Vivek Ramaswamy’s TikTok presence draws young voters’ attention — and GOP rivals’ attacks

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — It started with a short clip of him dancing with social media influencer Jake Paul and what Vivek Ramaswamy called a vision to better engage with younger voters.

It’s continued with him documenting his travels on the campaign trail, showing time spent with his two young sons and responding to commenters.

However, the GOP presidential candidate’s presence on the popular app TikTok has put a spotlight on his past business dealings and comments, drawing criticism from his rivals about his lack of political experience, as leaders on both sides of the aisle grapple with how or whether to use TikTok because of its links to the Chinese government.

On the GOP debate stage in Simi Valley, California, Wednesday night, Ramaswamy’s TikTok presence was the target of aggressive attacks from his primary rivals, including Nikki Haley, who cut off Ramaswamy to shout, “We can’t trust you with TikTok,” as he tried to explain the importance of reaching the younger generation in order to win the general election.

“TikTok is one of the most dangerous social media apps that we could have,” Haley cut in, “… Honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say.”

It was a full-on attack from Haley who had previously said Ramaswamy’s “combination of honesty, intellect, and foresight are exactly what we need to overcome our challenges in the years ahead” in her review of his first book, “Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam.”

Continuing to talk over Ramaswamy as he attempted to defend himself, Haley took another shot: “When you were in business with the Chinese … we can’t trust you with TikTok”

Later in the debate, Haley again attacked Ramaswamy when he spoke out against providing military support for Ukraine, saying: “A win for Russia is a win for China. But I forgot you like China.”

Haley was referring to Ramaswamy’s company, Roivant Sciences, which has subsidiaries in China and has previously partnered with a private-equity arm of a state-owned investment company there. Sen. Tim Scott also took a swipe at Ramaswamy’s business dealings in China on the debate stage Wednesday night, comparing it to the scrutiny President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden is under for his alleged business dealings in China.

However, it’s not just Haley. Ramaswamy’s TikTok debut comes as most GOP candidates have proposed banning the app or enacting similar safety features, citing national security risks at the hands of the Chinese-owned technology company ByteDance that controls the app.

Scott has pushed legislation that would require app stores to list an app’s country of origin “so that parents can make better choices,” he’s said, while former Vice President Mike Pence has been a vocal proponent of banning TikTok altogether. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson last year banned TikTok on state-owned devices, saying he does not want China accessing state data. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, too, when asked if he would ban the app as president, said “I think so.”

Concern about TikTok’s digital footprint is also leading to bipartisan efforts in Congress and by the White House to limit its reach. President Joe Biden’s administration, which has prohibited the app from being downloaded on federal employees’ work devices, has also threatened a national ban if the Beijing-based corporation doesn’t divest.

Ramaswamy has also shared his own criticisms of the app, maintaining that children 16 and under “should not be using addictive social media.”

Still, Ramaswamy, who has swarmed early states with campaign events, joined TikTok earlier this month, gaining tens of thousands of followers, but also sparking parody accounts and trolls, and forcing him to defend his flip-flop on the widely popular social media app he’s previously called “digital fentanyl.”

The comments are part of his hard line proposing “decoupling” from China, a country he believes the U.S. relies on too heavily.

“Because you know what he’s thinking, he’s looking back at me and he’s saying, ‘Okay. You don’t have it in you because you’re addicted to me. You’re addicted to the fentanyl that I’m pumping across your southern border. You’re addicted to the digital fentanyl that I’m putting in your kid’s hands in the form of modern social media,'” Ramaswamy said to voters in August, weeks before posting his first TikTok after a convincing conversation with influencer and boxer Jake Paul.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Trump co-defendant takes plea deal, agrees to testify in Georgia election case

Fulton County Sheriff’s Office

(ATLANTA, Ga.) — One of former President Donald Trump’s co-defendants charged in the Georgia election interference case is taking a plea deal in which he will agree to testify against others in the case.

Scott Hall appeared Friday in court for what Judge Scott McAfee said was a “negotiated resolution.”

The arrangement marks the first plea deal in the case.

As part of the deal, Hall pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with performance of election duties.

He will get probation and has agreed to testify moving forward, including at the trial of other co-defendants.

Asked if he understands this is a “negotiated plea,” Hall said, “I do.”

Hall, a Georgia bail bondsman, was charged in relation to the alleged breach of voting machine equipment in the wake of the 2020 election in Coffee County, Georgia.

During the hearing, the allegations surrounding the voting breach were laid out. It was said that Hall and several of his co-defendants “entered into a conspiracy to intentionally interfere” with the 2020 election results and that their goal was to “unlawfully” access voting machines in Coffee County in order to obtain data.

“The conspiracy also included obtaining images of ballots,” they said in court.

At the top of the hearing, Judge McAfee said this “was not a matter that had been scheduled today,” but that he was “informed by both parties that they would like to have an impromptu court hearing.”

Trump and 18 others pleaded not guilty to all charges in a sweeping racketeering indictment for alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia.

The former president says his actions were not illegal and that the investigation is politically motivated.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Government shutdown live updates: Millions in military would go without a paycheck

Mint Images/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — With Congress failing to agree on spending, the U.S. is barreling toward what could be one of the largest government shutdowns in history.

Lawmakers have until the end of the day Saturday to reach a deal to keep much of the government open.

If they don’t, 3.5 million of federal workers are expected to go without a paycheck, millions of women and children could lose nutrition assistance, national parks would likely close and more.

Latest headlines:

  • Millions of military members will go without a paycheck
  • White House says they’re pleading with House GOP to ‘do the right thing’
  • How did we get here?

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern.

Sep 29, 4:47 PM EDT
Millions of military members will go without a paycheck

Unlike shutdowns past, where lawmakers passed appropriations bills to fund the Department of Defense personnel, the White House estimates that 2 million military members will have to without pay if the government shuts down over the weekend.

President Joe Biden, at a farewell ceremony for Gen. Mark Milley, said if the House fails to keep the government open it will have “failed all of our troops,” going as far as calling it a “disgrace.”

Austin Carrigg, a military spouse, spoke to ABC News Live about the impact a partial government shutdown will have on her family. Carrigg said she and her husband, Master Sgt. Joshua Carrigg will be in a life-or-death situation if they don’t receive a paycheck because they might not be able to afford medication for their 11-year-old daughter, who has Down syndrome, a congenital heart defect, metabolic disorder and recently suffered a catastrophic stroke.

“It really feels like a smack in the face that they think so little of us that they’re unwilling to pay our troops while they are going through this negotiation,” Carrigg explained about her frustrations with lawmakers. “We understand that negotiations have to happen and that everybody takes a stand. But that stance shouldn’t be on the backs of our military families and that’s what they’re doing this time.”

Sep 29, 4:36 PM EDT
White House says they’re pleading with House GOP to ‘do the right thing’

OMB Director Shalanda Young told ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Selina Wang that to avert a shutdown, “we’re doing everything we can to plead, beg, shame, House Republicans: do the right thing.”

Asked to respond to the concerns of mothers who rely on WIC for their babies’ nutrition, Young gave an impassioned response:

“The cavalierness is what gets me. I’ve heard people say in a Republican House conference, ‘Oh, shutdown. It’s not that bad. It’s not like the debt ceiling.’ Well, you go tell people who cannot pay their daycare bill … You go tell men and women in uniform that they don’t get a paycheck when they show up to work every day. You will tell that mother that she cannot … And you’re right, it — it sets an expectation for how people deal with their government throughout their lives.”

Sep 29, 4:16 PM EDT
How did we get here?

Earlier this year, amid the threat of a first-ever default on the nation’s debt, President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated a spending cap for the 2024 budget year beginning Oct. 1. But spending legislation remains mired in Congress with the hard-liners in the House insisting on curbing spending further and other proposals that couldn’t pass the Senate.

A last-ditch effort by McCarthy to pass a short-term funding measure with border security measures to keep the government open until Oct. 31 failed on Friday. More than 20 Republicans voted against it.

The Democrat-led Senate is considering a separate stopgap bill to keep the government open until Nov. 17 as well as additional funding for Ukraine and FEMA, but McCarthy has already said it would be dead on arrival in the House.

Congress remained at a standstill Friday afternoon with the shutdown deadline roughly 32 hours away.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Duane Davis indicted for murder in fatal drive-by shooting of Tupac: Official

amphotora/Getty Images

(LAS VEGAS) — Duane Keith Davis has been indicted on a murder charge in connection with the shooting of Tupac Shakur, who was killed during a drive-by in Las Vegas in 1996.

Davis was indicted on Thursday by a Clark County grand jury on one count of open murder with use of a deadly weapon with a gang enhancement, according to Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson. The suspect is expected to appear in court in the coming days.

The celebrated hip-hop artist was shot on Sept. 7, 1996, in Las Vegas and died in the hospital six days later from his injuries at the age of 25.

“For 27 years the family of Tupac Shakur has been waiting for justice,” Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Kevin McMahill said during a press briefing on Friday, adding that detectives spent “countless hours” on the homicide investigation.

Davis claims to be one of two living witnesses, along with former Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight, to the Vegas shooting that killed the rapper, according to a search warrant released by police.

A brawl that broke out between members and affiliates of two feuding Compton, California, gangs — Mob Piru and the South Side Compton Crips — just hours before the deadly drive-by led to the “retaliatory shooting” that killed Tupac, according to Lt. Jason Johansson.

Tupac, Knight and members of the Mob Piru gang had attended a Mike Tyson fight at the MGM Grand that was also attended by members of the South Side Compton Crips — including Davis, the gang’s “shot caller,” and his nephew Orlando Anderson — Johansson said. While leaving the fight, a brawl captured on hotel security footage broke out near the elevator bank, with Anderson kicked and punched.

“Duane Davis devised a plan to obtain a firearm and retaliate against Suge Knight and Tupac for what happened to Anderson,” Johansson said.

As Tupac was headed to an after-party in a black BMW driven by Knight, a white Cadillac pulled up alongside the car near the Strip and “immediately began shooting,” Johansson said. Davis, Anderson and two others — Terrence Brown and Deandre Smith- — were in the Cadillac, according to Johansson.

Investigators knew the incident involved out-of-town victims and suspects, but never had enough evidence to bring forward a criminal charge, Johansson said.

The case remained cold for decades until “reinvigorated” in 2018 when new information came to light — “specifically, Duane Davis’ own admissions to his involvement in this homicide investigation that he provided to numerous different media outlets,” Johansson said.

Police more recently conducted a nighttime search of Davis’ Las Vegas-area home in July in connection with the Tupac murder investigation.

Davis was taken into custody without incident early Friday morning while on a walk near his home where the search occurred, the official said.

Magazine articles about Tupac and his death were among the items seized by police from the Henderson home during the search, a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told ABC News. The search warrant listed a “copy of ‘Vibe magazine’ on Tupac” among the items seized.

Nearly 13 hours of body camera footage in the search were released in response to a public records request by ABC News. The video has been redacted — it goes black and silent — when SWAT team members are on private property, but otherwise shows the raid taking place and Davis — known as Keffe D or Keefy D — talking to police outside of his home.

Davis is the only living suspect in the homicide, according to Johansson, who noted that the charge of murder does not have a statute of limitations.

Anderson was shot and killed in a gang-related shooting in Los Angeles County in 1998.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Sea lion escapes from Central Park Zoo pool amid severe New York City flooding

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — A sea lion escaped from its pool at the Central Park Zoo on Friday amid the severe flooding that’s pounding New York City, officials said.

“Zoo staff monitored the sea lion as she explored the area before returning to the familiar surroundings of the pool and the company of the other two sea lions,” Jim Breheny, director of the Bronx Zoo and executive vice president of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Zoos and Aquarium, said in a statement.

The sea lion never beached the zoo’s secondary perimeter, Breheny said.

The water has since receded and the animals are safe in their exhibit, he said.

The zoo is closed on Friday due to the severe weather.

Flash flood warnings were issued across all five New York City boroughs on Friday as heavy rain hit the region.

Over 5.6 inches of rain was recorded in Central Park by Friday afternoon.

“If you are home, stay home,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said at a news conference. “We could possibly see 8 inches of rain before the day is over.”

The rain is expected to lighten up Friday night, but it won’t stop until Saturday.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Exclusive: Biden campaign to air ad aimed at Black voters during college football game

Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign is kicking off a new TV advertisement in the heat of the college football season, with the ad set to air during the University of Colorado Buffaloes and University of Southern California Trojans game Saturday.

First shared with ABC News, the TV spot zeroes in on the Biden White House’s investments into racial and economic equity for Black Americans.

“Getting ahead means getting the same chance to succeed as everyone else. It’s why on his first day, President Biden signed an executive order to address racial inequity, working to narrow the racial wealth gap by creating millions of new, good paying jobs and more funding for black businesses,” a narrator says.

The narrator continues: “But it’s also lowering the cost of living, including health premiums, prescription drugs, and the cost of insulin. Getting ahead with the president, Joe Biden, who is putting in the work for black America.”

The 30-second ad, titled “Get Ahead,” is part of the campaign’s big ticket $25 million investment, which includes the largest and earliest re-election ad-buy any campaign has placed in Hispanic and African American media outlets. A source familiar with planning tells ABC News the Biden campaign intends to pepper those advertisements throughout news, entertainment and sports adjacent programming, including the NFL, NBA and NCAA programming in select markets.

The campaign targeting high-viewership sporting events was first put into practice during the NFL season opener earlier this month. These various ad placements are part of their broader plan to aggressively invest in battleground states like Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.

The ad will air in the Atlanta market, one of the largest African American media markets in the country, in efforts to reach Black fans who are tuning into Colorado games at high margins. That spiked viewership comes thanks, in part, to the popularity of University of Colorado’s newest football coach Deion Sanders.

The University of Colorado’s first three games of the season rated 77% higher among Black viewers, making up 23% of the audience for those games, compared to 15% for non-Colorado games, per ESPN research — a figure that doesn’t go unnoticed by Biden’s re-election campaign. The number of African American viewers tuning in from the Atlanta area is helping to drive viewership numbers two-to-three times larger than a typical high profile college football game when Colorado is playing, according to data from the Biden campaign.

“The Coach Prime phenomenon reaches well beyond Boulder, CO and well beyond the traditional college football fanbase. It just so happens that many among the millions of fans tuning in every Saturday to watch Colorado football represent the core coalition of voters who were so integral to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s victory in 2020,” Biden for President communications director Michael Tyler said in a statement to ABC News.

“So as millions more tune in Saturday afternoon, we’re making sure that we’re tapping into moments like these and presenting audiences with President Biden’s historic record of accomplishment for Black families,” he added.

After the Buffaloes’ first win of the season last September, Sanders spoke candidly about the racism he — and his team — are up against.

“We’re doing things that have never been done, and that makes people uncomfortable,” Sanders said. “When you see a confident Black man sitting up here talking his talk, walking his walk, coaching 75% African Americans in the locker room, that’s kind of threatening. ‘Oh, they don’t like that.’ But guess what? We’re going to consistently do what we do. Because I’m here and ‘ain’t going nowhere.”

Only 14 black coaches currently head NCAA Division I football teams.

Black voters were critical in Biden’s victory over former President Donald Trump in 2020, supporting him in overwhelming margins, 87%-12% per ABC News exit polls. Maintaining that coalition will be critical to his re-election efforts, too. A New York Times/Siena Poll conducted in July, still shows that 60% of Black Americans currently approve of Biden’s job performance.

ABC News’ Fritz Farrow contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Gasoline prices in California are up 80 cents in a month. Here’s why.

Grace Cary/Getty Images

(LOS ANGELES) — Gasoline prices in California are skyrocketing.

The average price of a gallon of gas in California on Friday reached $6.08, up some 80 cents or 15% since a month ago, according to data compiled by AAA. At some gas stations in Los Angeles, prices are hovering around $7.00 a gallon.

In California, the average price for a gallon of gas is about 55% higher than the national average, AAA data shows.

The eye-popping prices in the nation’s most populous state owe to a surge in the cost of crude oil combined with output disruptions that have choked refinery capacity, industry analysts told ABC News.

“The fuel delivery system in California is running right up against its limits all the time,” Timothy Fitzgerald, a professor of business economics at Texas Tech University who studies the petroleum industry, told ABC News. “Even fairly small disruptions can lead to price spikes.”

On Thursday, a key measure of crude oil prices reached its highest level in more than a year. The U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures price peaked at about $95, which marked a roughly 16% increase from a month prior.

The hike traces in part to a decision made in April by the alliance of countries known as OPEC+, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, which opted to cut oil output by 1.2 million barrels per day starting in May. The move amounted to removing roughly 1% of oil from the global market.

Earlier this month, OPEC+ extended the output cuts to the end of this year.

The decline in supply of crude oil has helped send prices upward in recent months just as California has begun to face a series of setbacks at its refineries, analysts said.

Four of the state’s 14 oil refineries are producing at substantially lower levels than normal due to slowdowns caused by weather-related damage or much-needed maintenance, Patrick de Haan, the head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told ABC News.

“There has been kink after kink at some of these refineries,” de Haan said. “That’s what brought this to a head.”

Fitzgerald said the uptick in maintenance-related interruptions stems in part from an effort on the part of refineries to remain at full capacity during the busy summer driving season. At the end of that blitz, some refineries may address long-delayed repairs, he added.

“Refineries run wide open all summer making as much fuel as possible,” Fitzgerald said. “This is the time of year as we get into fall where the refineries have to say, ‘Gee, we need to fix this.'”

Drivers in California may soon get some relief.

During the summer months in California, oil refineries are required to produce a specific blend of gasoline that limits negative effects on air quality that are more pronounced in the summer heat.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an order on Thursday to state regulators easing rules that forbid oil refineries from producing a cheaper, more plentiful winter-blend of gasoline until Oct. 31.

Under the waiver, refineries are immediately permitted to produce the winter blend, which should increase supply of gasoline and reduce prices, analysts said.

Prices will stop rising over the next few days and begin to fall by the end of next week, said de Haan. He expects prices to drop about 50 cents per gallon by the end of October.

Fitzgerald predicted a modest impact, saying gas prices would fall about 10 cents per gallon as result of the order from Newsom.

“At this point, I’m sure drivers would be happy to have some relief,” Fitzgerald said. “But it’s not going to bring prices in California back down to the national average.”

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Fast-food workers in California to earn $20 an hour in 2024

Elvira Laskowski/Getty Images

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — More than 500,000 fast-food workers in California will soon earn at least $20 an hour as a result of a new bill signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Newsom joined labor leaders, legislators and fast-food workers in Los Angeles on Thursday, hailing the achievement as a result of the group effort to increase the state’s minimum wage for fast-food employees.

“California is home to more than 500,000 fast-food workers who for decades have been fighting for higher wages and better working conditions,” Newsom said. “Today, we take one step closer to fairer wages, safer and healthier working conditions, and better training by giving hardworking fast-food workers a stronger voice and seat at the table.”

The legislation, AB 1228, “authorized the Fast Food Council to set fast-food restaurant standards for minimum wage, and develop proposals for other working conditions, including health and safety standards and training,” a press release from Newsom’s office said.

The newly established Fast Food Council is comprised of a nine-person group that has two representatives from the fast-food industry, two franchisee or restaurant owners, two employee representatives, two employee advocates and one member of the public. The council was created to ensure that workers have a stronger say in setting minimum wages and working conditions, including health and safety standards.

“Today’s victory is just the beginning,” Ingrid Vilorio, a California fast-food worker and leader in the Fight for $15, said. “From day one of our movement, we have demanded a seat at the table so we could improve our pay and working conditions. This moment was built by every fast-food worker, both here in California and across the country, who has bravely gone on strike, exposed the issues in our industry and made bold demands of corporations that we knew could do better by their frontline workers. We now have the power to win transformational changes for every fast-food cook, cashier and barista in our state. We hope that what we win here shows workers in other industries and other states that when we fight, we win!”

Starting April 1, 2024, the minimum wage for the state’s 500,000 fast-food workers will increase to $20 per hour. The average hourly wage in 2022 was $16.21.

The new law allows the council to increase the minimum wage annually from 2025 through 2029, but it cannot exceed a 3.5% increase or the annual change in the Consumer Price Index, a measurement set by the Bureau of Labor statistics on average prices of goods and urban wage earners.

It will also “allow the council to develop and propose other labor, health or safety standards for rule-making by the appropriate body,” the release from Newsom’s office said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Student loan payments restart Oct. 1. Here’s what to know

Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — The government’s unprecedented three-year pause on federal student loan payments officially ends this Sunday, Oct. 1, when roughly 28 million borrowers will once again be on the hook for their loans.

The restart to payments comes after eight extensions of the pandemic-era pause, beginning during former President Donald Trump’s administration. The end to the pause was finally set in stone after the Biden administration’s attempt at broader debt cancellation was thwarted by the Supreme Court in June.

Throughout the twists and turns, many borrowers have been left confused about the status of their loans and how policy changes could impact them.

Here’s what borrowers need to know.

Find out how much you owe and when you owe it

Not all borrowers’ bills will be due on Oct. 1 — you can find your specific payment date through your loan servicer, a private company that handles federal government loans. The bill due date could be at any point throughout the month.

The Department of Education encourages borrowers to log into their Federal Student Aid portals and check who their servicer is, then log onto their servicer portals.

Many Americans were moved to a new servicer during the pause and payment amounts could be different than they were three years ago.

Payment amounts could also be different because of loan servicer mistakes, which have been well-documented by debt relief advocacy groups. The groups have also reported long hold times for customer service representatives, or multiple different answers to the same question.

In particular, advocacy groups and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have shared concerns that servicers aren’t providing adequate information on the Biden administration’s newest repayment plan, called the SAVE Plan, which the administration calls the most affordable plan for the majority of Americans.

What is the SAVE Plan?

Under the new plan, the lowest-income borrowers would see their payments fall by about $0.83 per each dollar they owe, the Department of Education estimates, and people making below minimum wage wouldn’t be required to make monthly payments at all.

The changes would also stop unpaid monthly interest from accruing and allow debts to be forgiven sooner, between 10 and 20 years after the loans were taken out.

But not everyone will see clear benefits from the new plan, so it’s important to run the numbers before enrolling.

One option to do that: the Office of Federal Student Aid has a loan simulator for comparing different repayment plans.

What if the government shuts down?

In a messy twist of fate, a government shutdown could coincide exactly with the student loan restart. But even if the government doesn’t have the money to stay open, borrowers will still need to pay up.

The government shutdown won’t delay the student loan payment restart, government officials say.

It could make the process bumpier, though, by halting government coordination with loan servicers that provide them guidance on how to answer borrowers’ questions or implement the new policies the Biden administration has rolled out, like the SAVE plan.

The borrower experience would likely get more muddled the longer a shutdown lasts.

“If it is a prolonged shutdown lasting more than a few weeks, it could substantially disrupt the return to repayment effort and long-term servicing support for borrows,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a briefing on Sept. 25.

The government also provides oversight of the student loan servicers, making sure servicers accurately bill borrowers the right amount or pass along the right information about new, lower payment options — two issues that advocates say borrowers are already running into, even without a shutdown getting in the way.

“I think even less oversight will be very harmful for borrowers as payments come due,” said Persis Yu, deputy executive director at the Student Borrower Protection Center, an advocacy group for student debt relief.

What happens if I miss a payment?

For the next year, the Department of Education has created a temporary, yearlong on-ramp period through Sept. 30, 2024, during which borrowers won’t be reported for missing payments.

According to the department, that will prevent the “worst consequences” of missed, late or partial payments.

However, interest will still continue to add up during the yearlong on-ramp period, meaning borrowers will see their balances grow whether they make the payments or not.

And the Department cannot ensure that credit scoring companies don’t pull information on whether someone is making their payments, which could impact whether people qualify for credit cards or loans tied to their credit scores.

Could my loans still get cancelled?

There’s still hope, but the details remain sparse as a rulemaking process plays out for the next few months.

President Joe Biden’s initial plan was derailed by the Supreme Court — an attempt to grant between $10,000 and $20,000 of relief to 43 million Americans.

In the wake of that political defeat, Biden announced another attempt at debt relief through the Higher Education Act of 1965.

And on Friday, the Biden administration announced it’s putting together a committee to discuss different ways to design the policy — a sign to borrowers that they haven’t given up on debt relief, even as bills come due again.

The Department of Education specifically asked the committee to consider how to help people who, for example, are drowning in interest and owe more than they initially took out because of the accrual, or people who have been paying their loans for decades.

Some experts say the relief will need to be narrower than the previous attempt to have a better chance at holding up in the courts, but advocates are still pushing for broad cancellation.

ABC News’ Karen Travers contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Over 93,000 Armenians have now fled disputed enclave Nagorno-Karabakh


(LONDON) — Over 93,000 ethnic Armenian refugees have fled Nagorno-Karabakh as of Friday, local authorities said, meaning 75% of the disputed enclave’s entire population has now left in less than a week.

Tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians have been streaming out of Nagorno-Karabakh following Azerbaijan’s successful military operation last week that restored its control over the breakaway region. It’s feared the whole population will likely leave in the coming days, in what Armenia has condemned as “ethnic cleansing.”

Families packed into cars and trucks, with whatever belongings they can carry, have been arriving in Armenia after Azerbaijan opened the only road out of the enclave on Sunday. Those fleeing have said they are unwilling to live under Azerbaijan’s rule, fearing they will face persecution.

“There will be no more Armenians left in Nagorno-Karabakh in the coming days,” Armenia’s prime minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a televised government meeting on Thursday. “This is a direct act of ethnic cleansing,” he said, adding that international statements condemning it were important but without concrete actions they were just “creating moral statistics for history.”

The United States and other western countries have expressed concern about the displacement of the Armenian population from the enclave, urging Azerbaijan to allow international access.

Armenians have lived in Nagorno-Karabakh for centuries but the enclave is recognised internationally as part of Azerbaijan. It has been at the center of a bloody conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia since the late 1980s when the two former Soviet countries fought a war amid the collapse of the USSR.

That war left ethnic Armenian separatists in control of most of Nagorno-Karabakh and also saw hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani civilians driven out. For three decades, an unrecognised Armenian state, called the Republic of Artsakh, existed in the enclave, while international diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict went nowhere.

But in 2020, Azerbaijan reopened the conflict, decisively defeating Armenia and forcing it to abandon its claims to Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia brokered a truce and deployed peacekeeping forces, which remain there.

Last week, after blockading the enclave for 9 months, Azerbaijan launched a new military offensive to complete the defeat of the ethnic Armenian authorities, forcing them to capitulate in just two days.

The leader of the ethnic Armenian’s unrecognised state, the Republic of Artsakh, on Thursday announced its dissolution, saying it would “cease to exist” by the end of the year.

Azerbaijan’s authoritarian president Ilham Aliyev has claimed the Karabakh Armenians’ rights will be protected but he has previously promoted a nationalist narrative denying Armenians have a long history in the region. In areas recaptured by his forces in 2020, some Armenian cultural sites have been destroyed and defaced.

Some Azerbaijanis driven from their homes during the war in the 1990s have returned to areas recaptured by Azerbaijan since 2020. Aliyev on Thursday said by the end of 2023, 5,500 displaced Azerbaijanis would return to their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to the Russian state news agency TASS.

Azerbaijan on Friday detained another former senior Karabakh Armenian official on Thursday as he tried to leave the enclave with other refugees. Azerbaijan’s security services detained Levon Mnatsakanyan, who was commander of the Armenian separatists’ armed forces between 2015-2018. Earlier this week, Azerbaijan arrested a former leader of the unrecognised state, Ruben Vardanyan, taking him to Baku and charging him with terrorism offenses.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.