TDB Top 5 International Stories: Monday 6th March 2017

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5: As Sessions Recuses Himself From Campaign Investigation, Questions Remain Over Trump-Russia Ties
4: Report: More than 200,000 displaced by Mosul conflict
3: Why Burger King Is Under Fire for Alleged Rampant Environmental Destruction
2: Trump ‘wiretap’: White House wants investigation but Clapper denies order
1: Trump Wants NSA Program Reauthorized But Won’t Tell Congress How Many Americans It Spies On

5: As Sessions Recuses Himself From Campaign Investigation, Questions Remain Over Trump-Russia Ties

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from any investigation into last year’s presidential campaign, following reports he met twice with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. at a time when he was serving as both a senator and a campaign surrogate for Donald Trump. The revelation directly contradicts Sessions’ sworn testimony to Congress in January that he did not meet with any Russian officials in the run-up to November’s election. On Thursday, Sessions called charges he lied under oath “totally false” and said he failed to mention the meetings with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak because the two did not discuss the campaign. Meanwhile on Thursday The New York Times revealed that Flynn and Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner held a meeting at Trump Tower with the Russian ambassador ahead of the presidential inauguration. “Do those relationships risk posing undue influence on him going forward, possibly, bribery or some kind of coercion on policy?” asks Marcy Wheeler, an independent journalist who covers national security and civil liberties at EmptyWheel.net.

Democracy Now

4: Report: More than 200,000 displaced by Mosul conflict

More than 200,000 people have been displaced as a result of the Iraqi forces’ battle to retake the city of Mosul from ISIL that began in October, according to a Switzerland-based nongovernmental organisation.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates, in a report released on Sunday, said 45,000 people have fled west Mosul since the push to seize it from ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group, began in February.

More than 17,000 people arrived from west Mosul on February 28 alone, while over 13,000 came on March 3, according to the IOM.

On Saturday, a senior Iraqi government official publicly criticised UN-led efforts to aid those displaced by the west Mosul fighting, while the UN said that such assistance is the “top priority”.

Aljazeera

3: Why Burger King Is Under Fire for Alleged Rampant Environmental Destruction

Burger King, the company that sometimes thinks that crispy chicken is a vegetarian option, is now having to contend with a scathing report by environmental protection group Mighty Earth.

Entitled “The Ultimate Mystery Meat,” Mighty Earth investigated the impact of soy crops used to feed the animals that go into 11 million Whoppers, Crispy Chickens Jr., Bacon Kings, and other sandwiches every single day.

Turns out that the global burger chain is flame-grilling more than just beef patties. According to the report, the company’s two main soy suppliers—Bunge and Cargill—are “systematically” burning tropical forests in Brazil and Bolivia, leading to the disappearance of more than 1.7 million acres of forest land between 2011 and 2015.

And it’s not just trees that are getting fucked up by Bunge and Cargill (who sound like crusty a detective team from the 70s). This alleged rampant deforestation is also having a devastating impact on sloths, jaguars, giant anteaters, and other species that rely on the rich ecosystem for survival.

By using aerial drones, Mighty Earth claims that they witnessed tractors “ripping up” the ancient savannah as well as soybean farmers using “systematic fires to burn the debris and clear the land—sending acrid smoke across the whole region.”

Vice News

2: Trump ‘wiretap’: White House wants investigation but Clapper denies order

The White House asked Congress on Sunday to investigate Donald Trump’s allegation, presented without evidence the day before, that Barack Obama ordered illegal wiretapping of Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential election.

On Saturday, a spokesman for Obama said the former president had not ordered any such surveillance. On Sunday a former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, went further, denying the existence of any surveillance order at Trump Tower, at least during his tenure.

In his demand for an investigation, White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not provide any evidence for the president’s claims, but said reports about “potentially politically motivated investigations” were “very troubling”.

He did not specify what reports were in question, though late last week rightwing radio and news sites, including the website recently run by the president’s chief strategist, circulated the idea that Obama had tried to undermine the Trump campaign.

The Guardian 

1: Trump Wants NSA Program Reauthorized But Won’t Tell Congress How Many Americans It Spies On

THE WHITE HOUSE wants Congress to reauthorize two of the NSA’s largest surveillance programs before they expire at the end of the year.

One of them scans the traffic that passes through the massive internet cables going in and out of the U.S. and ends up catching a vast number of American communications in its dragnet.

But how many? Lawmakers have been asking for years, and the intelligence community has consistently refused provide even a ballpark figure.

At a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, several members expressed frustration that intelligence chiefs — first under Obama, and now under Trump — have failed to provide any kind of estimate, even in classified briefings.

“The members of this committee and the public at large require that estimate to engage in a meaningful debate,” said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the leading Democrat on the committee. “We will not simply take the government’s word on the size of the so-called ‘incidental collection.’”

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which lapses at the end of the year, allows the NSA to collect vast amounts of domestic internet traffic as long as it maintains it is only “targeting” foreigners. Documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden described two huge surveillance programs that operate under that authority. One program, PRISM, allows the NSA to collect data in bulk from tech companies like Google, Facebook and Apple. The other program — Upstream — allows the NSA to tap the massive internet cables that carry information in and out of the U.S. and search for communications involving certain foreign “targets” or “selectors”.

As the NSA scans the cables for information on its targets, it also collects information on the Americans those targets are communicating with, as well as entirely unrelated information, such as communications from people who happened to be in the same chat room as a target. Furthermore, the targets can be selected for any “foreign intelligence purpose” — not just counterterrorism.

As a result, the NSA ends up collecting information on a huge number of U.S. persons without getting a warrant – collection they describe as “incidental,” but which is really inevitable. And using what critics call the backdoor loophole, law enforcement officials then search through that material for information on Americans.

The Intercept

 

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