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Arms Trade Treaty: Global Victory for Women and Girls

On April 2, the United Nations passed an innovative Arms Trade Treaty aimed at regulating the massive global trade in conventional weapons, for the first time linking arms sales to the human rights records of the buyers. For the first time arms manufacturers and dealers will have to consider the end use of their product — how will their customers use the weapons and to make that information public. The May-June 2013 issue of Maryknoll's NewsNotes explains the potential positive impact the treat could have on women and girls:

A particular element of the Treaty that is cause for much celebration is the inclusion of language that protects women and girls from armed gender-based violence (GBV). In the Preamble of the ATT, it states "that civilians, particularly women and children, account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by armed conflict and armed violence."
 
In the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, violence against women and girls is defined as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women [or girls], including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."
 
Under Article 7.4 of the Arms Trade Treaty, GBV is included as a binding criterion for considering whether or not to export arms. The exporting party must consider the overriding risk of potential violations of international humanitarian law (IHL), international human rights law (IHRL) and must take into account the risk that the transfer will be "used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children."

Read the rest here: http://www.maryknollogc.org/article/arms-trade-treaty-global-victory-women-girls

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DRONE WATCH: China Developing Drones

China is rapidly developing a fleet of drones, some of which are already patrolling its borders. The number of drones and their capabilities remains unknown, but other countries in the region are watching closely. The AP reports:

China's move into large-scale drone deployment displays its military's growing sophistication and could challenge U.S. military dominance in the Asia-Pacific. It also could elevate the threat to neighbors with territorial disputes with Beijing, including Vietnam, Japan, India and the Philippines. China says its drones are capable of carrying bombs and missiles as well as conducting reconnaissance, potentially turning them into offensive weapons in a border conflict.

China's increased use of drones also adds to concerns about the lack of internationally recognized standards for drone attacks. The United States has widely employed drones as a means of eliminating terror suspects in Pakistan and the Arabian Peninsula.

Read more here.

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DRONE WATCH: Anger in Yemen

As the number of drone strikes against targets in Yemen has grown, the anger of the local people is also growing. The AP reports (via philly.com):

In its covert fight against al-Qaida in Yemen, the United States has dramatically stepped up its use of drone strikes the past year, scoring key successes against one of the most active branches of the terror network. With more than 40 strikes reported in 2012 and nine so far this year, Yemen has become the second biggest front in American drone warfare, after Pakistan.

But the escalation has meant more civilians getting caught in the crossfire.

Civilian deaths are breeding resentments on a local level, sometimes undermining U.S. efforts to turn the public against militants. The backlash is still not as large as in Pakistan, where there is heavy pressure on the government to force limits on strikes , but public calls for a halt to strikes are starting to emerge.

Read more here.

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DRONE WATCH: The Thistle and the Drone

Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, reviews a new book in Al Jazeera — Akbar Ahmed's The Thistle and the Drone: How America's War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam.

In the Cold War, the US funded and supported any regime, dictatorship or democracy, that opposed communism. From US support for the cruel and brutal dictator in Cuba, Fulgencio Batista, to the Shah of Iran whose support by the US still haunts US-Iran relations, to the leader of Iraq whom the US first supported and then overthrew, Saddam Hussein, there was no virtue not sacrificed in the American quest to subvert and defeat communism. Today, that zeal - and the money and effort backing it - has morphed into US tactics to defeat terrorism.

Under the Obama administration, the principal instrument of these tactics is the drone. Professor Ahmed's book provides a searing indictment of the use of that instrument.

Read more here.

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Four Additional Hurdles for Immigration Reform

Now that the Senate's Gang of Eight has published its immigration proposal, TIME has put together four hurdles to the bill becoming law.

Problem #1: Stalling tactics from the right. Conservatives may stall the bill calling for "more hearings, more transparency, more opportunities to tweak the legislation to their liking."

Problem #2: Pushback from the left. Immigrants' rights groups feel the 13-year path to citizenship is too long and gay-rights advocates want greater protections for same-sex couples.

Problem #3: The cost for taxpayers. The cost of immigration reform has not been officially calculated. Conservatives are touting a large price tag as a reason to derail the legislation.

Problem #4: The conservative media storyline. Conservative media remains split between those who support immigration reform out of "sheer political imperative" and those who hope to divide the Gang of Eight.

For more in-depth explanations of each hurdle, click here.

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Climate Change May Bring Drought to Temperate Areas

A NASA led study found climate change may increase rainfall in some areas and drought in other areas. The study predicts for every 1 degree Fahrenheit increase in global average temperature, heavy rainfall will increase globally by 3.9%. The Los Angeles Times reports.

"These results in many ways are the worst of all possible worlds," said Peter Gleick, a climatologist and water expert who is president of the Pacific Institute, an Oakland research organization. "Wet areas will get wetter and dry areas will get drier."

Read more here.

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Congress Lets Sequester Defund Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Programs

Due to sequestration, programs that fight domestic violence and sexual assault will lose 20 million dollars in funding this year. Congress has voted to restore funding to tuition aid for service members and the Federal Aviation Administration but not the Violence Against Women Act. It is estimated 70,120 fewer domestic violence victims will have access to recovery programs and shelters and 35,900 fewer people will get help obtaining non-shelter services such as restraining orders and sexual assault treatment. Mother Jones reports:

"The tower is understaffed and the rescue plane can't land," says Kim Gandy, president and CEO National Network to End Domestic Violence. "We're talking about really vital services to people who are already in a terrible situation and really in need of emergency services—and there aren't alternatives."

Read more here.

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Catholic Church in Honduras Initiates Gang Truce

The Catholic Church in Honduras is reaching out to both criminal gangs, such as Mara Salvatrucha and M18, and the government to negotiate a cessation to violence, similar to truces reached with church mediation in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Colombia. Agenzia Fides reports:

"We are in a process of recovery of the respect for life, we are listening to both gangs, but the government has not yet given an answer," said Mgr. Romulo Emiliani Sánchez, C.M.F Auxiliary Bishop of San Pedro Sula to a local radio station, announcing the start of a dialogue with the main criminal gangs in Honduras, to reach a truce similar to that in force in El Salvador.

Read more here.

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DRONE WATCH: An Alternative to Guantánamo?

A hunger strike by detainees has Guantánamo back in the news. But has the Obama administration been using drone strikes to kill al Qaida suspects rather than capturing them? The attorney who wrote the the first legal justification for using drones thinks so. The Guardian reports:

“John Bellinger, who was responsible for drafting the legal framework for targeted drone killings while working for George W Bush after 9/11, said he believed their use had increased since because President Obama was unwilling to deal with the consequences of jailing suspected al-Qaida members.

"This government has decided that instead of detaining members of al-Qaida [at Guantánamo] they are going to kill them," he told a conference at the Bipartisan Policy Center.”

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Hydrofracking Could Strain Water Resources in West

The expansion of hydrofracking could strain water resources from Forth Worth to western Colorado. The New York Times reports:

“Given projected sharp increases” in the production of oil and gas by the technique commonly known as fracking, the report from the group Ceres said, “and the intense nature of local water demands, competition and conflicts over water should be a growing concern for companies, policy makers and investors.”

One option is to recycle the water used in hyrdofracking. However the water may contain chemicals, natural pollutants, or ever radioactivity and it is expensive to clean the water. Some companies are expanding their use of brackish, undrinkable water unstead of fresh water to lessen their environmental impact. 

Read more here.

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