The White House has officially confirmed reports that President Biden will indeed be visiting Saudi Arabia in contradiction of his campaign vows to make the nation a “pariah” for its human rights violations, and everyone’s acting like visiting a murderous tyrant is somehow beneath the dignity of a US president.
“The President will then travel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which is the current chair of the GCC and the venue for this gathering of nine leaders from across the region, at the invitation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud,” the White House statement reads. “The President appreciates King Salman’s leadership and his invitation. He looks forward to this important visit to Saudi Arabia, which has been a strategic partner of the United States for nearly eight decades.”
The president will meet with the nation’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, to discuss what the White House calls “means for expanding regional economic and security cooperation, including new and promising infrastructure and climate initiatives, as well as deterring threats from Iran, advancing human rights, and ensuring global energy and food security.”
But what they will primarily be discussing is oil, as the US flounders in its economic war against Russia.
In 2018, President Trump issued a statement reaffirming the U.S.’s long-standing relationship with the Saudi royal family on the ground that this partnership serves America’s “national interests.” Trump specifically cited the fact that “Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world” and has purchased hundreds of billions of dollars worth of weapons from U.S. arms manufacturers. Trump’s statement was issued in the wake of widespread demands in Washington that Trump reduce or even sever ties with the Saudi regime due to the likely role played by its Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
What made these Trump-era demands somewhat odd was that the Khashoggi murder was not exactly the first time the Saudi regime violated human rights and committed atrocities of virtually every type. For decades, the arbitrary imprisonment and murder of Saudi dissidents, journalists, and activists have been commonplace, to say nothing of the U.S./UK-supported devastation of Yemen which began during the Obama years. All of that took place as American presidents in the post-World War II order made the deep and close partnership between Washington and the tyrants of Riyadh a staple of U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Yet, as was typical for the Trump years, political and media commentators treated Trump’s decision to maintain relations with the Saudis as if it were some unprecedented aberration of evil which he alone pioneered — some radical departure of long-standing, bipartisan American values — rather than what it was: namely, the continuation of standard bipartisan U.S. policy for decades. In an indignant editorial following Trump’s statement, The New York Times exclaimed that Trump was making the world “more [dangerous] by emboldening despots in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere,” specifically blaming “Mr. Trump’s view that all relationships are transactional, and that moral or human rights considerations must be sacrificed to a primitive understanding of American national interests.”
The life-long Eurocrat, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, lamented what he described as Trump’s worldview: “if you buy US weapons and if you are against Iran – then you can kill and repress as much as you want.” CNN published an analysis by the network’s White House reporter Stephen Collinson— under the headline: “Trump’s Saudi support highlights brutality of ‘America First’ doctrine” — which thundered: “Refusing to break with Saudi strongman Mohammed bin Salman over the killing in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Trump effectively told global despots that if they side with him, Washington will turn a blind eye to actions that infringe traditional US values.” Trump’s willingness to do business with the Saudis, argued Collinson, “represented another blow to the international rule of law and global accountability, concepts Trump has shown little desire to enforce in nearly two years in office.”
In 1976, Congress amended the Higher Education Act to make federal student loans nondischargeable through bankruptcy unless the borrower meets the undue hardship standard. The standard requires them to prove that they cannot maintain a minimal standard of living, their circumstances will likely not improve, and they have made a good-faith effort in repaying their debt.
Nearly three decades later, Joe Biden — then a senator serving Delaware — had a large role in making it that standard stricter. In 2005, Congress passed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, and its implications for student-loan borrowers were dire. As signed into law under former President George W. Bush, the bill expanded the undue hardship requirement to borrowers with private student loans, expanding the scope of borrowers who would have to prove their impossible predicament in court.
During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden defended his vote for the bill, saying in a Democratic primary debate that he “improved it.”
“I had a choice, it was going to pass — Republican president, Republican Congress, and I offered two amendments to make sure that people under $50,000 would not be affected and women and children would go to the front of the line on alimony and support payments,” Biden said in March 2020. “I did not like the rest of the bill, but I improved it, number one.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, one of Biden’s 2020 rivals who pushed for expansive student debt cancellation, blasted the 2005 bankruptcy law, along with Biden’s support of it.
“That bankruptcy bill made it impossible or very difficult for people to escape from that student debt,” Sanders said during the primary debate. “It was a very, very bad bill.”
DIANA MARQUEZ HAS spent the last 14 months going on long walks, hitting the treadmill, and cooking with her daughter. She’s gotten to know her grandson, a fourth grader, helping him with his math homework. She has also lived with a weight hanging over her head — and an ankle bracelet strapped to her leg.
Marquez is one of roughly 4,400 people who were released from federal prison to home confinement starting in April 2020 as part of a Department of Justice directive aimed at preventing the transmission of Covid-19 in prison. Normally, the federal government allows people convicted of nonviolent crimes to serve out the last 10 percent or the last six months — whichever is less — of their sentences from home. Their time at home requires strict state scrutiny, including ankle bracelets and daily call-ins. The Department of Justice memorandum, issued under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, asked the Bureau of Prisons to relax the eligibility standards for home confinement so that people convicted of nonviolent crimes could leave prison despite having served less of their sentences.
The status of these people has been in limbo since December, when Justice Department officials from the outgoing Trump administration issued a memo stating that people whose sentences would outlast the Covid-19 emergency order would be returned to prison.
Last week, the New York Times reported that Biden administration lawyers had concluded that the Trump administration memo correctly interpreted the law — and that thousands of people in home confinement must be returned to prison after the yet-to-be-determined end of the “pandemic emergency period.” About 2,000 people stand to be impacted, with the rest having now completed enough of their sentences to qualify for early release under the standard guidance.
The Biden Justice Department’s position is especially shocking for people like Marquez who are doing time for marijuana-related offenses. President Joe Biden, after all, campaigned on loosening drug laws and said that people with marijuana records — who comprise a relatively small percentage of the federal prison population — should be freed.
Republican lawmakers are asking President Joe Biden to keep his promise and reschedule cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act.
Yes, you read the lede right. Republicans are asking Biden, a Democrat, to reschedule weed once and for all.
Representatives Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Don Young (R-AK) both serve as co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. They recently sent a letter to Biden asking for rescheduling and claiming the issue is “a matter of public health.”
Despite all the work that has been happening at the state level to legalize medical and recreational cannabis, it is still classified federally as a Schedule I drug in the U.S., as most cannabis enthusiasts well know. This puts it in the same category with drugs like heroin that are known to be much more harmful. The classification means that cannabis has no medical value and a high potential for abuse in the country’s eyes.
“As a Schedule I substance, cannabis is not accepted for medical use on the federal level, which has caused significant research restrictions and continues to thwart the treatment of a wide range of patients, including those suffering from cancer as well as veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and people living with Multiple Sclerosis and seizure disorders,” the letter explains regarding the status of cannabis.