Saturday, May 18

This Week: February 23

Photo credit: Helen Quach

The death of Russian opposition figure, Alexei Navalny. Student debt forgiveness. Podcasts contributors Zoë Bordes and Ashley Tsao discuss these stories and more with Podcasts editor Jack Garland. News editor Catherine Hamilton joins the show to discuss a USAC resolution.

Jack Garland: Today is Friday, February 23. And you’re listening to “This Week” by Daily Bruin Podcasts.

“This Week” is the Daily Bruin’s weekly news podcast for college students. I’m Jack Garland, and I’m the Podcasts editor and the host, and today I’m joined by Zoë Bordes and Ashley Tsao, two Podcasts contributors. And later in the episode, we’re joined by the Daily Bruin News editor, Catherine Hamilton. So, Zoë, you’re working on some Daily Bruin content right now. Could you tell the listeners, give them a little preview, about what you’re working on?

Zoë Bordes: Yeah, so right now I’m currently working on a miniseries on online extremism. So just how it happens and the effects essentially, so I’m really excited about it. It’s gonna be fun. So tune in once you start hearing about it.

JG: Cool. Now, are you ready for the news?

ZB: Yep.

JG: So the biggest international story from this past week was the death of the major Putin critic, Alexei Navalny. And can you tell us about who he was and why his death is raising so many eyebrows?

ZB: Yeah, so Alexei Navalny was serving a 19-year prison sentence on charges of extremism when he died on Friday, February 16. His release date was set to be December 2038. Navalny was widely considered to be Vladimir Putin’s top opposition leader. He was an anti-corruption campaigner and the Kremlin’s fiercest critic. And so when Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service announced that he died after collapsing following a walk, calling it Sudden Death Syndrome, people are finding it really hard to believe, and they’re pointing fingers at Putin. What is raising further suspicion is Russia’s reluctance to release Navalny’s body. Officials are citing the need for chemical analysis as the reason for the delay. But Navalny’s wife thinks his body’s being kept until traces of poison leave his system, as Navalny survived a poisoning attempt back in 2020. Additionally, after news of his death, hundreds of people gathered at memorials to pay tribute, and by Saturday night, police in over a dozen cities had detained 401 mourners. President Biden says that Putin assassinated Navalny. The U.S. will announce a package of sanctions soon to “hold Russia accountable” for Navalny’s death. The European Union is also considering imposing sanctions.

JG: Why should Bruins be concerned about Navalny’s death?

ZB: His death raises a lot of questions about government transparency and accountability. It can be really dangerous to speak out against your government, but it’s required in order to hold government officials accountable.

JG: Yeah, Putin seems to not be accountable to anybody, and you’re seeing how devastating that can be right now in Russia and in Ukraine. What else is going on around the world?

ZB: The U.S. blocked a widely supported ceasefire resolution on Tuesday marking their 30th UN veto in the Israel-Hamas war. This comes a day after proposing a rival resolution that supported a temporary ceasefire linked to the release of all hostages. The U.S. said a permanent immediate ceasefire would interfere with negotiations regarding Israeli hostages. Any talk of a ceasefire at all is quite new for the U.S., and this could be because the stakes have been ramped up even higher. The Israeli war cabinet has warned that unless Hamas releases all hostages by March 10, which is the beginning of Ramadan, a ground offensive will be launched in Rafah. Rafah is a city in Gaza where millions of displaced Palestinians have taken refuge during the war. And so this warning by Israel has raised international alarms, including in the U.S. because of the already dire humanitarian situation in Rafah.

In other news, dozens of documents from a private security contractor linked to the Chinese government were leaked online this week. According to the Associated Press, the documents detail how Chinese authorities spy on dissidents overseas, and how the Chinese government promotes pro-Beijing content on social media. Chinese police are investigating the leak.

JG: Thanks for the updates, Zoë. Ashley, could you give us the national news updates from this week?

Ashley Tsao: The top story of this week is that the Biden Administration has approved another $1.2 billion in student loan forgiveness on Wednesday. Even though the administration already provided $138 billion in relief, it has continued to find workarounds after the Supreme Court has deemed their previous plans unconstitutional in June of 2023. The Department of Education says borrowers that are already in the Saving on a Valuable Education repayment plan, or the SAVE plan, and have been making payments for at least 10 years, and originally taken out $12,000 or less in student loans are eligible for this loan forgiveness program.

JG: I feel like I’m always hearing about Biden’s student loan forgiveness plans and it seems like none of them ever pan out. Could you give us a recap on previous plans that he’s tried?

AT: In 2023, the President was only successful in bringing $127 billion in loan forgiveness when his goal was actually around $400 billion. That is 3.5 million borrowers who received relief out of tens of millions of borrowers. Being the president that has relieved more student loans than any other U.S. president, the Biden administration doesn’t seem to be stepping off the gas pedal in terms of providing more aid for student borrowers. Biden is still circumventing congressional and court approval by carrying out the plans under existing laws. This is because he does not have support in Congress and the Supreme Court thinks that the president would have too much power if the plan is approved.

JG: And so what’s the latest on this current plan?

AT: Those who are eligible for the forgiveness plan might have or will get an email by this week from President Biden informing them about the loan forgiveness process, or should see their loans forgiven in the coming days as each account is being processed through the Department of Education. The department will also begin emailing borrowers who will be eligible for student loan relief if they switch to the SAVE program.

JG: And what’s the Bruin angle on this?

AT: The angle is that even though this forgiveness plan does not directly affect current UCLA students, it is a step in the right direction for those who currently have student loans or will get student loans in the future. And hopefully, in the near future, we can witness the end to fighting student debt with more plans like this one. So if you believe you have an older family member that has been making payments for at least 10 years, originally taken out $12,000 or less in student loans, and wants to or is already in the SAVE Program, direct them to the website for more information on how to get their student loans potentially forgiven.

JG: Thanks for that info and any other news from across the country?

AT: On Tuesday, Alabama’s Supreme Court ruled that embryos are considered children under state law specifically through the IVF process. An employee in an Alabama local hospital dropped frozen embryos on the ground, and the situation was taken under the state Supreme Court for ruling in either negligence or murder. The IVF process might be more expensive than ever since Alabama’s IVF medical centers will have to buy insurance covering malpractice. Moreover, embryos that are implanted cannot be thrown away after Alabama’s ruling and their strict abortion laws. Therefore, the financial cost of indefinite embryo incubation is also a cost to be aware of. Families who are already planning on the IVF process have considered moving out of Alabama or just not having children at all.

There’s also some business news this week regarding two major acquisitions. On Monday, Capital One announced it will purchase Discover Financial Services in a $35.3 billion all-stock deal that is set to close in late 2024 or early 2025. The acquisition will combine two of the country’s largest credit card issuers. According to The Wall Street Journal, Capital One plans to keep the Discover brand similar to how it currently uses the Visa and MasterCard networks. And on Tuesday, CNBC reported that Walmart will buy TV maker Vizio for $2.3 billion deal. Walmart plans to use the acquisition to boost its ad business through Vizio’s SmartCast Operating System.

JG: Thanks, Ashley. And now we’re going to turn to Catherine for the Daily Bruin News story of the week. Catherine, it’s great to have you back.

Catherine Hamilton: Three times in a row. I’m happy to be back. The biggest news update this week happened on Tuesday during the Undergraduate Students Association Council meeting when the officers voted on a resolution to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement against Israel. However, during the meeting, there were a lot of tense moments during public comment when pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian students encouraged the officers to either vote for the resolution or against it. And there was also some tense debate among USAC officers when they were deciding on voting for the resolution.

JG: And what is the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement? And how does that play into the resolution itself?

CH: Yes, so the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement supports economic, cultural and academic boycotts against the state of Israel and its institutions. It also argues for improved conditions for Palestinian citizens of Israel and allowing displaced Palestinians to return to their homes. The way that this fits in within this resolution is that the resolution is calling on the UC Board of Regents and the UC administration to not provide material assistance to further violations that they say are happening, which include apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide.

JG: You mentioned earlier that there was some tension in the room that night, both during the public comment period and among USAC officers. Could you talk a little bit more about that tension?

CH: Yeah, so a lot of Jewish students were speaking on how they felt the resolution alienated them as a community within the UCLA population. While many Palestinian students and supporters of the resolution are saying that it would be a very helpful thing to endorse. And then also during the debate, there was a lot of back and forth between USAC officers with one specific example being when one officer suggested that other members of the Council were not educated enough on the history of Israel and Palestine. And another officer came back and said that that was a classist viewpoint.

JG: And did the resolution pass?

CH: Yes, by a 10-to-3 vote.

JG: So what comes next now?

CH: Yeah, so it’s a bit unclear what will be the immediate or long-term effects of this resolution. Many students, as previously said, were concerned that it would fuel anti-Semitism and hatred on campus, but it’s unclear how the UC regents will respond and whether or not this will have any meaningful effect on where the UC invests its money.

JG: Has the UCLA administration responded to the passing of the resolution?

CH: Yeah, so the UCLA Administration released a statement on Wednesday that condemned the resolution and academic boycott, and said that it ran counter to the mission of academic freedom of the university.

JG: So it seems like there’s a disagreement between USAC and the administration. Interesting. Thank you, Catherine.

CH: Thank you, Jack.

ZB: Thanks for listening to This Week. Make sure to tune in next Friday for next week’s news.

Jack Garland
Zoe Bordes
Ashley Tsao
News editor

Hamilton is the 2023-2024 News editor and a Copy staff member. She was previously the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor and a national news contributor. She is also a third-year gender studies and political science student minoring in professional writing.

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