US Senate approves new sanctions on Russia, Iran

Chuck Schumer, the senior United States senator from New York and a member of the Democratic Party. (AFP)
Updated 15 June 2017
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US Senate approves new sanctions on Russia, Iran

WASHINGTON: The US Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed tough sanctions on Russia and Iran, sending the House of Representatives a bill that would prevent President Donald Trump from unilaterally easing penalties against Moscow.
The measure, which passed on a vote of 98 to two, seeks to make Tehran pay a price for its “continued support of terrorism.”
It also aims to punish Russia’s Vladimir Putin for interfering in last year’s US election, and to make it tougher for the White House to roll back sanctions.
US intelligence chiefs have concluded that Russia orchestrated a campaign to undermine the American election process that included espionage and cyber-attacks, as a means to tilt the vote in Trump’s favor.
“Not only did we pass a new round of tough sanctions for Russia’s meddling in our election, we codified existing sanctions into law, making them harder to lift, and we moved to make Congress — not the President — the final arbiter of sanctions relief when necessary,” top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said before the vote.
“Any idea of the president’s that he can lift sanctions on his own for whatever reason are dashed by this legislation.”
The bill as originally introduced was exclusively about slapping new sanctions on Iran. But lawmakers attached a bipartisan amendment on Russia to it early this week.
The addition came with the White House deeply embroiled in crisis over whether Trump’s campaign team colluded with a Russian effort to sway the 2016 election.
The measure would require a green light from Congress in the event sanctions on Russia are relaxed, suspended or terminated.
It would codify in law the sanctions imposed by executive decree by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, especially against the Russian energy industry.
And it would impose new sanctions on “corrupt Russian actors,” those implicated in serious human rights abuses or who supply weapons to Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, and people who conduct “malicious cyber activity” on behalf of the Russian state.
“This is a very, very strong piece of legislation,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker said on the Senate floor.
Corker, too, sounded pleased that the bill effectively ties a president’s hands when it comes to unwinding certain sanctions on Russia.
“Today the United States Senate is asserting its responsibilities” regarding foreign policy, he added.


Millions of women still landless despite global push for equality

Updated 20 min 5 sec ago
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Millions of women still landless despite global push for equality

  • Throughout rural areas in Zimbabwe, for example, widows routinely find themselves harassed and exploited by in-laws claiming the property their husbands left behind
WASHINGTON: Millions of women worldwide are still unable to access and own land despite laws recognizing their rights, researchers and campaigners said on Monday as they urged countries to bridge the gap between policy and practice.
Patriarchal attitudes toward women and girls and a lack of knowledge of their own rights “prevent millions of women from owning land,” said Victoria Stanley, senior rural development specialist at the World Bank.
“Only 30 percent of the world’s population own land titles, and women are often the least likely to have any land registered,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of a World Bank conference in Washington, D.C.
“Stand for her land,” a campaign launched on Monday by the World Bank and advocacy groups including Landesa and Habitat for Humanity International, aims to change that by promoting better implementation of land laws for women.
Globally, more than 400 million women farm, yet only about 15 percent of farmland is owned by women, according to Landesa.
That inequality exposes women to all manner of rights abuses, rights activists say.
Throughout rural areas in Zimbabwe, for example, widows routinely find themselves harassed and exploited by in-laws claiming the property their husbands left behind.
Although Zimbabwe’s constitution gives women and men equal rights to property and land, in many rural communities tradition overrides national legislation, experts say.
Godfrey Massey of Landesa Tanzania said the existence of laws in itself does not necessarily translate into better access to land for women.
“Women can own land just as men, but few women are aware of this in Tanzania,” he said, calling for more initiatives at the community level to raise awareness of land rights.
“We’ve seen trainings lead to a rise in women joining village land councils or realizing that their husband can’t mortgage the family land without their consent,” he said.
Rajan Samuel of Habitat for Humanity India said that efforts to improve land rights must acknowledge cultural norms like India’s centuries-old Hindu caste system.
“You can have all the policies in the world, if you don’t engage the community from day one you won’t succeed,” he said.