Former Obama Justice Department official slams Sessions over drug sentencing reversal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF YAHOO NEWS)

Former Obama Justice Department official slams Sessions over drug sentencing reversal

Caitlin Dickson

Breaking News Reporter
Yahoo News May 15, 2017

Vanita Gupta, the former head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, called Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ harsh new sentencing policy “incredibly disappointing” in an interview Monday.

Last week, Sessions directed all federal prosecutors to pursue “the most serious, readily provable offense,” including those that carry mandatory minimum sentences — effectively reversing course on Obama-era policies aimed at drug sentencing reform.

Gupta, who also served as principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama administration, said the move was not entirely surprising given Sessions’ record in the Senate of resisting criminal justice reform. Still, she told Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric, the new policy marked a “resounding step backwards into the 1980s of failed policies in our criminal justice system that resulted in us having the highest incarceration rate of industrialized nations in the world.”

“It’s a real throwback in a lot of ways, and very troubling,” Gupta said, arguing that Sessions seems more guided by politics and rhetoric than evidence showing that mass incarceration is ineffective as a means of promoting public safety.

Evidence-based criminal justice reform is “one of the few issues that has brought Americans of all political stripes together over the last several years,” she said. “Yet the attorney general and [the Trump] administration seem to be out of line with the evidence and the momentum for reform.”

Gupta’s comments echoed a statement issued by former Attorney General Eric Holder last week, in which he called Sessions’ new tough sentencing policy “dumb on crime.”

Gupta had some equally harsh words for the president’s newly created commission to target voter fraud and its co-chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a leading proponent of restrictive voting laws.

Obama Deputy AG’s concerns over Trump’s Election Integrity Commission in two words: ‘Kris Kobach’

Vanita Gupta, former principal deputy assistant attorney general and acting head of the Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division under President Obama, spoke to Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric about President Trump’s creation of an Election Integrity Commission. She described her concerns in two words: “Kris Kobach,” the Kansas secretary of state.

In addition to the fact that several studies have found no evidence of mass voter fraud in the U.S., Gupta said there is “simply no way to take this commission seriously or to think that it is in any way independent, given that Kris Kobach has been named at the helm of it.”

Kobach, who has publicly supported Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud during the 2016 election, insisted on CNN Monday that the commission “is not set up to disprove or to prove President Trump’s claim, nor is it just looking at the 2016 election.”

“We’re looking at all forms of election irregularities — voter fraud, voter registration fraud, voter intimidation, suppression — and looking at the vulnerabilities of the various elections we have in each of the 50 states,” he said.

But Gupta isn’t buying it.

“It really just feels like a response to a political promise,” she said, adding that more than anything, the commission “seems to be setting the stage for efforts at mass voter suppression down the road.”

“I think those of us who care about voting rights are deeply, deeply troubled by this commission,” Gupta said.

Obama Deputy A.G. on Sessions, Comey’s firing and Trump’s Election Integrity Commission

Vanita Gupta, the former principal deputy assistant attorney general and acting head of the Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division under President Obama, spoke to Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric about Attorney General Sessions rolling back Obama- era guidance on sentencing, the firing of FBI Director James Comey and President Trump’s newly created Election Integrity Commission.

Read more from Yahoo News:

Israel said to be the source of intel Trump gave to Russians

Israeli envoy does not confirm New York Times report but says ‘Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States’

Source: Israel said to be the source of intel Trump gave to Russians

Adelson reportedly ‘furious’ with Tillerson for tying embassy move to peace deal

Republican-backing casino billionaire said dismayed at suggestion that relocating diplomatic mission is negotiable

Source: Adelson reportedly ‘furious’ with Tillerson for tying embassy move to peace deal

China Vows to Continue Helping Myanmar Achieve Peace

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

China Vows to Continue Helping Myanmar Achieve Peace

Xi

China’s President Xi Jinping voiced to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday his country’s commitment to help its neighbor achieve peace as fighting along their shared border forced thousands to seek refuge in China, state media said.

Fighting in March in Myanmar prompted Beijing to call for a ceasefire between ethnic militias and the security forces there and carry out military drills along the border.

Xi met Nobel laureate Suu Kyi – who serves as Myanmar’s foreign minister while also being de facto head of its civilian government – following China’s Belt and Road Forum on Sunday and Monday.

“China is willing to continue to provide necessary assistance for Myanmar’s internal peace process,” China’s official Xinhua news agency cited Xi as saying.

“The two sides must jointly work to safeguard China-Myanmar border security and stability,” Xi said.

The news agency did not elaborate on what assistance China would provide.

China has repeatedly expressed concern about fighting along the border that has occasionally spilled into its territory, for instance in 2015, when five people died in China.

Xi also said China would work to enhance cooperation with Myanmar on his Belt and Road development plan, which aims to bolster China’s global leadership by expanding infrastructure between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond.

Suu Kyi told Xi that Myanmar was grateful for Chinese help and that it would work with China to safeguard stability in the border region, Xinhua said.

Beijing last month offered to mediate a diplomatic row over the flight of around 69,000 minority Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh to escape violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, according to officials from Bangladesh.

Myanmar has been sharply criticized in the West over violence against the Rohingya.

Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency under Myanmar’s army-drafted constitution, but effectively leads the government through the specially created post of “state counsellor”.

Meanwhile, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday that he and Xi resolved to strengthen their countries’ friendship during their meeting in Beijing, with China pledging to speed up infrastructure projects it is funding in the Philippines.

“We renewed our resolve to strengthen our friendship and mutually beneficial partnership on a broad range of areas,” Duterte said in southern Davao City on his return from Beijing. “We resolved to fully use the mechanisms we have established to dialogue openly, monitor progress and ensure implementation of projects.”

Duterte, who took office last June, has worked to repair relations with China that have been strained by territorial conflicts in the South China Sea and an international arbitration ruling on a case filed by his predecessor that invalidated Beijing’s claims to the disputed territory. Duterte met separately with Xi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang after attending last weekend’s “Belt and Road” trade initiative.

Duterte said both he and Xi were looking forward to officials from both countries meeting later this week for inaugural bilateral talks on the South China Sea. Philippine officials have said the meeting will be held Friday in southwestern China.

Four agreements were signed during the visit, including a Chinese grant of 500 million yuan ($72.5 million) for feasibility studies of infrastructure projects in the Philippines and construction of a drug rehabilitation center.

Also signed were memorandums of understanding on cooperation in human resources development and personnel exchanges, energy cooperation, and enhancing government capabilities in communication and publishing.

Duterte thanked China for its generosity, including providing grants and loans, promising to build two bridges for free in metropolitan Manila and increasing imports of Philippine agricultural products.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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India Boycotts China Summit Amid Kashmir Concerns

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE KASHMIR OBSERVER)

India Boycotts China Summit Amid Kashmir Concerns

India Boycotts China Summit Amid Kashmir Concerns

India Boycotts China Summit Amid Kashmir Concerns

New Delhi: India signalled it will boycott a summit in Beijing on boosting China’s trade links to the rest of the world, setting off a new dispute between the neighbours.

The two-day summit was attended by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and 26 other leaders.

Without announcing a formal boycott, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman highlighted concerns about China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, a massive undertaking to link the country with Africa, Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial zones.

The spokesman also reaffirmed India’s opposition to a Chinese-Pakistani economic corridor that runs through disputed Kashmir.

“Guided by our principled position in the matter, we have been urging China to engage in a meaningful dialogue on its connectivity initiative,” said foreign ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay in a strongly worded statement released late Saturday.

“We are awaiting a positive response from the Chinese side.

“Regarding the so-called ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’, which is being projected as the flagship project of the… OBOR, the international community is well aware of India’s position.

“No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passes through Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan Kashmir, which is claimed by India. The two sides have been at loggerheads over Kashmir since their division in 1947.

India’s is also concerned because the 3,000km corridor ends in the strategic Pakistani port of Gwadar.

India fears the port could become a Chinese naval base facing its navy in Mumbai.

( AFP)

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