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Afghan Battlefield Spreading Into Residential Areas

From AlertNet:

The Afghan battlefield is spreading into residential areas where more people are being killed by air strikes, car bombs and suicide attacks, according to a U.N. report published on Friday.

The U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan said that 1,013 civilians were killed on the sidelines of their country's armed conflict from January to the end of June, compared to 818 in the first half of 2008 and 684 in the same period in 2007. Commenting on the report, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said it was critical that steps be taken to shield Afghan communities from fighting.

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U.S. Still in Denial on Gender Violence

This is welcome news:

The Obama administration has opened the way for foreign women who are victims of severe domestic beatings and sexual abuse to receive asylum in the United States. The action reverses a Bush administration stance in a protracted and passionate legal battle over the possibilities for battered women to become refugees.

But one sentence caught my eye:

In addition to meeting other strict conditions for asylum, abused women will need to show that they are treated by their abuser as subordinates and little better than property, according to an immigration court filing by the administration, and that domestic abuse is widely tolerated in their country.

Are we kidding ourselves? Name a country, including the U.S., where domestic abuse isn't widely tolerated.

In the words of the WHO, "Gender-based violence, or violence against women (VAW), is a major public health and human rights problem throughout the world."

Here's a chilling video in which Keira Knightley reenacts the vicious and cowardly abuse women are subjected to on a daily basis:

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July Already the Deadliest Month for Foreign Troops in Afghanistan

A harbinger of things to come or a temporary spike?

The death toll for foreign troops in Afghanistan halfway through July equalled the highest for any month of the eight-year-old war, tallies showed on Wednesday, as a U.S. escalation has met unprecedented violence.

Authorities announced a U.S. soldier had been killed by a bomb and two Turks had died in a road accident, raising the toll of U.S. and allied foreign fatalities in the first half of July to 46, equal to full month highs set in August and June 2008.

In the two weeks since U.S. and British troops launched massive assaults, Western troops have died at an average rate of three a day, nearing the tempo of the bloodiest days in Iraq and almost 20 times the rate in Afghanistan from 2001-04.

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BBC: Sudan women ‘lashed for trousers’

Primitive and deplorable:

"I was wearing trousers and a blouse and the 10 girls who were lashed were wearing like me, there was no difference," [Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein] told the BBC's Arabic service.

Ms Hussein said some women pleaded guilty to "get it over with" but others, including herself, chose to speak to their lawyers and are awaiting their fates.

Under Sharia law in Khartoum, the normal punishment for "indecent" dressing is 40 lashes.

Ms Hussein is a well-known reporter who writes a weekly column called Men Talk for Sudanese papers. She also works for the United Nations Mission in Sudan.

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Did North Korea Launch a Sophisticated Cyber Attack Against the U.S.?

President Obama's recent decision to name a national cybersecurity chief seems auspicious in light of this:

A widespread and unusually resilient computer attack that began July 4 knocked out the Web sites of several government agencies, including some that are responsible for fighting cyber crime.

Suspected cyber assaults also paralyzed Web sites of major South Korean government agencies, banks and Internet sites in a barrage that appeared linked to the attacks in the U.S., South Korean officials said Wednesday.

The Treasury Department, Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission and Transportation Department Web sites were all down at varying points over the holiday weekend and into this week, according to officials inside and outside the government.

As we saw in the Russia-Georgia conflict, cyberspace is becoming the new global battlefield:

According to Internet technical experts, it was the first time a cyberattack had coincided with a real war. But it will likely not be the last, said Bill Woodcock, the research director of Packet Clearing House, a nonprofit organization that tracks Internet traffic. He said cyberattacks are so inexpensive and easy to mount, with few fingerprints, that they will almost certainly remain a feature of modern warfare.

As far as the July 4th attack, North Korea appears to be the main suspect:

South Korean intelligence officials believe North Korea or pro-Pyongyang forces in South Korea committed cyber attacks that paralyzed major South Korean and U.S. Web sites, a lawmaker's aide said Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the National Intelligence Service told a group of South Korean lawmakers it believes that North Korea or North Korean sympathizers in the South "were behind" the attacks, according to an aide to one of the lawmakers briefed on the information.