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Saudi Arabia eases travel restrictions on women

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Saudi Arabia on Tuesday began implementing a landmark reform allowing women over the age of 21 to receive passports and travel abroad without permission from a male “guardian”, authorities said.

The reform, announced earlier this month, weakens the restrictive guardianship system that has long been a symbol of repression against women.

“The passport department has started receiving applications for women aged 21 and above to issue or renew passports and to travel outside the kingdom without permission,” the department said on Twitter.

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Women in the kingdom have long required permission from their male “guardians” — husband, father and other male relatives — for these tasks, a restriction that drew international censure.

The reform comes after high-profile attempts by women to escape alleged guardianship abuse despite a string of reforms by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, including a landmark decree last year that overturned the world’s only ban on women drivers.

In other changes unveiled earlier this month, Saudi women were also granted the right to officially register childbirth, marriage or divorce and to be recognised as a guardian to children who are minors ?- same as men.

The reforms were widely celebrated in the kingdom, but they also drew backlash from arch-conservatives, many of whom shared old video sermons on social media by Saudi clerics advocating guardianship laws.

Some also denounced the change as “unIslamic” in a society that traditionally sees men as protectors of women.

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The reform comes as the OPEC petroleum producer reels from low oil prices and seeks to boost employment opportunities for women ?- currently facing chronic joblessness.


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2020 Election

‘Rich people have profited enough’: New poll shows two-thirds of Americans support wealth tax to combat inequality

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Support for a wealth tax to combat persistent inequality in the U.S. is growing, according to a new poll released Wednesday by TheHill/HarrisX which found that just over two-thirds of Americans favor a tax on the wealthiest households.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents—including majorities of Democrats and Independents—said there should be a wealth tax on billionaires, as Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have proposed.

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Could coronavirus really trigger a recession?

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Fears are growing that the new coronavirus will infect the U.S. economy.

A major U.S. stock market index posted its biggest two-day drop on record, erasing all the gains from the previous two months; companies including Apple and Walmart have been warning of potential sales losses from COVID-19 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Americans to prepare for the outbreak to spread to the United States, with unknown but potentially “bad” consequences.

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Indigenous people may be the Amazon’s last hope

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Brazil’s divisive President Jair Bolsonaro has taken another step in his bold plans to develop the Amazon rainforest.

A bill he is sponsoring, now before Congress, would allow transportation infrastructure to be built on indigenous territory. Such lands cover 386,000 square miles of the Brazilian Amazon – one-fifth of the jungle. Here, Native people are constitutionally entitled to exercise sovereignty over resource use.

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