Justin Nelson’s letter, one of the thousands that arrived at the White House this month, said he was proud to vote for President Biden back in 2020. Now he had a request: Would the president please honor a campaign promise and use the enclosed pen to wipe out thousands of dollars he owes in student loans?
The letter-writing campaign — #PensForBiden — is the latest attempt to sway Mr. Biden on a high-stakes dilemma as the midterm elections approach and much of his domestic agenda remains stalled: What to do about the $1.6 trillion that more than 45 million people owe the government?
So far, Mr. Biden has extended the pandemic pause on student loan payments four times, most recently until Aug. 31. Payments have now been on hold for more than two years, over two presidential administrations.
But all that time poses problems. Many of the issues that have long bedeviled the loan system have only grown more complicated during the pause, and receiving bills again will infuriate and frustrate millions of people who feel trapped by a broken system and crushing debt.
progressive wing of his Democratic Party. He backed the idea on the campaign trail in 2020. “I’m going to make sure that everybody in this generation gets $10,000 knocked off of their student debt as we try to get out of this God-awful pandemic,” he told an audience in Miami.
Senate Democrats lack the votes to help make good on that promise, leaving executive action as the only possible pathway. But close allies say some influential members of Mr. Biden’s team have been reluctant for him to do it — some because they disagree with the idea of forgiveness and some because they don’t believe he has the authority.
“He’s got lawyers telling him he shouldn’t,” said Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking House Democrat and a key supporter of Mr. Biden. But Mr. Clyburn, the most senior Black lawmaker in Congress, said presidential actions had brought sweeping changes before, including Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and Harry Truman’s order banning segregation in the military.
“If executive orders can free slaves and integrate the armed services, it can eliminate debt,” Mr. Clyburn said.
analysis released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York last week. A separate study by the bank found that surveyed borrowers reported a 16 percent chance of quickly missing a payment if the moratorium ended.
Mr. Nelson, a 32-year-old bank operations associate in Minneapolis, said the pause had freed up $120 a month for home repairs and other expenses.
recent Morning Consult poll found that more than 60 percent of registered voters were in favor of some level of student debt cancellation. But despite Mr. Biden’s campaign promise, his advisers have been divided, three people with knowledge of the discussions said.
Some view debt cancellation as relief for critical constituencies, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. Others oppose it as bad policy or because they fear the economic effects of putting more money in consumers’ pockets when inflation is soaring.
But the pressure on Mr. Biden to act has only grown.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, whose pledge to cancel up to $50,000 per borrower was a centerpiece of her 2020 presidential primary bid, and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, led more than 90 congressional Democrats in sending Mr. Biden a letter last month asking him to “provide meaningful student debt cancellation.”
voting rights protections and Mr. Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, as reason for the president to take matters into his own hands.
The New Georgia Project, a group focusing on voter registration founded by the gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, has cast debt relief as an action that would serve Mr. Biden’s pledge to put racial equity at the forefront of his presidency.
“Much of your administration’s legislative priorities have been stymied by obstructionist legislators,” the group wrote in a joint letter with the advocacy group the Debt Collective that was reviewed by The New York Times. “Student debt cancellation is a popular campaign promise that you, President Biden, have the executive power to deliver on your own.”
announcing the latest pause extension last month, Mr. Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, said he “hasn’t ruled out” the idea.
But Mr. Biden’s power to act unilaterally remains an open legal question.
Last April, at Mr. Biden’s request, the Education Department’s acting general counsel wrote an analysis of the legality of canceling debt via executive action. The analysis has not been released; a version provided in response to public records requests was fully redacted.
Proponents of forgiveness say the education secretary has broad powers to modify or cancel debt, which both the Trump and Biden administrations have leaned on to carry out the payment freeze that started in March 2020.
Legal challenges would be likely, although who would have standing is unclear. A Virginia Law Review article this month argued that the answer might be no one: States, for example, have little say in the operation of a federal loan system.
scathing criticism from government auditors and watchdogs, with even basic functions sometimes breaking down.
Some problems are being addressed. The Biden administration has wiped out $17 billion in debt for 725,000 borrowers by expanding and streamlining forgiveness programs for public servants and those who were defrauded by their schools, among others. Last week, it offered millions of borrowers added credit toward forgiveness because of previous payment-counting problems.
But there’s much still to do. The Education Department was deluged by applicants after it expanded eligibility for millions of public servants. And settlement talks in a class-action suit by nearly 200,000 borrowers who say they were defrauded by their schools recently broke down, setting up a trial this summer.
will be restored to good standing.
Canceling debt could make addressing all this easier, advocates say. Forgiving $10,000 per borrower would wipe out the debts of 10 million or more people, according to different analyses, which would free up resources to deal with structural flaws, proponents argue.
“We’ve known for years that the system is broken,” said Sarah Sattelmeyer, a higher-education project director at New America, a think tank. “Having an opportunity, during this timeout, to start fixing some of those major issues feels like a place where the Education Department should be focusing its attention.”
Voters like Ashleigh A. Mosley will be watching. Ms. Mosley, 21, a political science major at Albany State University in Georgia, said she had been swayed to vote for Mr. Biden because of his support for debt cancellation.
Ms. Mosley, who also attended Alabama A&M University, has already borrowed $52,000 and expects her balance to grow to $100,000 by the time she graduates. The debt already hangs over her head.
“I don’t think I’m going to even have enough money to start a family or buy a house because of the loans,” she said. “It’s just not designed for us to win.”
William Shakespeare, the man with a famous name who inspired headline writers across Britain last year when he became the second person in the country to receive a coronavirus vaccine, has died after suffering a stroke, his family said in a statement. He was 81.
Since Mr. Shakespeare was vaccinated on Dec. 8 at University Hospital, Coventry, in central England, 57 percent of Britain’s population has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
On Tuesday, people older than 30 in Britain became eligible to receive a vaccine.
In a statement released through the hospital where Mr. Shakespeare was vaccinated, his wife of 53 years, Joy, said he had been grateful for becoming one of the first people to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“It was something he was hugely proud of,” she said. “He loved seeing the media coverage and the positive difference he was able to make to the lives of so many.”
Margaret Keenan, then 90, became the first person in Britain to be vaccinated and the first in the world to receive a clinically authorized, fully tested coronavirus vaccine.
Their vaccinations brought a sense of optimism to Britain: “If I can have it at 90 then you can have it, too!” Ms. Keenan said at the time.
At least 127,000 people have died of the coronavirus in Britain, according to a New York Times database, the world’s fifth-highest known death toll.
used as a vaccination center this spring.
The family of the modern Mr. Shakespeare said he would be remembered for much more than sharing a name with one of England’s most famous historical figures. He was an amateur photographer and jazz aficionado, a parish councilor and an official at local schools for more than two decades.
A local councilor and friend of Mr. Shakespeare’s, Jayne Innes, said on Twitter, “Bill will be remembered for many things, including a taste for mischief.”
“Bill loved meeting people and helping them in any way possible,” Ms. Shakespeare said. “Most of all he was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather.”
Good morning and happy Sunday. Here’s what you need to know in business and tech news for the week ahead. — Charlotte Cowles
had a rough week. Digital currencies saw several ugly crashes, with Bitcoin ending Friday nearly 30 percent below its price a week before. The plunge followed an announcement from China that effectively banned its financial institutions from providing services related to cryptocurrency transactions. (Elon Musk’s sudden about-face on Bitcoin probably didn’t help, either.) The volatility shook some investors’ confidence in crypto, which has ridden a seemingly unstoppable wave of popularity — and gained traction with mainstream investors — over the past year.
Texas, Oklahoma and Indiana joined more than a dozen other states that are ending federal pandemic unemployment benefits early, citing the need to incentivize people to get back to work. The decision will get rid of the $300-a-week supplement that unemployment recipients have been getting since March and were scheduled to receive through September. It will also end all benefits for freelancers, part-timers and those who have been out of work for more than six months. Some lawmakers believe that cutting off benefits will encourage more people to apply for jobs, but that’s not always the case — a persistent lack of child care has also prevented many parents from returning to work.
can cause premature death, according to a new study by the World Health Organization. Long hours — also known as overwork — are on the rise and are associated with an estimated 35 percent higher risk of stroke and 17 percent higher risk of heart disease compared with working 35 to 40 hours per week, researchers said.
give the Internal Revenue Service more money to chase down wealthy individuals and companies who cheat on their taxes. As part of the same effort to close tax loopholes, the U.S. Treasury Department is trying to convince other countries to back a 15 percent global minimum tax rate on big companies. The policy is meant to deter corporations from sheltering their operations in tax havens such as Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands. But a number of governments have been hesitant to sign on for fear that they’ll scare off businesses.
Eyeing the Competition
Congress wants to bolster the United States’ ability to compete with China and is willing to throw money at the problem. The senate is working on a bill that would invest $120 billion in the nation’s development of cutting-edge technology and manufacturing. Known as the Endless Frontier Act, the legislation would fund new research on a scale that its proponents say has not been seen since the Cold War. In related news, the European Union blocked an investment deal with China on Thursday, citing concerns with the country’s abysmal human rights record.
C.E.O.s in the Hot Seat
Executives from the largest U.S. banks, including JPMorgan, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, will testify before lawmakers this week about their actions (or lack thereof) to help struggling Americans and small businesses during the pandemic. Democrats on the Senate Banking and House Financial Services committees organized the hearings to scrutinize the banks’ role in lending money to alleviate the financial pressures of the past 15 months. The testimony could affect how lawmakers seek to regulate Wall Street in the coming years.
soared 30 percent in its initial public offering on Wednesday. Amazon indefinitely extended its ban on police usage of its facial recognition software, which has faced ethical criticism. And New York City lifted nearly all of its pandemic restrictions, allowing businesses to welcome customers back at full capacity.
Bob Koester, who founded the influential Chicago blues and jazz label Delmark Records and was also the proprietor of an equally influential record store where players and fans mingled as they sought out new and vintage sounds, died on Wednesday at a care center in Evanston, Ill., near his home in Chicago. He was 88.
His wife, Sue Koester, said the cause was complications of a stroke.
Mr. Koester was a pivotal figure in Chicago and beyond, releasing early efforts by Sun Ra, Anthony Braxton, Jimmy Dawkins, Magic Sam and numerous other jazz and blues musicians. He captured the sound of Chicago’s vibrant blues scene of the 1960s on records like “Hoodoo Man Blues,” a much admired album by the singer and harmonica player Junior Wells, featuring the guitarist Buddy Guy, that was recorded in 1965.
Muhal Richard Abrams and other members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, an organization formed in Chicago in 1965. The company’s recordings were not, generally, the kind that generated a lot of sales.
“If he felt something was significant, he wasn’t going to think about whether it would sell,” Ms. Koester said by phone. “He wanted people to hear it and experience the significance.”
As Howard Mandel, the jazz critic and author, put it in a phone interview: “He followed his own star. He was not at all interested in trends.”
For decades Mr. Koester’s record store, the Jazz Record Mart, provided enough financial support to allow Delmark to make records that didn’t sell a lot of copies. The store was more than an outlet for Delmark’s artists; it was packed with all sorts of records, many of them from collections Mr. Koester bought or traded for.
Charlie Musselwhite, who was a clerk at the store in the mid-1960s, told The Times in 2009, rattling off the names of some fellow blues musicians. “You never knew what fascinating characters would wander in, so I always felt like I was in the eye of the storm there.”
Mr. Mandel said part of the fun was tapping into Mr. Koestel’s deep reservoir of arcane musical knowledge.
“You’d get into a conversation with him,” he said, “and in 10 minutes he was talking about some obscure wormhole of a serial number on a pressing.”
Ms. Koester said the store held a special place in her husband’s heart — so much so that when he finally closed it in 2016, citing rising rent, he opened another, Bob’s Blues and Jazz Mart, almost immediately.
“He loved going into the studio in the days when he was recording Junior Wells and Jimmy Dawkins,” she said, “but retail was in his blood.”
an oral history recorded in 2017 by the National Association of Music Merchants. But, he told Richard Marcus in a 2008 interview for blogcritics.com, further musical exploration wasn’t easy.
“I never liked country music, and growing up in Wichita, Kansas, there wasn’t much else,” he said. “There was a mystery to the names of those old blues guys — Speckled Red, Pinetop Perkins — that made it sound really appealing. Probably something to do with a repressed Catholic upbringing.”
College at Saint Louis University, where he enrolled to study cinematography, broadened his musical opportunities.
“My parents didn’t want me going to school in one of the big cities like New York or Chicago because they didn’t want me to be distracted from my studies by music,” he said. “Unfortunately for them, there were Black jazz clubs all around the university.”
sold Delmark in 2018.
Mr. Koester’s record company played an important role in documenting two musical genres, but his wife said that beyond playing a little piano, he was not musically trained himself.
Helen Murray Free, a chemist who ushered in a revolution in diagnostic testing when she co-developed the dip-and-read diabetes test, a paper strip that detected glucose in urine, died on Saturday at a hospice facility in Elkhart, Ind. She was 98.
The cause was complications of a stroke, her son Eric said.
Before the invention of the dip-and-read test in 1956, technicians added chemicals to urine and then heated the mixture over a Bunsen burner. The test was inconvenient, and, because it could not distinguish glucose from other sugars, results were not very precise.
Working with her husband, who was also a chemist, Ms. Free figured out how to impregnate strips of filter paper with chemicals that turned blue when glucose was present. The test made it easier for clinicians to diagnose diabetes and cleared the way for home test kits, which enabled patients to monitor glucose on their own.
People with diabetes now use blood sugar meters to monitor their glucose levels, but the dip-and-read tests are ubiquitous in clinical laboratories worldwide.
commemorative booklet produced by the American Chemical Society in 2010.
She received her bachelor’s degree in 1944 and went to work for Miles Laboratories in Elkhart, first in quality control and then in the biochemistry division, which worked on diagnostic tests and was led by her future husband, Alfred Free. They married in 1947.
He provided the ideas; she was the technician “who had the advantage of picking his brain 24 hours a day,” Ms. Free recalled in an interview for this obituary in 2011. They soon set their sights on developing a more convenient glucose test “so no one would have to wash out test tubes and mess around with droppers,” she said. When her husband suggested chemically treated paper strips, “it was like a light bulb went off,” she said.
American Chemical Society in 1993. In 2009, she was awarded a National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Barack Obama, and in 2011 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y., for her role in developing the dip-and-read test.
Alfred Free died in 2000. In addition to her son Eric, Ms. Free is survived by two other sons, Kurt and Jake; three daughters, Bonnie Grisz, Nina Lovejoy and Penny Moloney; a stepson, Charles; two stepdaughters, Barbara Free and Jane Linderman; 17 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.
Miles Laboratories followed the introduction of the dip-and-read glucose test with a host of other tests designed to detect proteins, blood and other indicators of metabolic, kidney and liver disorders. “They sure went hog wild on diagnostics, and that’s all Al’s fault,” Ms. Free said in the commemorative booklet. “He was the one who pushed diagnostics.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. Several years after the introduction of the dip-and-read test, Miles moved Ms. Free to another division, citing an anti-nepotism policy. But two years later, after a change in management, she was transferred back to her husband’s division.
“They realized that breaking up a team like this was interfering with productivity in the lab,” Ms. Free said.
Dr. Lipman said that as the team had studied her blood samples, the pieces began to fall into place, and they realized that she appeared to have the same problem that they knew had been occurring in Britain and Europe after patients received the AstraZeneca vaccine, mostly in young women. They switched from heparin to another blood-thinner and began following guidance provided by doctors in Britain who had treated AstraZeneca recipients with a similar disorder.
Hoping for more information about the condition and any possible connection to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Dr. Lipman called an emergency number at the Food and Drug Administration. It was a weekend, and he said the person who answered told him that no one was available to help and that the line had to be kept open for emergencies.
“I thought this was an emergency,” Dr. Lipman said. “She hung up on me.”
He called back, to ask how to reach Janssen, which makes the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That information was not available, and he said the person who answered had also told him that the F.D.A. could not provide advice on patient care.
An F.D.A. spokeswoman, Stephanie Caccomo, said in an email, “We’ll look into this further to ensure physicians calling F.D.A. for assistance receive the help they are seeking.”
Dr. Lipman said that the pharmacist at his hospital had submitted a report online to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in early April but that the agency had not contacted him to ask about the case until this week. The agency declined to comment on whether it had communicated with Dr. Lipman, a spokeswoman, Kristen Nordlund, said by email.
At a meeting on Wednesday of a C.D.C. advisory panel, Johnson & Johnson and Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, a safety expert at the agency, both presented data about the young woman in Nevada. After the meeting, Nevada officials issued a statement saying the meeting was the first time they had learned of a case in their state — they had previously told the public that no cases had been reported — and they were asking “federal partners” why the state had not been informed.
At the Nevada hospital, an interventional radiologist passed a tube through blood vessels and on into the young woman’s brain and used a device to suction out the blood clots. More clots formed later, and he performed the procedure again.