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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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Sanctions tightening around North Korea

The facts that China appears to be on board -- not to mention that the UN panel on North Korea sanctions may come to consensus before its deadline -- do not bode well for a defiant Pyongyang.

The U.N. Security Council neared agreement on Wednesday on North Korean firms and individuals to be added to a blacklist for involvement in Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs, diplomats said

"We are very close" to agreement, Japanese Ambassador Yukio Takasu told reporters. Diplomats from several countries said a council committee that has been discussing the issue for a month was on target to meet a weekend deadline for completing its task and could do so as early as Wednesday.

Meanwhile, North Korea insists that its "sovereignty" be respected before negotiations can recommence. This seems to have it completely backwards. North Korea's leaders aren't exactly the ones to place conditions here; they're the ones who will need to reconsider their country's nuclear program if they are interested in, say, having unfrozen bank accounts or being able to travel anywhere.

Yet I wouldn't be surprised to hear some off-the-mark commentators continue to insist that an utterly isolated North Korea somehow has "the upper hand" in this drama.

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The “continued vitality and relevance” of certain international institutions are questioned Clinton’s speech

John captured one good quote below.  Here's  another I jotted down. Sayeth the Secretary: "We are seeking institutions that combine efficiency and capacity for action with inclusiveness...Their continued vitality and relevance depend on their legitimacy and representativeness--and the ability of their members to act swiftly and responsibly when problems arise. "

The UN as a whole has the legitimacy and relevance part covered. And various UN agencies like the World Food Program, World Heath Organization and UNICEF have the "swiftness of action" down pat.  The Security Council, however, sometimes lacks a bit of both criteria. I wonder, therefore, if a statement like this is meant to lay the groundwork for a new push on Security Council reform? 

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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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Happy 60th, Geneva Conventions

On the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, it seems appropriate to celebrate the possibility that the United States could firm up its compliance with another UN human rights mechanism, the 1984 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment.  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is reportedly considering launching an investigation of the use of torture during the Bush Administration, a step that President Obama had been loathe to take.

IntLawGrrls' Beth Van Schaack has much more on why the U.S. should be fully implementing the Torture Convention, so I'll just add my agreement that this is a good step both for international justice and for the United States itself.  The politics of an investigation will hopefully fade eventually, as this should be far more an issue of policy -- of making sure the United States is abiding by conventions it has agreed to -- than a partisan tactic.

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Post-previewing Clinton’s speech

Previewed yesterday, here's a bit of a post-preview, if you will, of Hillary Clinton's speech at the Council on Foreign Relations today (just about over now), mostly courtesy of our friends on the FP blogging team.  Laura Rozen had some excerpts of the speech before Clinton even gave it; WaPo's Glenn Kessler looks at the Iran bits; Josh Keating couldn't find it on the teevee; and Dan Drezner has a great play-by-play for those who (like me) missed it.

The key graf for fans of international cooperation:

Today, we must acknowledge two strategic facts: First, that no nation can meet the world's challenges alone.... Second, that most nations worry about the same global threats, from non-proliferation to fighting disease to counter-terrorism....Just as no nation can meet these challenges alone, no challenge can be met without America.

I suppose the variant of the United States as "indispensable nation" was pretty much inevitable, but I'd just add (in case Secretary Clinton did not) that if no nation can meet these challenges alone, but America needs to be part of the battle, then U.S. engagement in the global body featuring every nation on the planet seems like a good idea.

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Al-Qaeda targets Chinese workers–not an idle threat

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has threatened Chinese workers in North Africa in retaliation for the deaths of Muslim Chinese Uyghurs last week in Xinjiang. This is not a minor threat. Chinese companies don’t use a lot of security in Africa, and Chinese workers generally are not well-liked by local populations in Africa; they lack the kind of population acceptance that would keep them safe. The Chinese embassy in Algeria has issued a warning and called for increased security measures for Chinese citizens in Algeria.

To make things worse, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – formerly known as “Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat” - is an especially violent branch of the group. They’re known for violent bombings, with casualty numbers that are consistently in the double-digits. They also take hostages; they executed a European hostage last month. They have the skills and the willingness to do major damage to Chinese interests. Chinese workers have been easy targets for previous terrorist attacks. Nine Chinese workers were kidnapped in Darfur in 2008, and the Ogaden National Liberation Front repeatedly attacked Chinese workers in Ethiopia.

For the record, there doesn’t seem to be any known link between Uyghurs and Al-Qaeda. The Uyghur American Association and the Uyghur World Congress have condemned Al-Qaeda’s threat, saying that “Terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda do not represent the peaceful aspirations of the Uyghur people.”

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This is what international justice looks like

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor, in the doc. 

A few things to keep in mind:

1) Though the trial is taking place in the Hague, it is being conducted through the auspices of the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, which is a "Hybrid Court" that includes jurists from Sierra Leone and the international community. The court is seated in Freetown Sierra Leone, but Taylor's trial was moved to the Hague for security reasons. They are using rented facilities from the ICC.

2) Taylor is not being charged with any crimes that he is alleged to have committed in Liberia. This trial is about his support for militias in neighboring Sierra Leone.

3) Taylor is the second head of state to be tried for war crimes. Milosevic was the first...and Sudan's Omar al Bashir may very well be next.

4) Will details of Taylor's 1985 prison-break in Plymouth, Massachusetts emerge?