August 12, 2009 Nº 803 - Vol. 7


"Soldiers generally win battles; generals get credit for them"

Napoleon Bonaparte

In today’s Grammatigalhas, the Geneva Conventions

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  • Top News

Geneva Conventions' struggle for respect

The Geneva Conventions are 60 years old on Wednesday, but the anniversary comes amid concern that respect for the rules of war is small. The three existing Geneva Conventions, which relate to the immunity of medical personnel on the battlefield and the treatment of prisoners of war, were extensively revised in 1949. The fourth Geneva Convention, which stipulates that warring parties have an obligation to protect civilians, was added. The fourth convention in particular was born out of the horrors of the World War II, not just the appalling atrocity of the concentration camps. But the deliberate starvation of the city of Leningrad, and the indiscriminate bombing of Dresden and Coventry. The conventions received widespread international support from the start, and today all 194 states have ratified them. Unfortunately, signatures on paper have not led to respect for the conventions, and research conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) - which is the guardian of the conventions - shows that civilians suffer most in armed conflict. In World War I, the ratio of soldiers to civilians killed was 10 to one. In World War II it became 50-50, and today the figures are almost reversed - up to 10 civilians killed to every one soldier. The Red Cross insists that the real problem with the conventions is not their lack of relevance to modern warfare, but the continued lack of respect for them. But enforcement is a very tricky issue. As guardian of the conventions and the world's single most important humanitarian agency, the ICRC has no power to enforce, and would not want it. The ICRC also rejected the suggestions which came from the then Bush administration that the Geneva Conventions are not really applicable in the "War on Terror".

War crime trials 'impunity gap'

A parliamentary committee in the UK says an "impunity gap" is allowing some war criminals to avoid prosecution. The Joint Committee on Human Rights said international law on atrocities is being applied inconsistently. It also says victims of torture abroad should be allowed to use the British courts to pursue states responsible for their injuries.

Obama tackles healthcare critics

Obama has accused some opponents of his healthcare reform proposals of trying to "scare the heck" out of people. The former Republican vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, said last week that the president wanted to set up "death panels" of government officials with the power to determine whether disabled or elderly Americans are "worthy of healthcare". Some 47 million Americans currently do not have health insurance, and rising healthcare costs are a major contributing factor to America's spiraling budget deficit.

Madoff finance boss pleads guilty

Frank DiPascali, the former chief financial officer of Bernard Madoff, has pleaded guilty for his role in his boss's $65bn fraud. He admitted all 10 of the fraud charges he faced, and apologised to the court in Manhattan. The 10 charges Mr DiPascali pleaded guilty to included conspiracy, securities fraud, money laundering and perjury. He said he knew what he had done was "wrong". The 52-year-old, who worked for Madoff for 33 years, added that he had followed his boss too loyally. He faces a jail sentence of up to 20 years, and a fine of up to $500,000. Madoff, 71, was jailed for 150 years at the end of June. Last month he decided not to appeal against his sentence.

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  • Crumbs!

1- Aung San Suu Kyi found guilty - sentence will keep her out of election (click here)

2- GM turns to eBay to sell cars (click here)

3- Obama Sets Immigration Changes for 2010 (click here)

4- Honduras to admit diplomatic mission (click here)

5- Judge: BofA 'effectively lied' to shareholders (click here)

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  • MiMIC Journal

China charges Rio Tinto workers

China charges employees of mining firm Rio Tinto with stealing trade secrets and taking bribes, which the company denies.

  • Grammatigalhas

The Geneva Conventions

The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are at the core of international humanitarian law, the body of international law that regulates the conduct of armed conflict and seeks to limit its effects.

They specifically protect people who are not taking part in the hostilities (civilians, health workers and aid workers) and those who are no longer participating in the hostilities, such as wounded, sick and shipwrecked soldiers and prisoners of war.

The Conventions and their Protocols call for measures to be taken to prevent or put an end to all breaches. They contain stringent rules to deal with what are known as "grave breaches". Those responsible for grave breaches must be sought, tried or extradited, whatever nationality they may hold.

The Geneva Conventions are humanitarian treaties signed by almost all of the approximately 200 nations in the world today (there were 189 signatories as of 2003). The treaties were forged in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1864, 1906, 1929, and 1949. (The initial protocols, of 1864, gave rise to the Red Cross.) There were two amendments, called protocols, in 1977. In their entirety, the Geneva Conventions set standards for how signatory nations are to treat the enemy during war; they cover access to and treatment of battlefield casualties, treatment of prisoners of war (POWs), and the treatment of civilians.

The summaries of each convention and protocol are as follows:

Convention I: For the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field. Sets forth the protections for members of the armed forces who become wounded or sick.

Convention II: For the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick, and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea. Extends protections to wounded, sick, and shipwrecked members of the naval forces.

Convention III: Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva. Lists the rights of prisoners of war.

Convention IV: Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva. Deals with the protection of the civilian population in times of war. [All four Conventions were ratified as a whole in 1949.]

Protocol I: Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts. Extends protections to victims of wars against racist regimes and wars of self determination.

Protocol II: Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts. Extends protections to victims of internal conflicts in which an armed opposition controls enough territory to enable them to carry out sustained military operations.

The Geneva Conventions, along with the Hague Conventions (1899, 1907), comprise much of what is called International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Because so many nations of the world have ratified both the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions, they are considered customary international law, which means they are binding on all nations.

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  • Historia Verdadera

Unasur – ONU

El mandatario venezolano Hugo Chávez propuso este martes una reunión de los presidentes de Unasur con el de Estados Unidos, Barack Obama, sobre el acuerdo militar que negocia con Colombia, y consideró que el encuentro podría realizarse en septiembre, durante la Asamblea General de la ONU.

Negocios

La compañía brasileña Eletrobras está negociando la compra de una generadora de energía eléctrica en Perú. La adquisición es necesaria para que Eletrobras pueda participar en el segundo semestre, en una licitación para la construcción de dos centrales hidroeléctricas de cerca de 200 megavatios cada una en Perú.

  • Brief News

Brazil TV host 'ordered killings'

Police have accused a TV presenter in Brazil of being involved in organized drug trafficking and ordering killings to get rid of rivals and boost ratings. Wallace Souza, who is also a state legislator, says the claims are an attempt by rivals to smear him and that there is no evidence to back them. But the police say he ordered killings in the state of Amazonas and alerted TV crews to get them to the scene first. The TV show was halted late last year as police stepped up their inquiry. If what the police say is true, then this is the TV show that not only reported crime, but was actually behind it as well.

Alarm at US-Colombia troops plan

South American leaders at a regional summit (Unasur) have expressed fresh concerns over Colombian plans to grant American troops access to its military bases. But at the gathering in Ecuador, they rejected a proposal to formally condemn the proposals, which would allow US access up to seven Colombian bases. "As president of Brazil, this climate of unease disturbs me," Lula said. "I think we should directly discuss our discontent with the American government." Colombia says it needs US support to tackle drug lords and left-wing rebels, but South American leaders would like firm assurances from Washington that the US forces would not operate outside Colombian territory.

Hillary Clinton to balance oil need, anti-graft demands in Nigeria stop

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues her African journey in Nigeria today where she will seek to improve ties with the largest U.S. oil supplier on the continent while offering to help it tackle corruption. Analysts say she will take a tough line on corruption and electoral reform. Last month, US President Barack Obama skipped Nigeria on his first official Africa trip, in what was seen as a snub for its record on governance. She said the U.S. is offering Congo $17 million to combat sexual violence. But to address the problem, analysts say the U.S. must do more to improve Congo's army.

Officials see rise in militia groups across US

Militia groups with gripes against the government are regrouping across the country and could grow rapidly, according to an organization that tracks such trends. The stress of a poor economy and a liberal administration led by a black president are among the causes for the recent rise, the report from the Southern Poverty Law Center says. Conspiracy theories about a secret Mexican plan to reclaim the Southwest are also growing amid the public debate about illegal immigration. While anti-government sentiment has been on the rise over the last two years, there aren't as many threats and violent acts at this point as there were in the 1990s, according to the report.

New law makes sex offenders' use of Internet social networking a felony

Chicago Governor Pat Quinn has the right idea. On Tuesday, August 11, he signed new laws designed to limit sex offenders' use of technology as a way to find more victims. One law will take effect January 1, 2010 and makes it a felony for registered sex offenders to use social networking sites.

FBI may testify in Mumbai trial

Two FBI officers are expected to appear later before a special court in the Indian city of Mumbai to testify on last November's attacks. Three other US nationals are also expected to give evidence, although using videoconferencing facilities. This will be the first time that witnesses from outside India testify in the Mumbai attack case.

Britain and Liechtenstein Sign Tax Pact

Britain on Tuesday signed a tax cooperation agreement with Liechtenstein that would allow British holders of assets in secret accounts to declare their holdings voluntarily in exchange for a reduced penalty fee or face the closure of their accounts.

Microsoft fails to quash $200 million patent award, must pay more damages

Microsoft Corp., the world's largest software maker, failed to overturn a $200 million patent- infringement verdict won by a Canadian company over a way to process electronic documents and now must pay a larger award.

Texas 'fight club' trial begins

A former worker at a Texas state school for mentally disabled people has gone on trial accused of organizing fights between the residents, apparently for their entertainment. Jesse Salazar is charged with injury to a disabled person in what the Texas police have called a "fight club". The case came to light when officers found a mobile phone in March with almost 20 videos showing the residents punching and kicking each other. As the trial began, the jury was warned that the video evidence would be "one of the saddest things they will ever see". Six former employees have already been charged for their part in orchestrating the fights. Salazar's defense team says he was trying to prevent the fights from going ahead. He could face 10 years in jail if convicted.

Germany court convicts Nazi officer of 1944 reprisal killings

A former German infantry commander has been jailed for life for his role in the killing of 14 civilians in an Italian village during World War II. A Munich state court found 90-year-old Josef Scheungraber guilty of ordering the killings, in what was one of the last Nazi crimes trials in Germany. His legal team had called for his acquittal due to contradictions in the testimony of witnesses 65 years after the events. The passage of time since the war and the patchy record of governments in pursuing Nazis and their collaborators mean that, while many Nazis have faced justice and been convicted, far more have slipped through the net.

Derivatives overhaul seeks to reduce risk

The Obama administration detailed a sweeping plan to more closely oversee the giant market for derivatives by forcing many of the products to trade on regulated exchanges or electronic venues. The proposal, which was sent to legislators on Capitol Hill for consideration, seeks to prevent a repeat of problems last year, when the growing use of derivatives by many financial firms went unchecked. The proposal would essentially make it easier to see prices and make markets more transparent.

Federal court dismisses Qualcomm antitrust class action

The US District Court for the Southern District of California on Tuesday dismissed a consumer class action lawsuit against telecommunications company Qualcomm. Christopher Lorenzo sued Qualcomm in November, alleging that the chipset manufacturer holds patents on technologies necessary for CDMA cellular networks, and has used the licensing of these technologies to adversely affect competition in the CDMA market. The court reaffirmed its March 2009 decision, finding the harm that Lorenzo suffered as a result of the supposedly anti-competitive practices as an end consumer of cellular technology was too remote to serve as a basis for standing under the Clayton Act.

Russia president proposes bill to expand use of army abroad

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday submitted a bill to the State Duma that would allow Russian troops to intervene beyond Russian borders. The legislation, proposed in response to last August's South Ossetia conflict, would allow intervention by Russian troops in order to protect Russian citizens abroad. The proposed law would also allow intervention for "reflecting and the prevention of aggression against another State" and to "combating piracy and ensuring the safety of navigation." The draft bill would amend existing federal law, which allows special military units to be deployed abroad with notification of parliament.

Pakistan court orders Musharraf investigated for detaining judges

A Pakistani court on Monday directed police to open an investigation into allegations that former president Pervez Musharraf illegally detained 60 members of the judiciary after declaring emergency rule in November 2007. The order was issued by Islamabad District and Sessions Judge Akmal Raza in response to a complaint filed by lawyer Aslam Ghuman. Ghuman claims that Musharraf illegally confined more than 60 judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, to their homes, causing widespread protests from the Pakistani legal community. This is the first court-ordered police investigation against Musharraf, who is currently in London and could eventually face treason charges.

  • Daily Press Review

Clinton to meet Nigerian leaders
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Student's question lost in translation 'struck a nerve' with Hillary Clinton
CongoPlanet.com, Independent online news aggregator

Ashanti RCC finds "missing" Ghana@50 documents
GhanaWeb, Online news portal, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Two COPE MPs to appear in court
Independent Online, News portal, Cape Town, South Africa

Australia nominates Melbourne for expanded Super 15
Mail & Guardian Online, Liberal, Johannesburg, South Africa

Bus drivers strike over 'racism'
News24.com, Online news portal, Cape Town, South Africa

Costa Rican President Arias sick with swine flu
Brazil Sun, Independent online news aggregator

Federal stimulus dollars bring Clinton to The Ex
The Globe and Mail, Centrist daily, Toronto, Canada

Ottawa dragging feet on repatriating Canadian
Toronto Star, Liberal daily, Toronto, Canada

Police: Terrorist slain in Temanggung not Noordin M Top
Antara News, News agency, Jakarta, Indonesia

10th Seoul International Financial Forum Kicks Off
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

Swine flu cases cross 1,000 mark, death toll climbs to 15
India Express, News portal, Mumbai, India

Swine flu: Mumbai schools, cinemas shut
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

Putting the lie to the health of Japanese bodies
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Literary figure and blogger ‘Pak Dharma' dies
Malaysian Star, Online news portal, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia

Nine Aussies among 13 killed in PNG plane crash
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

U.S. to provide $17 mln in aid to DR Congo
People's Daily Online, English-language, Beijing, China

Team reaches wreckage: no survivors, says PM
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

Drought, price rise being monitored: Manmohan
The Hindu, Left-leaning daily, Chennai, India

Unemployment poised to rise again
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Medvedev Takes Sides in Ukraine Poll
The Moscow Times, Independent daily, Moscow, Russia

Baby P: Sharon Shoesmith's four legal claims
The Telegraph, Conservative daily, London, England

Tourists killed in Papua New Guinea plane crash
Times Online, Conservative daily, London, England

Details of Houthi Rebels and Yemen Truce Revealed
Asharq Al-Awsat, Pan-Arab daily, London, England

Myanmar's Suu Kyi found guilty in security case
Gulf News, Independent daily, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

POLITICS: Saudi Arabia May Not Follow Obama's Plan
IPS Middle East, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

Dubai Hotel guests up 5% in first half
Middle East North African Network, Online financial portal, Amman, Jordan

All 13 Aboard Chartered Plane Killed in Papua New Guinea Crash
Nahamet, Online news portal, Beirut, Lebanon

US strike on Taliban stronghold in Pakistan kills up to 14 people
The Daily Star, Independent daily, Beirut, Lebanon

Sheikh Al-Moayad coming home
Yemen Times, Independent weekly, Sana'a, Yemen

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