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Beginning on June 28, Baku is hosting the 23rd annual meeting of the Crans Montana Forum, an "international organization" founded in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, which "works for the promotion of international cooperation and contributes to global growth while ensuring a high level of stability, equity, and security."

Among the events is a forum on June 29 titled "The Role of Women in Tomorrow's World," chaired by the first lady of Azerbaijan, Mehriban Aliyeva, and featuring speakers such as the first ladies of Georgia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Niger...and former CNN talk-show host Larry King.

King -- whose marriage to his seventh wife almost collapsed in 2010 -- will address the forum under the description "Women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights," as well as "the role of first ladies in the promotion of women's dignity."

While it's clear that women related to the president have done quite well in Azerbaijan, the state of ordinary women's rights in the country, especially in the countryside, is less clear.

Last year, King moderated a forum in equally democracy-challenged and energy-rich Kazakhstan, on energy issues. While there, he questioned singer Sting's canceling of a concert in the country in solidarity with striking oil workers.

After the criticism Azerbaijan's government faced over its human rights record when it hosted its last international event, the Eurovision Song Contest, perhaps Baku preferred to host a forum by an organization that eschews press coverage -- practically boasting of it, in fact.

At least Aliyeva and her husband, President Ilham Aliyev, have been shielded by their admirers in parliament from any further unpleasant allegations of corruption after the dissemination of commercial information was recently made illegal unless approved by all parties involved.

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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