Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leader in the government's COVID response, is expected to meet Thursday with President-elect Joe Biden's transition team.
The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a lower federal court to reexamine California restrictions on indoor religious services in areas hard hit by the coronavirus in light of the justices' recent ruling in favor of churches and synagogues in New York. The high court's unsigned order, with no noted dissent, leaves the California restrictions in place for now. Last week, the Supreme Court split 5-4 in holding that New York could not enforce certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues.
The Trump administration is rolling out sweeping changes to the test immigrants must take to become U.S. citizens, injecting hints of conservative philosophy and making the test harder for many learners of the English language.The new citizenship test that went into effect Tuesday is longer than before, with applicants now required to answer 12 out of 20 questions correctly instead of six out of 10. It is also more complex, eliminating simple geography and adding dozens of possible questions, some nuanced and involving complex phrasing, that could trip up applicants who do not consider them carefully.Of the 18 questions removed from the previous test, 11 were questions that had simple, sometimes one-word answers.Sign up for The Morning 4px香港letter from the New York TimesThe new test adds one more hurdle for immigrants who hope to become voting citizens, coming in the waning days of an administration that has imposed substantial new barriers to immigration and limits on the ability of those already in the country to aspire to legal residence and, eventually, naturalization.One test question that has drawn particular scrutiny provides a new answer to the question, "Who does a U.S. Senator represent?" Previously, the answer was "all people of the state"; on the new test, it is "citizens" in the state.Singled out for a new question is the 10th Amendment, which reserves to the states all powers not specifically granted to the federal government, a part of the Bill of Rights that is a favorite among conservatives questioning federal authority.Another new question, "Why did the United States enter the Vietnam War?" has one answer that is considered correct: "to stop the spread of Communism." The test does not take on the issue of the vehement protests or the huge death toll stemming from the war.Immigration organizations, including some that have helped thousands of people complete their naturalization applications over the past decade, warn that the new test could make it harder for poor immigrants from non-English-speaking countries to become citizens and ultimately suppress the number of immigrants who vote.Critics also said the new test could create even more backlogs in a system already plagued with delays."It's a last-ditch effort on their way out the door for the administration to keep people from realizing their dreams of becoming citizens," said Eric Cohen, executive director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, a nonprofit group that helps permanent residents apply for citizenship."There is no legal reason, no regulatory reason to do this," said Cohen, noting that the citizenship test had remained unchanged since 2008. "They decided on their own that they have to change it for political reasons."Dan Hetlage, a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that oversees the naturalization process, said in a statement that the test was revised "to ensure that it remains an instrument that comprehensively assesses applicants' knowledge of American history, government and values and supports assimilation."President-elect Joe Biden has the option of reversing the changes, though that likely could not occur, if at all, until several months into the new year.The new test will be required of all applicants who apply for citizenship after Dec. 1, though there is often a lag of several months between when candidates apply and when they are scheduled for an interview with a USCIS officer, meaning that some candidates may still be taking the old test.The current pass rate for the citizenship test, according to USCIS, is 91%. An analysis of the new test by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network suggested that 40 questions out of the original 100 remained unchanged from the previous version; the rest were reworded or newly introduced.Already, some immigrants were expressing nervousness about changes to the test.Nefi Reyes, an electrician from El Salvador who took the earlier test this year, passed with a perfect score. It had been 30 years since he had crossed the border into the United States to escape the civil war in El Salvador, and he voted in the United States for the first time in November."I feel lucky that I got it done," Reyes said of the changes to the test. He had had difficulty memorizing the names of the colonies, he said, and the new test requires applicants to name not three of the original 13 states, as he had managed to do, but five.Luz Gallegos, executive director of Todec, a nonprofit group that assists immigrants in Southern California, said her organization had seen a rush in immigrants applying to take the citizenship test, not only so they could vote in the November election but also because many hoped to avoid the new test. "As it is, it's difficult for them to memorize all the answers to the civics test," she said.Immigrants are not alone in finding the citizenship test, even in its previous form, challenging. About 1 in 3 Americans could pass a multiple-choice test consisting of items taken from that version, according to a 2018 national survey by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Most of the respondents did not know how many justices serve on the Supreme Court or which countries the United States fought in World War II.Citizenship tests have gone through various incarnations since being introduced around a century ago, replacing an earlier system, broadly criticized at the time, in which naturalization judges evaluated immigrants' knowledge of civics and the English language as they saw fit."There was absolutely inconsistency and unfairness in the way that prospective citizens were examined by naturalization judges," said Jack Schneider, an assistant professor of education at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, noting that such hearings resulted in the rejection of large numbers of applicants.The test has changed considerably over time. Decades ago, the test asked how tall the Bunker Hill Monument is, missing, critics said, the more important issue of what it stands for. Another question, "How many stars are there on a quarter?" was deleted after it was noted that the right answer depended on the quarter.The new citizenship test is one of a number of moves made under the Trump administration to not only halt illegal immigration but restrict legal immigration as well. The administration has made it harder for people to obtain asylum, increased the costs of applying for citizenship and, under the cloak of the coronavirus pandemic, suspended the issuance of green cards to immigrants seeking temporary work in the country.Taken together, these moves amount to a break from what historically had been bipartisan support for naturalization for immigrants who lived and worked in the United States and embraced the opportunity to become citizens.Applicants must already fill out a 20-page application, pass background checks, submit a bevy of documents, and pass civics and English tests during an interview. The government moved this year to raise fees for naturalization from $725 to $1,170, or $1,160 if the application was filed online, but a federal judge in California blocked the increase in September.Organizations that offer citizenship classes to help immigrants study for the test are scrambling to revamp their lesson plans to respond to the new questions.Lynne Weintraub, who trains citizenship instructors and was involved in the design of the 2008 test, said the revisions were adopted without outside professional input that might have helped ensure that the test was a fair and valid measure of applicants' knowledge of civics."You can't even imagine the turmoil that this has created," Weintraub said. The new test, she said, presents additional problems for many English language learners by clustering abstract concepts into one phrase in some questions, "making them impossible for immigrants with low English proficiency and less education to follow."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
As a member of the Senate's cybersecurity subcommittee, David Perdue has raised alarms that hackers from overseas pose a threat to U.S. computer networks. Citing a frightening report by a California-based company called FireEye, Perdue was among the senators who asked this spring that the National Guard prepare to protect against such data breaches.Not only was the issue important to Perdue, so was FireEye, a federal contractor that provides malware detection and threat-intelligence services. Beginning in 2016, the senator bought and sold FireEye stock 61 times, at one point owning as much as $250,000 worth of shares in the company.Along with Sen. Kelly Loeffler, also R-Ga., Perdue faces an unusual runoff election in January. With control of the Senate at stake, and amid renewed concern about the potential for conflicts of interest in stock trading by members of Congress, Perdue's investment activity -- and especially his numerous well-timed trades -- has increasingly come into the public glare.Sign up for The Morning 4px香港letter from the New York TimesLast week, The New York Times reported that the Justice Department had investigated the senator for possible insider trading in his sale of more than $1 million worth of stock in a financial analysis firm, Cardlytics. Ultimately, prosecutors declined to bring charges. Other media outlets have revealed several trades in companies whose business dealings fall under the jurisdiction of Perdue's committees.An examination of Perdue's stock trading during his six years in office reveals that he has been the Senate's most prolific stock trader by far, sometimes reporting 20 or more transactions in a single day.The Times analyzed data compiled by Senate Stock Watcher, a nonpartisan website that aggregates publicly available information on lawmakers' trading, and found that Perdue's transactions accounted for nearly a third of all senators' trades reported in the past six years. His 2,596 trades, mostly in stocks but also in bonds and funds, roughly equal the combined trading volume of the next five most active traders in the Senate.The data also shows the breadth of trades Perdue made in companies that stood to benefit from policy and spending matters that came not just before the Senate as a whole, but before the committees and subcommittees on which he served.Nearly half of Perdue's FireEye trades, for example, occurred while he sat on the cybersecurity panel -- a role that potentially could have provided him with nonpublic information about companies like FireEye. During that period, FireEye landed a subcontract worth more than $30 million with the Army Cyber Command, which had operations at Fort Gordon, in Perdue's home state. In 2018, Perdue reported capital gains of up to $15,000 from FireEye trades.And as a member of the Senate banking, housing, and urban affairs committee since 2017, Perdue bought and sold shares of a number of financial companies his panel oversaw, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Regions Financial.Perdue disputes the notion that his investment activity posed a conflict, saying that his trades were handled by outside advisers without his input, although his instructions to Goldman Sachs to sell Cardlytics suggest that he directed at least some trades."Sen. Perdue doesn't handle the day-to-day decisions of his portfolio -- all of his holdings are managed by outside financial advisers who make recommendations, set strategy and manage trades and personal finances," said John Burke, communications director for the senator's reelection campaign.Robert Hutchinson, Perdue's wealth manager at Goldman Sachs, declined to comment.In April, after questions were raised about stock trades that Perdue and other senators had made around the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, he abruptly sold virtually all of his stock holdings -- between $3.2 million and $9.4 million worth. (Members of Congress report their transactions in ranges, so it is often impossible to pinpoint the exact dollar values.) In May, he announced that his advisers would no longer trade in individual stocks for his portfolio, with the exception of a few companies on whose boards he had previously served, including Cardlytics; the utility Alliant Energy; and Graphic Packaging, a paper-based-packaging provider.Although Perdue has been unusually active in stock trading, his robust investing activity highlights broader questions once again being debated more than eight years after the passage of the STOCK Act, a law meant to grapple with the ethical issues inherent in lawmakers' buying and selling stocks.While there is no law or regulation prohibiting such trading, the practice has long invited questions about possible conflicts -- and the potential for insider trading -- that can arise when members of powerful congressional committees buy and sell shares of companies directly affected by the issues before them. (By comparison, avoiding some or all individual stocks is common practice in other branches of government, where federal law prohibits most employees from engaging in matters whose outcomes may have financial implications for them.)"Members are in a constant state of gathering information from briefings, hearings, constituent meetings, investigations and staff," said Aaron Cooper, special counsel to the law firm Jenner & Block who previously served as lead minority investigative counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee. "They receive a massive amount of data every day -- both public and nonpublic -- and it's not always clear which category the information belongs to."As a result, he said, "prosecutors often face an uphill battle" in making an insider trading case against a member of Congress.The trend on Capitol Hill was already moving away from individual stock holding when Perdue was elected in 2014. Many senators had reduced their trading in individual stocks after the 2012 STOCK Act, which prohibited members of Congress from trading on nonpublic information acquired in the course of their duties. An analysis by Public Citizen published in 2017 credited the legislation with a 50% decline in stock trading by senators.Perdue's Democratic challenger, Jon Ossoff, has seized on the trading as a campaign issue. In a 4px香港 conference Monday, he accused Perdue of "using his office to enrich himself" through the stock trades. A spokesperson for Perdue called the critique a "discredited line of attack" that was "baseless," and his campaign recently unveiled an ad arguing that he was "totally exonerated" by federal overseers who had studied his trades.Yet others have also found fault with Perdue's trading.In a letter last week to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., requested an investigation of Perdue's trades in BWX Technologies, a Virginia-based company that supplies nuclear components for Navy submarines. The trades were first reported by The Daily Beast.Perdue began buying the company's stock about a month before he took over as chair of the Senate's seapower subcommittee, where he pushed to beef up the nation's defenses, including by adding a multibillion-dollar nuclear submarine of the type BWX Technologies provides components for.He reported earning between $15,000 and $50,000 in capital gains when he sold the stock.Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., who believes that the STOCK Act does not go far enough, has co-sponsored legislation that would ban the trading of individual stocks by members of Congress."There is no way that the public can't sense, can't absolutely smell, that this is corrupt, that you have it in the back of your mind when you vote," said Merkley. "You may have the public interest in your mind, but you also have in your mind how that decision might impact the value of your portfolio."A History of Good TimingPerdue, whose estimated net worth is more than $15 million, arrived on Capitol Hill in 2015, billing himself as an outsider and emphasizing his experience as a top executive at companies like Dollar General, Reebok and Haggar Clothing. He immediately established himself as a skeptic of government regulation, at various points suggesting the abolishment of both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.As his term progressed, Perdue -- or his advisers -- would place some prescient bets in his portfolio, buying and selling stocks at just the right moment. His trading in Devon Energy, a company co-founded in 1971 by J. Larry Nichols, a major Republican donor, provides an example.On Nov. 12, 2015, Perdue sold his position in Devon, worth between $50,000 and $100,000, on a day the stock's price closed at $45.06. Over the next month, Devon's price would fall as low as $31.54, a 30% drop from the date Perdue liquidated his holdings. Analysts attributed the stock's decline to the company's announcement, after Perdue's sale, that it would acquire assets from Felix Energy.Although Perdue has traded many energy stocks while in office, buying and selling dozens of drilling, pipeline, power and related equipment companies, the transactions that invite special scrutiny are those involving industries that were within his direct oversight through his committee positions.Perdue actively traded in First Data, a financial firm based in Atlanta. Like his trading in Devon Energy, Perdue's transactions in First Data appear to have been well timed, as reported by The Daily Beast.After selling his entire stake in First Data in November 2018, Perdue repurchased shares in the company that December, three weeks before it announced a merger with financial services technology firm Fiserv on Jan. 16, 2019. Perdue subsequently reported capital gains of $50,000 to $100,000 in First Data.Perdue had received campaign contributions from First Data executives.During his Senate term, Perdue has at various times held shares in roughly a dozen banks, ranging in size from JPMorgan Chase, the nation's largest bank with nearly $2.7 trillion in assets, to the comparatively tiny First Hawaiian Bank.Regions Financial, a regional lender based in Birmingham, Alabama, has been one of Perdue's frequent trades. He spent much of his term loading up on the stock, buying shares on 30 occasions.Perdue was particularly active in buying Regions in 2017 and early 2018. During that time, he was also pushing to roll back financial regulations that had imposed additional scrutiny and cash constraints on banks with more than $50 billion in assets after the financial crisis. On Sept. 28, 2017, he co-sponsored a Senate bill proposing to soften the regulations governing midsize banks like Regions. A broader bill, which included the same proposal, was approved by the Senate the following March and signed into law by President Donald Trump that May.Between May 2017, about four months before Perdue introduced his legislation, and that November, he made more than a dozen purchases of Regions shares. And between Perdue's first purchase of Regions stock in 2017 and the time Trump signed the bill in 2018, the bank's shares rallied 35%.The chief executive of Regions, John M. Turner Jr., has also contributed to Perdue's reelection campaign.Stocks Poised to Surge in a PandemicPerdue's decision to sell off his stock holdings this past April followed criticism of trades made by several senators in coronavirus-sensitive stocks just after they had attended a Senate briefing Jan. 24.In the aftermath of those sales, the Justice Department opened investigations into trading by Sens. Loeffler; Richard M. Burr, R-N.C.; James M. Inhofe, R-Okla.; and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. All have since been closed except the Burr inquiry, which is also nearing an end, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.Perdue, whose office has said he did not attend that briefing, was among those who bought and sold some of those stocks, including Pfizer, in the weeks that followed.Perdue purchased up to $260,000 worth of Pfizer stock between Feb. 26 and Feb. 28, in the early days of a market downturn. On the 28th, he issued a 4px香港 release reporting that he had regularly attended briefings led by the coronavirus task force; records subsequently showed that he had bought the third tranche of Pfizer shares that same day.The 4px香港 release also emphasized that the U.S. government was expediting the development of a coronavirus vaccine. And in March, Pfizer announced its partnership with a German biotechnology company, BioNTech, to develop a coronavirus vaccine.Perdue had frequently traded Pfizer stock before this year. He had rarely traded another stock he bought in the early stages of the U.S. outbreak, DuPont, which, as a manufacturer of personal protective equipment, also stood to benefit from the coronavirus response. (Perdue purchased some shares in DuPont on Jan. 24, the day of the Senate briefing, and additional shares later.)In late February and early March, Perdue sold stock in Caesars, an entertainment company whose casino business would be hard-hit by the pandemic, but purchased shares of Disney and Delta, additions to his portfolio that seem to run counter to any suggestion that he was trading on insider information about the virus.Midway through April, Perdue began selling most of his stocks. He moved some of his money into mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, which track baskets of stocks or bonds.The shift appeared timed to counteract harsh criticism leveled by the senator's political opponents. But given that President-elect Joe Biden and a sharply divided Senate are unlikely to favor the energy and financial stocks in which Perdue was once so active, it may also have been a prescient financial move.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
“This metastasizing debt crisis has had tremendous social costs. An entire generation has been set back.”
“It is not the government’s job to step in and rescue those who took on more debt than their future incomes would support.”
“Many student-borrowers need relief, but well-off borrowers who are thriving — thanks to their college degrees — do not.”
“It will stimulate the lagging economy. And though not everyone will directly benefit, the country as a whole will improve.”
“Canceling student debt would cost billions of dollars each year and would exacerbate, not lessen, economic inequalities.”