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From student debt to Bono, here are 6 updates on 2022 NewsHour stories
For most journalists, your connection to any one story is likely fleeting. You get a tip or a hunch, start to research and report, make sure you have it all right through editing and fact-checking, and when that story is just about perfect (and your deadline is up), you send it out into the world and say goodbye.
But in real life, the story doesn't just end. People, governments and cultures evolve.
With that in mind, the PBS NewsHour checked back in on some of the stories we told in 2022 to see where they stand at the end of the year.
Student debt relief, interrupted
Back in August, President Joe Biden announced a plan to eliminate up to $20,000 of student debt for more than 40 million Americans – the culmination of months of speculation about whether his administration would take that step, as well as activism from advocates and borrowers.
Earlier in the year, the PBS NewsHour spoke with Jalil Mustaffa Bishop, an assistant professor of education at Villanova University, about the status of student loan debt amid the pandemic repayment freeze and how the amount of debt disproportionately affects Black borrowers and borrowers of color.
While many borrowers felt a mix of relief (and possible disappointment that it was not more), the move became a target for conservative opposition, with opponents claiming Biden overstepped his abilities and arguing he should have involved Congress. Facing challenges in court, the plan is now on hold. The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments on the loan forgiveness plan in February.
No matter what the court rules, loan cancellation advocates plan to continue the fight. For an update, we spoke again with Bishop, also a co-founder of Equity Research Cooperative.
"I still have a lot of hope because I know that the solution and the answers to student debt cancellation is in-house," he said, adding that grassroots advocates will continue to push for relief.
– Casey Kuhn, Nicole Ellis and Hannah Grabenstein
Michigan volunteers pushed to protect abortion – and won
Before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, Michigan volunteers had already begun collecting signatures for a ballot measure petition to enshrine abortion rights in the state's constitution. When the federal right to the medical procedure was eliminated, a 1931 state law making abortion a felony and the sale of medication for abortions a misdemeanor would have gone back into effect for the first time since 1973, but a temporary injunction blocked its enforcement.
"The Supreme Court will not determine our future – Michigan voters will," Ashlea Phenicie, director of communications at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, told the NewsHour.
Ultimately, more than 750,000 voters signed the petition for the Michigan Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative, more than any other ballot initiative in state history, and far more than the 425,059 signatures required. Many were gathered in the week between the Supreme Court decision and the deadline for turning in the petition signatures.
In November, Michigan passed the amendment. It took effect on Dec. 23., guaranteeing the right to reproductive freedom, as did similar legislation in California and Vermont.
– Frances Kai-Hwa Wang
But legal battles over medication abortion have also begun
After Roe v. Wade fell and more than a dozen states banned abortion in most cases, some legal experts predicted that the new front line in the battle would be over access to medication abortions, which account for the majority of terminated pregnancies conducted with a medical professional in the U.S.
In November, anti-abortion advocates filed a lawsuit in the U.S. district court in North Texas against the Food and Drug Administration for its approval of – and subsequent actions related to – a common pharmaceutical used in medication abortions.
In its lawsuit, Alliance Defending Freedom claims that the FDA lacked the authority to approve mifepristone, which is used with misoprostol to end pregnancies, and did not adequately study the safety of the drug.
Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who presides in the Northern District of Texas and was appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2017, had previously been a lawyer for a conservative legal advocacy group.
University of Pittsburgh School of Law associate professor Greer Donley told the Washington Post that the lawsuit's claims about safety were "ridiculous."
"Mifepristone is one of the safest drugs on the market, safer than Viagra and penicillin," Donley told the Post. "We have a lot of studies and a lot of data on it."
— Kenichi Serino
A best-selling memoir heads to the stage
When NewsHour's chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown and I caught up with U2 frontman Bono in New York this fall, he was focused on his 600-plus-page memoir, "Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story," about his life on and off stage.
Bono, who was honored in December at the Kennedy Center along with his band, is a man of ceaseless creativity – and energy. In fact, when he sat down for the interview, we had intended for him to stay seated, covering up little white pieces of gaffers tape we had attached to the carpet in "pre-setting" the chair. No such luck. He was literally rocking 'n rolling, pivoting positions and levitating the chair as he gesticulated. Finally, I stopped the interview and pulled up the markers. We realized there was no way – or desire – to hem in this superstar.
So it's no surprise now that "Stories of Surrender," a show spun out of his best-selling autobiography, will have a run of eight dates at New York's historic Beacon Theatre starting mid-April. He will continue to talk – and sing – about his life as a bandleader and activist, addressing some of the greatest issues of our times.
— Anne Azzi Davenport
Stateless still in limbo – with glimmers of hope
Karina Ambartsoumian-Clough and Miliyon Ethiopis have been living for decades without any form of permanent legal status in the U.S., and no protection or documentation (like a passport) from any other country. In April, we explored the legal limbo that hundreds of thousands of stateless people in the U.S. endure, often after fleeing war or geopolitical crises.
In our story, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told the NewsHour that the Biden administration's goal is to "define statelessness and to really map out what will be available to [stateless people] and our ability to deliver on that this year, this fiscal year." The NewsHour reached out to DHS for an update, since the fiscal year closed at the end of September, but the agency has not responded.
Last Thursday, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., introduced a new bill, the "Stateless Protection Act," that could resolve the status of hundreds of thousands of stateless people in the U.S. by granting a protected status to those who qualify and apply.
"Statelessness is an abhorrent violation of fundamental human rights and human dignity, and a life of statelessness has been recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States as a form of punishment more primitive than torture," the bill states, adding, "Government action and inaction causes statelessness; therefore, governments have the power to resolve and prevent statelessness."
Today, Miliyon is continuing to fight for a path to citizenship, while Karina is eligible to apply for a legal permanent residency (a green card) now that the Biden administration has granted her parole in place.
– Stephanie Sy and Lena I. Jackson
Arizona prison health care goes back to court – and incarcerated people feel heard
In 2015, Arizona's Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation & Reentry (ADCRR) settled a lawsuit alleging serious medical neglect of those incarcerated by the state. The allegations included undiagnosed diseases, denial of prescription drugs and several avoidable deaths, which critics said were the product of a recently privatized medical system. ADCRR was ordered to improve conditions as part of the settlement.
Years later, in late 2021, a new trial began after the plaintiffs alleged ADCRR still hadn't made the required changes. When we published our story in March, Judge Rosalyn O. Silver had yet to decide whether ADCRR had adequately improved conditions.
Advocates argued that privatized medical care in prisons is a fundamentally "flawed" system. "It rewards the private contractor for not providing medical care," said John Fabricius, director of Arizonans for Transparency and Accountability in Corrections (ATAC).
In June, Silver found that ADCRR was liable for neglect in its state prisons and called for a group of experts to create a plan for remedial action.
Corene Kendrick, deputy director of the ACLU National Prison Project, told the NewsHour it was a "landmark" decision and an "extremely forceful opinion" that called out the credibility of the state's experts during the case.
Kendrick, whose office is representing the plaintiffs, had hoped Judge Silver would appoint a receiver, who would directly control the health care improvements for the court. Instead, Silver assigned three health care experts to develop a plan for improving conditions in Arizona prisons. The recommendations were provided to Silver in October and Kendrick expects the plan to be ready in the next few weeks.
Still, Kendrick is hopeful about this outcome and what it could mean for similar cases in the future. Kendrick also said she's spoken with currently incarcerated people who told her they felt their voices were heard and their concerns were validated by the decision.
— Justin Stabley