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TDB Top 5 International Stories: Monday 15th May 2017

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5: Yes, Jeff Sessions Is Ramping Up the War on Drugs, Again
3: US ambassador to Israel: ‘Great advantage to Netanyahu’
2: China’s Xi lays out $900bn Silk Road vision amid claims of empire-building
1: Donald Trump Orders “Election Integrity” Commission Headed by Architects of Voter Suppression

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5: Yes, Jeff Sessions Is Ramping Up the War on Drugs, Again

The attorney general told federal prosecutors to hit defendants with the harshest possible charges in a total reversal of policy under Obama.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has directed federal prosecutors to slap suspected criminals with the most severe charges they can, revoking an Obama-era policy designed to curb penalties for low-level, nonviolent offenders, the Washington Post reports.

Sessions issued a memo Thursday instructing prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” possible—defining serious offenses as those that carry the “most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.” The order explicitly reversed former attorney general Eric Holder’s mandate to scale back the number of mandatory minimum sentencesimposed on people charged with nonviolent drug crimes.

Holder’s memo, issued in 2013, encouraged prosecutors to shy away from assigning nonviolent defendants in drug-related cases with charges that would trigger mandatory minimums. If the suspected criminals weren’t violent, didn’t belong to a gang or cartel, and had no involvement with a major trafficking ring, prosecutors were instructed to hand them more lenient penalties.

Vice News


IN MID-APRIL, an arsenal of powerful software tools apparently designed by the NSA to infect and control Windows computers was leaked by an entity known only as the “Shadow Brokers.” Not even a whole month later, the hypothetical threat that criminals would use the tools against the general public has become real, and tens of thousands of computers worldwide are now crippled by an unknown party demanding ransom.

The malware worm taking over the computers goes by the names “WannaCry” or “Wanna Decryptor.” It spreads from machine to machine silently and remains invisible to users until it unveils itself as so-called ransomware, telling users that all their files have been encrypted with a key known only to the attacker and that they will be locked out until they pay $300 to an anonymous party using the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. At this point, one’s computer would be rendered useless for anything other than paying said ransom. The price rises to $600 after a few days; after seven days, if no ransom is paid, the hacker (or hackers) will make the data permanently inaccessible (WannaCry victims will have a handy countdown clock to see exactly how much time they have left).

Ransomware is not new; for victims, such an attack is normally a colossal headache. But today’s vicious outbreak has spread ransomware on a massive scale, hitting not just home computers but reportedly health care, communications infrastructure, logistics, and government entities.

The Intercept

3:  US ambassador to Israel: ‘Great advantage to Netanyahu’

Nazareth – The choice of US ambassador to Israel has never before incurred such scrutiny or provoked such controversy.

Usually, the appointment is approved by the Senate’s foreign relations committee by consensus. But David Friedman’s confirmation vote in March split largely on partisan lines, with Republicans backing him and all but one Democrat opposing him.

Tens of thousands of liberal American Jews signed a petition opposing his nomination, and major Jewish organisations and hundreds of rabbis also objected.

But then, Donald Trump‘s envoy to Israel is no ordinary ambassador.

Rather than climbing up through the diplomatic ranks learning the arts of statecraft, 57-year-old Friedman – who was set to arrive at his post this week – has been propelled overnight into one of the world’s most sensitive diplomatic posts.


2:  China’s Xi lays out $900bn Silk Road vision amid claims of empire-building

Chinese president Xi Jinping has kicked off a two-day showcase of what some call the most ambitious development project ever by comparing his country to a peace-loving explorer set on transforming the world with treasure-laden galleys not warships, guns or swords.

Speaking at the start of a high-profile summit about China’s “Belt and Road initiative”, Xi hailed his multi-billion dollar infrastructure crusade as a means of building a modern-day version of the ancient Silk Road and a new “golden age” of globalisation.

“The glory of the ancient Silk Road shows that geographical dispersion is not insurmountable,” he told the 29 heads of state who have gathered in Beijing for the event, including Russian president Vladimir Putin, and Turkey’s Recep Erdoğan.

However, as Xi took to the stage his signature foreign policy initiative faced a backlash with India launching a scathing attack on the $900bn Chinese plan and announcing it would boycott proceedings. According to the the Times of India, New Delhi believed the scheme was “little more than a colonial enterprise [that would leave] debt and broken communities in its wake”.

The Guardian 

1: Donald Trump Orders “Election Integrity” Commission Headed by Architects of Voter Suppression

Voting rights activists are expressing alarm after President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday creating a “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.” Particularly worrying to voting right activists is the selection of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as the vice chair of the commission. Kobach has pushed for the strictest voter identification laws in the country and advocated for a “proof-of-citizenship” requirement at the state and federal levels. For more, we speak with Ari Berman, senior contributing writer for The Nation, where he covers voting rights. His recent piece is headlined “Trump’s Commission on ‘Election Integrity’ Will Lead to Massive Voter Suppression.”

Democracy Now


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