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Biden warns of further action ‘if Russia continues to interfere with our democracy’ – as it happened | US news

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‘It’s a scandal, quite frankly’: US Equal Rights Amendment still faces uphill battle

ith renewed attention on anti-discrimination policies following the #MeToo movement and a record number of women serving in Congress, a nearly century-long effort to explicitly enshrine gender equality in the United States constitution may finally be coming to a head.

If the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) were incorporated into America’s founding document, it would represent a huge victory for women and people across the gender spectrum, whose fundamental rights are too often tied to partisan disagreements.

But amid legal controversies, disingenuous talking points and a chronic lack of urgency, the landmark amendment still faces an uphill battle.

“It’s outrageous – a scandal, quite frankly – that women still have to be in the begging position for their rights,” said Carol Jenkins, president and chief executive of the ERA Coalition and the Fund for Women’s Equality.

First drafted in 1923 and revised over the years, the proposed article is a constitutional guarantee that the “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”. It would also give Congress the power to enforce gender equality through legislation, and would take effect two years after ratification.

Proponents argue the ERA would send a powerful signal and be used as a tool to effectively challenge restrictions and loopholes currently undermining people’s hard-won protections.

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Hillbilly Elegy author JD Vance quits AppHarvest board after voting law tweets

The author of Appalachian memoir Hillbilly Elegy, author JD Vance, has resigned from the board of a company that uses green technology to mass-produce food in the region, days after sending some controversial tweets.

Vance was an early investor in AppHarvest, a mega-greenhouse company that produced its first tomatoes this year at a 300-employee facility in Morehead, Kentucky, the Herald-Leader reported.

An AppHarvest spokesman, Travis Parman, said “it would not be appropriate for me to discuss his motivation” for leaving the board.

But Vance is also being floated in Ohio as a Republican candidate for the US Senate, and he has drawn criticism in recent days for his opposition to corporate leaders who have stood up against anti-voting rights legislation brought by GOP legislators in several states.

Last weekend, more than 100 CEOs joined a call to discuss how to respond to recent proposals in state legislatures to restrict voting rights, most notably in Georgia. Vance said in a recent tweet states should “raise their taxes and do whatever else is necessary to fight these goons”.

One recent proposal from the CEOs was to pull back donations for politicians who support such legislation. Republicans have been the overwhelming backers of anti-voting rights legislation and would disproportionately benefit from them. GOP legislators have often cited falsehoods about election fraud pushed by former president Donald Trump as justification for the new restrictions.

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One of the significant elements of today’s measures against Russia is the degree of detail the administration provided.

Of particular note, the Treasury confirmed that Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian agent in Ukraine and a business associate of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had passed internal Trump campaign polling and strategic data he received from Manafort to Russian intelligence.

On the other hand, the US caveated reports that emerged last year, that Russian intelligence was offering bounties to Taliban militants to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan. Officials said today that the US intelligence agencies only had “low to moderate confidence” in that report, as it depended on detainee accounts and the constraints of working in Afghanistan had made the reports harder to verify.

The sanctions imposed on the Russian bond market have largely been met by shrugs from Russian observers, but the Biden administration is hopeful that they will have a negative multiplier effect, which can be ratcheted up further if Russia misbehaves further.

“Judging from history, removing US investors as buyers in this market can create a broader chilling effect that raises Russia’s borrowing costs, along with capital flight and a weaker currency, and all of all of these forces have a material impact on Russia’s growth and inflation outcomes,” a senior US official told reporters.

But the speed and magnitude of that negative feedback loop is a function of Russia’s choices.”

In the background to this is a desire to establish clear signalling of consequences if Russia launches new military incursions into the Donbas region of western Ukraine. Intelligence chiefs briefed Congress today on the Russian military buildup, but said it was not possible to tell if it was a question of posturing or preparations for invasion.









17:30

Joe Biden’s remarks on Russia this evening sought to project the predictability of US responses in cases where it believed its sovereignty was under attack, while offering Vladimir Putin an off-ramp from escalation with a summit this summer, and a strategic dialogue to follow.

The speech was aimed at addressing two of Putin’s perceptions of the West, that he could get away with disruptive tactics and that Russia was not being given proper respect on the world stage. Biden’s preamble dwelt on the issue of respect.

“President Putin I have had a significant responsibility to steward that relationship. I take that responsibility very seriously as I’m sure he does Russia and Americans are both proud and patriotic people. And I believe the Russian people, like the American people, are invested in a peaceful and secure future of our world.”

Biden stressed the calibrated nature of the US measures against Russia, and his hopes that he and Vladimir Putin, who he warned about the coming sanctions earlier in the week, would be able to stabilise the US-Russian relationship. But at the same time he warned against any Russian military moves in Ukraine.

He said he had made clear US support for Ukrainian territorial integrity. “Now is the time to deescalate,” Biden said. “The way forward is through thoughtful dialogue and diplomatic process.”









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Biden on his conversation with Putin: ‘The conversation was candid and respectful’

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Third coronavirus vaccine dose likely needed within a year, Pfizer CEO says









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US has ‘low to moderate confidence’ in reports of Russian bounty on US troops

US intelligence agencies have only “low to moderate confidence” in reports last year that Russian spies were offering Taliban militants in Afghanistan bounties for killing US soldiers.

The reports in the press citing intelligence sources sparked outrage and demands from Democrats for the Trump administration to confront the Kremlin over the issue.

Unveiling a raft of sanctions against Russia on Thursday, US officials said that the allegations of Russian bounties was not one of the grounds for imposing the measures, but a warning had been sent to Moscow that there would be a punitive response if such incentives were found to have been paid in the future.

US intelligence had “low to moderate confidence” in the reporting on bounties because “it’s based in part on detainee reporting and because of the difficult operating environment in Afghanistan”, a senior administration official told reporters.

“There is an assessment that Russian intelligence officers did seek to encourage Taliban attacks against US and coalition personnel, including through financial incentives and compensation,” the official added. “But because of the low to moderate confidence element of this, our focus is on sending a clear message to Russia about the steps the United States would take in response to such behavior if it were to continue.”

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