brad brace

11/9/2007

Guano Islands Act

Filed under: General,global islands,government,usa — admin @ 7:18 am

The Guano Islands Act (48 U.S.C. ch.8 §§ 1411-1419) is federal legislation passed by the U.S. Congress, on August 18, 1856, which enables citizens of the U.S. to take possession of islands containing guano deposits. The islands can be located anywhere, so long as they are not occupied and not within the jurisdiction of other governments. It also empowers the President of the United States to use the military to protect such interests, and establishes the criminal jurisdiction of the United States.

“Whenever any citizen of the United States discovers a deposit of guano on any island, rock, or key, not within the lawful jurisdiction of any other Government, and not occupied by the citizens of any other Government, and takes peaceable possession thereof, and occupies the same, such island, rock, or key may, at the discretion of the President, be considered as appertaining to the United States.”
—first section of Guano Islands Act

Background

In the early 19th century, guano came to be prized as an agricultural fertilizer. In 1855, the U.S. learned of rich guano deposits on islands in the Pacific Ocean. Congress passed the Guano Islands Act to take advantage of these deposits.

The act specifically allows the islands to be considered a possession of the U.S., but it also provided that the U.S. was not obliged to retain possession after the guano was exhausted. However, it did not specify what the status of the territory was after it was abandoned by private U.S. interests.

This is the beginning of the concept of insular areas in U.S. territories. Up to this time, any territory acquired by the U.S. was considered to have become an integral part of the country unless changed by treaty, and to eventually have the opportunity to become a state of the Union. With insular areas, land could be held by the federal government without the prospect of it ever becoming a state in the Union.

The provision of the Act establishing U.S. criminal jurisdiction over such islands was considered and ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Jones v. United States, 137 U.S. 202 (1890).

Claims

More than 100 islands have been claimed. Some of those remaining under U.S. control are Baker Island, Jarvis Island, Howland Island, Kingman Reef, Johnston Atoll, Palmyra Atoll and Midway Atoll. Others are no longer considered United States territory. In the Caribbean, Navassa Island is claimed by both the United States and Haiti. An even more complicated case deals with Serranilla Bank and the Bajo Nuevo Bank, where multiple countries claim ownership. In 1971, the U.S. and Honduras signed a treaty recognizing Honduran sovereignty over the Swan Islands. The island of Navassa between Haiti and Jamaica, long recognized as Haitian, was occupied and has never been returned, along with
the Swan Islands between Honduras and Cayman, and a large number of islands in
the Pacific that rightfully belong to their historical owners: the people of
Kiribati, Samoa, and other states. France and Britain similarly occupy
numerous ‘uninhabited’ islands in the Indian Ocean, most notoriously the
Chagos Archipelago of Mauritius. In effect, uninhabited islands have been
treated with ‘might makes right’, and ‘possession is nine tenths of the law’.

On the other hand, the issue of new or artificial islands is very interesting
– one that is undefined legally. The technology now exists to build and grow
such islands where there were none, to expand existing ones, and to create
tethered or free-ranging floating islands. Such islands may offer numerous
possibilities: for instance, they can play a key role in protecting coastlines
from global sea-level rise, in compensating low lying island nations that will
be drowned, and in greatly enhancing fisheries in coastal and open ocean
waters.

11/8/2007

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 7:07 am

Bangladesh's software piracy rate 4th highest in the world

Filed under: bangladesh,General,media — admin @ 7:06 am

DHAKA, Nov. 7 — Bangladesh has been found to have a software piracy rate of 92 percent, which is number one in the Asian Pacific region and the fourth highest in the world, local newspaper The Daily Star reported Wednesday.

A report, Global Software Piracy Study 2006, conducted by IDC, the IT industry’s leading global market research and forecasting firm, warned that the software piracy in Bangladesh is crippling the local industry and costing local retailers 90 million U.S. dollars a year.

The report shows that 92 percent of software used on personal computers in Bangladesh had been pirated in 2006. This means that for every dollar worth of software purchased legitimately, nine dollars worth was obtained illegally.

The high software piracy rate has resulted in 90 million dollars in retail revenue losses to the local Bangladesh software economy.

However the report says that the broader economic impact of software piracy is significantly greater.

“Among the many negative consequences of software piracy is the crippling of local software industries because of competition with pirated software, lost tax revenues and decreased business productivity from using unwarranted software,” the report said.

Bangladesh has a Copyright Act, under which piracy is a punishable with imprisonment for a term, which may be extended to five years and may be imposed a penalty of 500,000 taka (about 7,143 dollars)

The IDC global software piracy study covers piracy of all packaged software that runs on personal computers, including desktops, laptops and ultra-portables. This includes operating system, system software, business applications and consumers applications.

Bangladesh’s software piracy rate 4th highest in the world

Filed under: bangladesh,General,media — admin @ 7:06 am

DHAKA, Nov. 7 — Bangladesh has been found to have a software piracy rate of 92 percent, which is number one in the Asian Pacific region and the fourth highest in the world, local newspaper The Daily Star reported Wednesday.

A report, Global Software Piracy Study 2006, conducted by IDC, the IT industry’s leading global market research and forecasting firm, warned that the software piracy in Bangladesh is crippling the local industry and costing local retailers 90 million U.S. dollars a year.

The report shows that 92 percent of software used on personal computers in Bangladesh had been pirated in 2006. This means that for every dollar worth of software purchased legitimately, nine dollars worth was obtained illegally.

The high software piracy rate has resulted in 90 million dollars in retail revenue losses to the local Bangladesh software economy.

However the report says that the broader economic impact of software piracy is significantly greater.

“Among the many negative consequences of software piracy is the crippling of local software industries because of competition with pirated software, lost tax revenues and decreased business productivity from using unwarranted software,” the report said.

Bangladesh has a Copyright Act, under which piracy is a punishable with imprisonment for a term, which may be extended to five years and may be imposed a penalty of 500,000 taka (about 7,143 dollars)

The IDC global software piracy study covers piracy of all packaged software that runs on personal computers, including desktops, laptops and ultra-portables. This includes operating system, system software, business applications and consumers applications.

11/7/2007

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 7:06 am

Garifuna music

Filed under: belize,General,global islands,nicaragua,panama — admin @ 7:05 am

Garifuna music is similarly different from the rest of Central America; the most famous form is punta. An evolved form of traditional music, still usually played using traditional instruments, punta has seen some modernization and electrification in the 1970s; this is called punta rock. Traditional punta dancing is consciously competitive. Artists like Pen Cayetano helped innovate modern punta rock by adding guitars to the traditional music, and paved the way for later artists like Andy Palacio, Children of the Most High and Black Coral. Punta was popular across the region, especially in Belize, by the mid-1980s, culminating in the release of Punta Rockers in 1987, a compilation featuring many of the genre’s biggest stars.

Other forms of Garifuna music and dance include chumba and hunguhungu, a circular dance in a three beat rhythm, which is often combined with punta. There are other songs typical to each gender, women having eremwu eu and abaimajani, rhythmic a cappella songs, and laremuna wadauman, men’s work songs. Other forms of dance music include matamuerte, gunchei, charikawi and sambai.

Paranda music developed soon after the Garifunas arrival in Central America. The music is instrumental and percussion-based. The music was barely recorded until the 1990s, when Ivan Duran of Stonetree Records began the Paranda Project.

In the Garifuna culture, there is another dance called Dugu. This dance is a ritual done for a death in the family to pay their respect to their loved ones.

In 2001, Garifuna music was proclaimed one of the masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO.

11/6/2007

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:58 am

Killing Hope

Filed under: General,global islands,government,human rights,military,usa — admin @ 6:57 am

“If I were the president, I could stop terrorist
attacks against the United States in a few days.
Permanently. I would first apologize to all the widows
and orphans, the tortured and impoverished, and all the
many millions of other victims of American imperialism.
Then I would announce, in all sincerity, to every
corner of the world, that America’s global
interventions have come to an end, and inform Israel
that it is no longer the 51st state of the USA but now
— oddly enough — a foreign country. I would then
reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the
savings to pay reparations to the victims. There would
be more than enough money. One year’s military budget
of 330 billion dollars is equal to more than $18,000 an
hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born.
That’s what I’d do on my first three days in the White
House. On the fourth day, I’d be assassinated.”
–William Blum, author of “Killing Hope: U.S. Military
and CIA Interventions Since World War II,” and “Rogue
State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower.”

11/5/2007

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 7:27 am

Somali pirates leave 2 hijacked ships off Horn of Africa

Filed under: General,global islands,kenya,military,usa,wealth — admin @ 7:26 am

NAIROBI, Kenya – The American military says Somali pirates have left two boats they had hijacked in the waters off the Horn of Africa.

The newly liberated vessels are under U.S. Navy escort farther out to sea, where naval personnel will later board the vessels and treat the 24 crew members.

A spokeswoman says the Navy is in radio contact with pirates aboard three other ships in the region, encouraging them also to leave those ships and sail back to Somalia.

The spokeswoman says no shots were fired during the incident.

The U.S. has now intervened four times in one week to help ships hijacked by Somali pirates.

11/4/2007

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 7:54 am

Groups Seek Stop to Comcast Net Meddling

Filed under: General,media — admin @ 7:52 am

NEW YORK — A coalition of consumer groups and legal scholars on Thursday formally asked the Federal Communications Commission to stop Comcast Corp. from interfering with its subscribers’ file sharing.

Two of the groups are also asking the FCC to fine Comcast $195,000 for every affected subscriber.

The petitions will be the first real test of the FCC’s stance on “Net Neutrality,” the long-standing principle that Internet traffic be treated equally by carriers. The agency has a policy supporting the concept but its position hasn’t been tested in a real-world case.

Last month, Comcast reportedly hindered file sharing by subscribers who used BitTorrent, a popular file-sharing program. Tests confirmed claims by users who also noticed interference with some file-sharing applications.

Comcast is the country’s largest cable company and has 12.9 million Internet subscribers, making it the second-largest Internet service provider.

Comcast denies that it blocks file sharing, but acknowledged last week that it was “delaying” some of the traffic between computers that share files.

In practice, the company blocks requests from users who are trying to retrieve files from a Comcast subscriber’s computer for a period of time. But it eventually lets the requests through if they are repeated.

In one test, a request went through after 10 minutes of trying. The technology does not directly affect downloads of BitTorrent files by Comcast subscribers, only uploads.

Comcast has said the interference is intended to improve the Internet experience for all its subscribers, noting that a relatively small number of file sharers is enough to slow down its network.

In response to the filings, David Cohen, an executive vice president at Comcast, said that the FCC’s policies recognize that ISPs need to manage the traffic on their networks.

But if other ISPs follow in Comcast’s footsteps, file sharing would essentially crawl to a halt. While the technology is a popular way to illegally share copyright movies and music, legal uses are proliferating, particularly in movie distribution.

“They’re blocking an innovative application that could be a competitor to cable TV,” said Marvin Ammori, general counsel at Free Press, one of the advocacy groups behind the petition to the FCC.

The petition asks the commission to immediately declare that Comcast is violating the FCC’s policy. The co-signers are Consumer Federation of America; Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports; Media Access Project; Public Knowledge; and professors at the Internet practices of the Yale, Harvard and Stanford law schools.

Free Press and Public Knowledge are separately filing a formal complaint that asks the FCC to demand a “forfeiture” from Comcast of $195,000 per affected subscriber.

The number is based on the statutory maximum of $97,500 for a single continuing violation, doubled by what the groups see as deception on the company’s part. Comcast kept its practice secret until publicized, saying that it couldn’t divulge the inner workings of its network for security reasons.

Its filtering technique also involves the company forging network messages so that they appear to come from subscriber and non-subscriber computers.

The complaint includes affidavits from three Comcast subscribers who say they have been affected by Comcast’s interference. The complaint asks the FCC to determine the total number of affected subscribers.

It’s not clear how quickly the FCC would act on the filings.

“The FCC should be aggressively reviewing these cases because they go to ensuring the freedom and openness of the Internet which is so vital to our communications future and to our civic dialogue,” FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said in a statement.

Comcast’s Cohen noted that the FCC’s policy statement, which says that consumers are allowed to run the Internet applications of their choice, makes that “subject to reasonable network management” by ISPs.

“If Comcast is right — that what it’s doing meets the policy statement — then anyone can start blocking BitTorrent tomorrow,” Ammori said.

A ruling against Comcast could cause problems for other Internet service providers. Many of them acknowledge managing traffic to improve flow, which likely includes slowing down file-sharing traffic by means less drastic than Comcast’s.

The Net Neutrality debate erupted in 2005, when the FCC abolished the obligation of providers of Internet service via digital subscriber lines, or DSL, to carry all traffic nondiscriminately (that obligation had been abolished for cable broadband in 2002). The obligation was replaced with the policy statement.

Phone companies started suggesting that they would like to be able to charge large Web companies more for guaranteed delivery of their traffic as a way to finance the build-out of their networks.

Web anchors like Google Inc. and Amazon Inc., joined by consumer groups, opposed the notion, saying it would make Internet service providers the toll keepers of the Internet and enable them to stifle competition and innovation.

The debate was stilled when AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. agreed to shelve their plans temporarily to get their respective plans to acquire BellSouth and MCI approved by the FCC.

Ammori said it appeared that the “nightmare scenario” portrayed by Net Neutrality proponents like his own group, Free Press, had been averted.

“Then suddenly, out of nowhere, Comcast is doing exactly what we most feared … secretly degrading an application,” Ammori said. “We didn’t expect the first violation to be so blatant.”

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:34 am

Piracy carries jail threat in Thailand NEW!

Filed under: General,global islands,media,thailand — admin @ 6:33 am

MUMBAI: Thai authorities are tightening the noose on piracy by handing out jail sentences to pirates arrested during joint raids conducted by the Thai authorities and the Motion Picture Association (MPA).

In 2007 alone, 12 cases have resulted in distributors and retailers being sentenced to jail (without suspension) for up to two years and fines of up to $22,000 imposed. In one case, even possession of as little as 78 infringing CD-Rs gained the pirate a three month jail sentence.

This is unprecedented as the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court of Thailand has until 2006 only sentenced a Taiwanese national to jail for two years for owning a factory that produced pirated discs.

Mike Ellis, Senior Vice President and Regional Director, Asia-Pacific for the Motion Picture Association said: “We are encouraged by the Thai authorities’ tougher stance in meting out jail terms and stiff fines to pirates. We have found in our experience elsewhere that deterrent sentences are essential for effective enforcement. To the pirates, being fined is just a cost of doing business.”

“While this is a first step, we look forward to more deterrent sentences. After all, these are but only 12 out of the over 200 cases in which MPA are involved. I’m certain there are more cases that involve Thai films that deserve equally severe punishment,” Ellis continued.

Piracy carries jail threat in Thailand NEW!

Filed under: General,global islands,media,thailand — admin @ 6:33 am

MUMBAI: Thai authorities are tightening the noose on piracy by handing out jail sentences to pirates arrested during joint raids conducted by the Thai authorities and the Motion Picture Association (MPA).

In 2007 alone, 12 cases have resulted in distributors and retailers being sentenced to jail (without suspension) for up to two years and fines of up to $22,000 imposed. In one case, even possession of as little as 78 infringing CD-Rs gained the pirate a three month jail sentence.

This is unprecedented as the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court of Thailand has until 2006 only sentenced a Taiwanese national to jail for two years for owning a factory that produced pirated discs.

Mike Ellis, Senior Vice President and Regional Director, Asia-Pacific for the Motion Picture Association said: “We are encouraged by the Thai authorities’ tougher stance in meting out jail terms and stiff fines to pirates. We have found in our experience elsewhere that deterrent sentences are essential for effective enforcement. To the pirates, being fined is just a cost of doing business.”

“While this is a first step, we look forward to more deterrent sentences. After all, these are but only 12 out of the over 200 cases in which MPA are involved. I’m certain there are more cases that involve Thai films that deserve equally severe punishment,” Ellis continued.

11/3/2007

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:45 am

The Global Debate on the Death Penalty

Filed under: General,government,human rights,usa — admin @ 6:43 am

Many human rights organizations and intergovernmental organizations, such as the European Union, see the death penalty as one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time and have taken an active role in persuading countries to halt executions.

The debate over capital punishment in the United States—be it in the courts, in state legislatures, or on nationally televised talk shows—is always fraught with emotion. The themes have changed little over the last two or three hundred years. Does it deter crime? If not, is it necessary to satisfy society’s desire for retribution against those who commit unspeakably violent crimes? Is it worth the cost? Are murderers capable of redemption? Should states take the lives of their own citizens? Are current methods of execution humane? Is there too great a risk of executing the innocent?

We are not alone in this debate. Others around the world—judges, legislators, and ordinary citizens—have struggled to reconcile calls for retribution with evidence that the death penalty does not deter crime. They have argued about whether the death penalty is a cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. They have weighed its costs against the need for an effective police force, schools, and social services for the indigent. National leaders have engaged in these discussions while facing rising crime rates and popular support for capital punishment. Yet, while the United States has thus far rejected appeals to abolish the death penalty or adopt a moratorium, other nations have—increasingly and seemingly inexorably—decided to do away with capital punishment.

Indeed, the gap between the United States and the rest of the world on this issue is growing year by year. In June 2007, Rwanda abolished the death penalty, becoming the one hundredth country to do so as a legal matter (although eleven of these countries retain legislation authorizing the death penalty in exceptional circumstances, most have not executed anyone in decades). An additional twenty-nine countries are deemed to be abolitionist in practice since they have either announced their intention to abolish the death penalty or have refrained from carrying out executions for at least ten years. As a result, there are now at least 129 nations that are either de facto or de jure abolitionist.

According to Amnesty International, there are sixty-eight countries that retain the death penalty and carry out executions. But even this number is misleading. In reality, the vast majority of the world’s executions are carried out by seven nations: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Pakistan, Yemen, and Vietnam. Many Americans know that the nations comprising Europe (except Belarus) and South America are abolitionist. But how many are aware that of the fifty-three nations in Africa only four ( Uganda, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan) carried out executions in 2005? Even in Asia, where many nations have long insisted that the death penalty is an appropriate and necessary sanction, there are signs of change. The Philippines abolished the death penalty in 2006, and the national bar associations of Malaysia and Japan have called for a moratorium on executions.

The international trend toward abolition reflects a shift in the death penalty paradigm. Whereas the death penalty was once viewed as a matter of domestic penal policy, now it is seen as a human rights issue. There are now three regional human rights treaties concerning the abolition of the death penalty: Protocols 6 and 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by 160 nations (including the United States), restricts the manner in which the death penalty may be imposed and promotes abolition. Many human rights organizations and intergovernmental organizations, such as the European Union, see the death penalty as one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time and accordingly have taken an active role in persuading countries to halt executions.

The Supreme Court’s View of International Law

As the international chorus of abolitionist voices swells, domestic courts and policy makers have engaged in a heated debate over the role of international law in U.S. death penalty cases. The debate came to a head in mid-2005 after the Supreme Court held in Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), that the execution of juvenile offenders violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy observed that although international law did not control the Court’s analysis, it was both “instructive” and “significant” in interpreting the contours of the Eighth Amendment.

The Roper Court noted that only seven countries had executed juvenile offenders since 1990: Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and China. But even those countries had disavowed the practice in recent years, leaving the United States as “the only country in the world that continues to give official sanction to the juvenile death penalty.” Id. at 575. The Court looked to treaties that prohibit the execution of juvenile offenders, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by every country in the world apart from the United States and Somalia. After examining these sources and reviewing international practice, the Court concluded that the “overwhelming weight of international opinion” was opposed to the juvenile death penalty.

The Court’s majority opinion prompted a scathing dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia. After noting that the Court’s abortion jurisprudence was hardly consistent with the more restrictive practices of most foreign nations, he commented: “I do not believe that approval by ‘other nations and peoples’ should buttress our commitment to American principles any more than . . . disapproval by ‘other nations and peoples’ should weaken that commitment.” Id. at 628. Conservative commentators and legislators likewise attacked the Court’s citation of foreign law.

What many critics of Roper failed to recognize, however, is that the Court has long looked to the practices of the international community in evaluating whether a punishment is cruel and unusual. In Wilkerson v. Utah, 99 U.S. 130 (1879), the Court cited the practices of other countries in upholding executions by firing squad. And in its oft-cited opinion in Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86 (1958), the Court declared that banishment was a punishment “universally deplored in the international community of democracies.” Since then, the Court has frequently referred to international law in a series of death penalty cases interpreting the meaning of the Eighth Amendment.

The Court’s attention to international practice in death penalty cases is undoubtedly related to the flexible and evolving character of the Court’s Eighth Amendment jurisprudence. In Weems v. United States, 217 U.S. 349 (1910), the Court held that the “cruel and unusual punishments” clause “is not fastened to the obsolete, but may acquire meaning as public opinion becomes enlightened by a humane justice.” Id. at 378. In Trop, the Court reaffirmed that the clause “must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” 356 U.S. at 100. The Eighth Amendment involves nothing more, and nothing less, than evaluating whether a punishment violates human dignity.

Courts around the world have wrestled with these same questions. When South Africa’s Constitutional Court decided that the death penalty was an unconstitutionally cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment, it surveyed the decisions of several foreign courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Like that Court, the South African court did not consider foreign sources to be controlling. Nevertheless, it observed that “international and foreign authorities are of value because they analyse [sic] arguments for and against the death sentence and show how courts of other jurisdictions have dealt with this vexed issue. For that reason alone they require our attention.” State v. Makwanyane, Constitutional Court of the Republic of South Africa, 1995, Case No. CCT/3/94, ¶ 34, [1995] 1 LRC 269. The high courts of India, Lithuania, Albania, the Ukraine, and many others have likewise cited international precedent in seminal decisions relating to the administration of the death penalty.

In light of this history, the practice of citing international precedent hardly seems to warrant the storm of controversy surrounding it. But whether one agrees or disagrees with the Court’s approach, a majority of the current justices favors consideration of international law. In the next few years, a number of capital cases will once again offer the Court an opportunity to look beyond U.S. borders and survey international law and the practices of foreign states.

Execution of Persons Who Did Not Kill

Article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) provides that the death penalty may only be imposed for the “most serious crimes.” T he United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee, which interprets the ICCPR’s provisions, has observed that this provision must be “read restrictively to mean that the death penalty should be a quite exceptional measure.” Human Rights Committee, General Comment 6, Art. 6 (Sixteenth session, 1982) ¶ 7; Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRIGEN1Rev.1 at 6 (1994). In a death penalty case from Zambia, where the prisoner received a death sentence for participating in an armed robbery, the committee held that the sentence was not compatible with Article 6(2) because the petitioner’s use of firearms did not cause death or injury to any person.

The UN Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty, adopted by the UN Economic and Social Council in 1984, defines “ most serious crimes” as “intentional crimes with lethal or other extremely grave consequences.” Referring to those safeguards, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions has concluded that the term “intentional” should be “equated to premeditation and should be understood as deliberate intention to kill.” United Nations, Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/79/Add.85, 19 Nov. 1997, ¶ 13.

Yet in the United States, several states authorize the death penalty for persons who are “major participants” in a felony, such as burglary or robbery, even if they never killed, intended to kill, or even contemplated that someone would be killed while committing the crime. In California and Georgia, persons may be sentenced to death for accidental killings during a felony or attempted felony.

Moreover, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and North Carolina allow for the imposition of a death sentence in some cases for the rape of a minor, even if the victim did not die. These laws will be subject to strong legal challenges in coming years, although this will not be an easy battle, as demonstrated by the recent Louisiana supreme court decision upholding a death sentence against an offender who was convicted of raping a child. Louisiana v. Kennedy, No. 05-KA-1981 ( La. May 22, 2007).

Available data indicate that prosecutors rarely seek the death penalty against “non-triggermen,” and executions of these persons are few and far between. These two factors alone indicate that the imposition of the death penalty on persons who have committed nonlethal crimes may be ripe for challenge. In the event that the Supreme Court examines the issue, it is highly likely it will consider international practice. In Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782 (1982), a case involving a defendant sentenced to death under the felony-murder rule, the Court noted that international norms were “not irrelevant” to its analysis, observing that the doctrine of felony murder had been abolished in England and India, severely restricted in Canada and a number of other Commonwealth of Nations countries, and was unknown in continental Europe.

Execution of the Severely Mentally Ill

Although the Supreme Court has held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of the mentally incompetent, state and federal courts have routinely concluded that severely mentally ill prisoners are sufficiently competent that they may lawfully be executed. Consequently, dozens of prisoners suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other incapacitating mental illnesses have been executed in the United States during the last ten years. In June 2007, however, the Court overturned a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, holding that the court had used an overly restrictive definition of incompetence. Panetti v. Quarterman, 127 S. Ct. 2842 (2007). This decision may encourage state and federal courts to take greater care in evaluating the mental status of those facing imminent execution, but it does not prohibit courts from sentencing severely mentally ill prisoners to death, nor does it guarantee that severely mentally ill prisoners will not be executed in the future.

In Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), in which the Court struck down the execution of the mentally retarded, the Court cited an amicus curiae brief submitted by the European Union (EU) as evidence that “within the world community, the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed by mentally retarded offenders is overwhelmingly disapproved.” Id. at 316 (citing in n.21 Brief for European Union as Amicus Curiae at 4). The current Court likely would be open to considering similar amicus briefs in a future case challenging the execution of the severely mentally ill.

A substantial body of international precedent exists regarding the execution of the severely mentally ill. The UN Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty prohibit imposing the death penalty “on persons who have become insane.” In 1989, the UN Economic and Social Council expanded this protection to cover “persons suffering from . . . extremely limited mental competence, whether at the stage of sentence or execution.” United Nations Economic & Social Council, Implementation of the Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of Rights of those Facing the Death Penalty, E.S.C. Res. 1989/64, U.N. Doc. E/1989/91 (1989), at 51, ¶ 1(d).The UN Commission on Human Rights has urged countries not to impose the death penalty on persons suffering from any form of mental disabilities. And the EU has consistently asserted that executions of persons suffering from severe mental disorders “are contrary to internationally recognized human rights norms and neglect the dignity and worth of the human person.” EU Memorandum on the Death Penalty (Feb. 25, 2000), at 4, www.eurunion.org/legislat/deathpenalty/eumemorandum.htm.

Racial and Geographic Disparities

Arbitrariness in capital sentencing was one of the factors that led the Supreme Court to strike down existing state death penalty laws in Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972). Four years later, in Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976), the Court’s decision to uphold the newly revised laws was based on its determination that the statutes minimized the risk of arbitrary sentencing by channeling the discretion of capital juries. But thirty years later, factors such as race and geography continue to lead to great disparities in capital sentencing. These disparities have led to a different sort of arbitrariness, one that may not be consistent with international norms.

Studies have repeatedly shown that race matters when determining who is sentenced to death. It has been said that, as a statistical matter, race is more likely to affect death sentencing than smoking affects the likelihood of dying from heart disease. In Philadelphia, the odds that an offender will receive a death sentence are nearly four times higher when the defendant is black. A 2006 study confirmed that defendants’ skin color and facial features play a critical role in capital sentencing. And over the last twenty years, social scientists have repeatedly observed that capital defendants are much more likely to be sentenced to death for homicides involving white victims.

Enormous geographical disparities arise as well. This derives, in part, from the lack of uniform standards to guide the discretion of state prosecutors in seeking the death penalty. Prosecutors are almost always elected officials, and their support or opposition to the death penalty in a given case is often influenced by the level of popular support for capital punishment within a given community. In San Francisco, for example, the local prosecutor never seeks the death penalty because she is morally opposed to it. In Tulare County, located in California’s conservative Central Valley, the chief prosecutor is a zealous advocate of capital punishment. As a result, two persons who commit the same crime, and who are ostensibly prosecuted under the same penal code, may be subject to two radically different punishments.

Article 6(1) of the ICCPR provides that nations may not “arbitrarily” take life. The term is not defined in the text of the treaty, nor has the UN Human Rights Committee had an opportunity to elaborate on its meaning in the context of an otherwise lawfully imposed capital sentence. In evaluating “arbitrary arrest and detention,” however, that committee concluded that arbitrariness encompasses elements of inappropriateness, injustice, and lack of predictability. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a human rights body of the Organization of American States, has found that geographic disparities in the application of the death penalty in the United States can result in a “pattern of legislative arbitrariness” whereby an offender’s death sentence depends not on the crime committed but on the location where it was committed. In Roach and Pinkerton v. United States, Case 9647, Annual Report of the IAHCR 1986–87, the Inter-American Commission concluded that such geographic disparities constituted an arbitrary deprivation of the right to life and subjected the petitioners to unequal treatment before the law in contravention of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

These sources are generally considered to be nonbinding. But that does not mean that they are not persuasive. Five justices of the Supreme Court—like many judges throughout the world—find it a worthwhile endeavor to consider international norms in evaluating whether the application of the death penalty comports with basic human dignity, whether it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, and whether it is consistent with contemporary standards of decency. As the community of nations continues to debate the pros and cons of capital punishment, the United States should take a seat at the table, listen, and learn.

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:24 am

Belize Kriol Council launches Kriol-Inglish dikshineri

Filed under: belize,General,global islands — admin @ 6:16 am

Sylvana Woods, Myrna Manzanares and Yvette Herrera proudly display their Kriol Dikshineri.

The Belize Kriol Project launched the new ‘Kriol-Inglish dikshineri’ at the House of Culture in Belize City on Wednesday, October 31. The first 1,000 copies of the first edition were printed by Print Belize through funding from the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) and the Ministry of Education.

In its 474 pages, the ‘dikshineri’ contains over 5,000 kriol words, their English equivalents and meanings, enhanced by the use of the word in a sentence, its etymology, the parts of speech and variants. The first section, some 360 pages, lists the words alphabetically according to their ‘kriol’ spelling, while the second section lists the English word alphabetically with their ‘kriol’ equivalents.

National Kriol Council President Myrna Manzanares welcomed the dignitaries, students and the general public to Wednesday’s launch. The editor-in-chief for the ‘dikshineri’ project was Paul Crosbie of Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) International, who also had some anecdotes to share with the audience at the launching.

The King and Queen of ‘Kriol Kolcha’, Wilfred Peters and Leela Vernon entertained the audience with renditions of Belizean brukdown music, including Vernon’s hit called ‘kolcha’. Vernon also presented specially sculpted bookends, “A to Z”, to the Governor General Sir Colville Young, for his work in keeping the ‘kriol’ language alive. The Governor General did his doctoral thesis on the subject of the Belize ‘kriol’ language, as Minister of Education Francis Fonseca noted when he took the podium to add his thanks and acknowledgements to the National Kriol Council for their achievement. NICH director Yasser Musa also chimed in with a few choice words of praise for the National Kriol Project and the new ‘dikshineri.’

The Ministry of Education is making copies of the ‘dikshineri’ available free of cost to the school libraries of every primary, secondary, and tertiary –level school in the country. The dikshineri retails for $30.00 but was available for the wholesale price of $25.00 per copy at the launching. If you can’t afford your own copy, simply go down to the local library, as every media house, cultural organization, the National Archives Department and the National Library Service were furnished with free copies.

The Belize Kriol Project is where the writing arm of the National Kriol Council meets paper, and it has published some 15 books in the ‘Kriol’ language since it began in 1993, including a ‘Kriol’ grammar book and several translations of bible passages and hymns into ‘Kriol’. The project has also maintained a presence in the local media with its weekly “Weh Ah Gat Fi Seh” column in the Reporter, and online at www.kriol.org.bz

With the publication of the new ‘Kriol-Inglish dikshineri’, the Belize Kriol Council has saved the language from the fate of some 2,000 other languages spoken around the globe which are on the verge of extinction because they are not written languages. Those 2,000 other languages are dying because only the parents and the grandparents of those ethnic groups still speak their language or dialect; the younger generation understands the language but prefers to speak another more widely accepted and written language.

Sylvana Woods and the National Kriol Council are to be congratulated for keeping the language alive as an intrinsic part of our Belizean culture. ‘Nuff rispek’.

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:11 am

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress