Hampton, a Black man who works in the Virginia public school system, said in an interview. “If the school is failing, parents should be able to put their kids in private schools.”

By late Tuesday night, Youngkin was cruising to a comfortable three-point victory and social conservatives were crowing.

Terry Schilling, the president of the conservative American Principles Project, which spent nearly $1 million supporting Youngkin in the race, predicted that his victory would help propel conservative candidates next year even more than the pocketbook issues that spawned the Tea Party movement in 2009.

“We’re looking at heading into the midterms with an incredible amount of momentum for conservatives … because people are upset not only about what’s happening to their pocketbooks, to their taxes, to their businesses, but to their children,” he said.

Children COVID Vaccinations: White House Announces Rollout Plan for Ages 5-11

(The Center Square) – The White House announced Wednesday new plans for the “potential authorization” of COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5-11, saying they have enough vaccinations ready and waiting for the federal approval.

The White House prep suggests they expect favorable federal approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) despite hesitation from health officials earlier this year.

“We expect the FDA and CDC’s decision on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 through 11 in the next couple of weeks,” White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said during a White House teleconference Wednesday. “First, on supply: We have secured vaccine supply to vaccinate every child ages 5 through 11. And as soon as the vaccine is authorized by the FDA, we will begin shipping millions of doses nationwide.”

Pfizer submitted the trial data and asked for FDA authorization in early October. The FDA Advisory Committee is expected to meet next week followed by a CDC Advisory Committee recommendation, expected in early November. These timelines are subject to change, and no official approval has been announced.

“The start of a vaccination program for children ages 5-11 will depend on the independent FDA and CDC process and timeline, but our planning efforts mean that we will be ready to begin getting shots in arms in the days following a final CDC recommendation,” the White House said. “These steps will be critical in ensuring that we are staying ahead of the virus by keeping kids and families safe, especially those at highest risk.”

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said her agency would still recommend masks for vaccinated students in schools.

Child vaccination has raised questions from critics who argue the vaccination needs more testing and is not worth the risk because COVID-19 infections for children are almost never fatal. Mask and vaccine mandates in schools around the country have become a divisive issue with little end in sight.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said the administration will help coordinate a nationwide campaign to address these concerns and help get health care providers, schools, and parents onboard with the vaccination efforts.

“We’re preparing a national public education campaign that will meet parents where they are with the information about the vaccines,” Murthy said. “We will work with schools to send letters home to parents who will convene doctors and health clinics and support them in delivering vaccinations as soon as they have conversations with families.”

Colin Powell Dies at 84 After COVID Complications

(The Center Square) – Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, 84, has died after complications from COVID-19.

Powell’s family issued a statement Monday announcing his passing and thanking others for their support.

"We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment,” Powell’s family said in the statement, adding that he had been fully vaccinated. “We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American."

Powell served as Secretary of State in former President George W. Bush’s administration, helping it through the response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the following wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Colin Powell. He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam,” Bush said. “He was such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. Laura and I send Alma and their children our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man.”

Before his time as the first Black secretary of state, Powell served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just one of many distinguished positions he held in his career. According to NBC News, Powell also had myeloma, a type of blood cancer.

“God Bless Colin Powell and his family today,” said former Navy Seal Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas. “May this exemplary public servant Rest In Peace.”

Gas Prices Reach New Heights As Biden Considers More Energy Producer Regulations

(The Center Square) – Gas prices nationwide have skyrocketed even as the Biden administration considers new energy regulations, raising questions about the energy markets and the federal government’s role in protecting consumer costs.

In Manhattan, gas prices have hit nearly $5 per gallon, while more than 40 states are experiencing gas prices over $3 per gallon. GasBuddy reports the national average for gasoline is at $3.25 per gallon, well above the prices the same time last year.

Prices have risen nearly eight cents in the last month alone.

“Now in a single day, American drivers are paying over $400 million more for gas than they were last year,” the company said.

The Biden administration has been mulling additional oil and gas methane emissions regulations that would hit producers, and the states that rely on their tax revenue, particularly hard.

Industry insiders have laid the blame for rising energy costs at the feet of President Joe Biden, citing increased regulations.

“High gas prices are the direct result of supply and demand,” said Daniel Turner, executive director of the energy workers advocacy group, Power the Future. “The Biden administration made the supply the direct target of their assaults from the very first moments after his inauguration when he targeted the Keystone Pipeline. Since then, multiple regulations on fracking and land use, a weaponized EPA and Department of Interior, have all punished the production of fossil fuels. As a result, oil, gas, and coal, have all doubled in price.”

Among his first acts after being sworn in, Biden revoked federal permits for the Keystone Pipeline. The 1,700-mile pipeline was to span six U.S. states and carry about 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta, Canada, to the Texas Gulf Coast, creating more than 10,000 U.S. jobs.

Others say COVID-19 hangups have contributed to the rise in energy costs as well.

Gas prices affect other consumer costs as well, making other goods more expensive, including food, the price of which has risen significantly this year. Transporting goods to market relies heavily on oil and gas, and when those costs rise, most goods become more expensive.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in September that the energy index rose 25% in the previous 12 months while the food index increased 3.7%.

“The high costs of fossil fuels are passed on to consumers,” Turner said. “That’s why gas is so expensive at the pump, but also durable goods, food, electricity, clothing. Expensive energy produces more expensive goods, and punishing the energy industry results in a de facto tax on America’s middle and working class who pays more just to live.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the president’s role in the prices earlier this month, saying the White House was monitoring the situation, talking with OPEC and had taken steps to address it. She went on to say that climate change issues are more important.

“Certainly, we all want to keep gasoline prices low, but the threat of the crisis – the climate crisis – certainly can’t wait any longer,” she said.

Republicans have leveraged the heightened energy costs against Democrats. In many states, energy production jobs rank as a top campaign issue.

“Remember when Biden cancelled the Keystone pipeline on his first day?” said Ronna McDaniel, Chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. “Now Americans are paying the highest gas prices since 2014.”

Biden Revamps Student Loan Forgiveness Program after Media Exposé

(The Center Square) – A federal student loan forgiveness program aimed at helping out public servants is getting an overhaul after media reports exposed major problems with the program.

The U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday that the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program will undergo an overhaul to make sure more public servants, including members of the military, receive taxpayers funds to help them repay their debts.

The announcement comes just a few days after media reports, including a CBS “60 Minutes” investigation, showed that military members were frustrated with the program for its complex requirements and complicated approval process that prevented many from receiving the benefits. The program drew national attention when it was reported that 98% of applicants were denied.

"This is an entire system who let down our men and women in uniform," said Seth Frotman, head of the Student Borrower Protection Program.

Congress enacted the program in 2007 as a way to reward those who were public servants for over ten years, but has been marked by bureaucratic difficulties and failure to deliver on its promises.

“This policy will result in 22,000 borrowers who have consolidated loans – including previously ineligible loans – being immediately eligible for $1.74 billion in forgiveness without the need for further action on their part,” the Department of Education said in its announcement. “Another 27,000 borrowers could potentially qualify for an additional $2.82 billion in forgiveness if they certify additional periods of employment. All told, the Department estimates that over 550,000 borrowers who have previously consolidated will see an increase in qualifying payments with the average borrower receiving another two years of progress toward forgiveness.”

The agency said it will streamline the process and lessen requirements for applicants, meaning some previously rejected applicants can now be accepted.

“Many more will also see progress as borrowers consolidate into the Direct Loan program and apply for PSLF, and as the Department rolls out other changes in the weeks and months ahead,” the agency said.

The program revamp comes after the Biden administration announced student debt forgiveness for the disabled earlier this year.

The Department of Education announced in August that 323,000 borrowers who are totally and permanently disabled will see $5.8 billion in student debt “discharge.”

"From day one, I've stressed that the Department of Education is a service agency,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said at the time of the announcement. “We serve students, educators, and families across the country to ensure that educational opportunity is available to all. We've heard loud and clear from borrowers with disabilities and advocates about the need for this change and we are excited to follow through on it. This change reduces red tape with the aim of making processes as simple as possible for borrowers who need support."

This action is one of several regulatory maneuvers Biden’s Department of Education has conducted to relieve student debt even as the president has so far held off on a more sweeping student debt forgiveness advocated for by some Democrats.

“With this TPD action, the Biden-Harris Administration has now approved approximately $8.7 billion in student loan discharges for roughly 455,000 borrowers,” the agency said. “In late March, the Department restored $1.3 billion in loan discharges for 41,000 borrowers who had seen their loans reinstated after not responding to requests for earnings information. Since March 2021, the Department has also approved more than $1.5 billion in discharges through the borrower defense to repayment process for nearly 92,000 borrowers whose institutions took advantage of them. In addition, the Department has extended the pause on student loan repayment, interest, and collections, to January 31, 2022, which helps 41 million borrowers save billions of dollars a month.”

Biden has received heavy pressure from progressives in his own party, including his own Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to take executive action to forgive up to $50,000 in student loan debt per person, a plan that would cost American taxpayers $1 trillion, according to Brookings.

"That sacred promise that if you work hard, if you play by the rules, one day, you're going to make it here in America," Schumer said. "For too many, that dream sadly seems like a fantasy. Students don't need their debts paused – they need it erased."

Republicans Blast FBI for Targeting Outspoken Parents at School Board Meetings

(The Center Square) – A new FBI focus on parents accused of harassing school officials around the country over curriculum and COVID-19 policies is being criticized by Republican lawmakers as government overreach and an attempt to curb speech rights.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Tuesday night that he has directed the FBI to look into parents who have protested at local school board meetings around the country, calling it a "disturbing trend."

Debates over critical race theory, COVID-19 mandates, transgender policies, and other issues have embroiled many local districts in controversy. The tension has led to many raucous school board meetings nationwide.

Garland said in his memorandum that the debates have led to threats of violence against school officials.

But Republicans, in sharp reaction to the news, called the attorney general's response a “dangerous abuse of power.”

“Now Joe Biden is deploying the FBI against parents who have concerns about Critical Race Theory being taught to their children,” U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said. “This is a remarkable and dangerous abuse of power. I just asked the Biden DOJ to name one instance in American history when the FBI has been directed to go after parents attending school board meetings to express their views. There isn’t one. Biden’s latest offensive against parents is shocking, unprecedented and wrong.”

The Department of Justice said it will “launch a series of additional efforts in the coming days designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.”

"Those efforts are expected to include the creation of a task force, consisting of representatives from the department’s Criminal Division, National Security Division, Civil Rights Division, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, the FBI, the Community Relations Service and the Office of Justice Programs, to determine how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute these crimes, and ways to assist state, Tribal, territorial and local law enforcement where threats of violence may not constitute federal crimes,” the DOJ said in a statement. “The Justice Department will also create specialized training and guidance for local school boards and school administrators.”

Other lawmakers have claimed the Biden administration is attempting to silence parents, many of whom are conservative.

“It is outrageous that DOJ leadership thinks it is acceptable to use the FBI to intimidate parents who are concerned about what their children are being taught and are exercising their 1st Amendment rights,” U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., said.

Garland said the FBI investigation is aimed at keeping schools safe.

“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,” Garland said. “Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety.”

Republican lawmakers at the state and federal level vowed to fight against the Biden administration's efforts.

“Attorney General Garland is weaponizing the DOJ by using the FBI to pursue concerned parents and silence them through intimidation,” said Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is considered a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. “Florida will defend the free speech rights of its citizens and will not allow federal agents to squelch dissent.”

Darrell E Brooks Jr - Arraignment Hearing

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