Monday, November 14, 2011

Protesters March as APEC Tests Hawaii Hospitality

Published on Sunday, November 13, 2011 by Agence France-Presse

By Dan Martin

HONOLULU, Hawaii — Amid blasts on a traditional conch shell horn, hundreds of anti-globalization and native Hawaiian activists defied tight security to hold a protest march against an Asia-Pacific summit.

A protester holds a sign at the Occupy Honolulu encampment in Thomas Square Park in Honolulu, Hawaii. The annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit is taking place in HawaiiAt least 400 demonstrators sought to emulate the anti-capitalist "Occupy" protests seen elsewhere and highlight native Hawaiian issues as Honolulu native President Barack Obama hosted regional leaders.

"The leaders of the summit don't stand with the people of the world but we do!" Liz Rees, an organizer of activist group "World Can't Wait," shouted through a bull-horn.

Activists who dispute the 1898 annexation of the islands by the United States held signs reading "US govt give back stolen Haw'n lands," and speakers railed against perceived injustices against Hawaiians and other Pacific peoples.

But after a rally at a park dedicated to a revered former Hawaiian king, the marchers left famed Waikiki Beach, thwarted by security measures that were the tightest in Hawaii since after the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The tourist playground appeared braced for an invasion, with Secret Service, police and army personnel swarming over the white sand beaches of Obama's birthplace.

Authorities locked down a roughly one-kilometer stretch of Waikiki and its offshore waters, leaving beaches that are normally filled with bikini-clad tourists walled off by concrete barriers and iron fencing.

Offshore, a pair of Coast Guard cutters cruised while police patrolled on jet-skis and small boats ahead of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

An orange boom cut across a bay fronting key hotels whose weekend guests include Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao, and Russia's Dmitry Medvedev.

Several of the 21 member economies have agreed on the broad outlines of a new pan-Pacific trade pact being spearheaded by Obama.

But protester John Signor, a Honolulu teacher, said what the region needed was "fair trade, not free trade."

"If you look around at what is happening in the world and the economic troubles and unfairness, it is time to question the Western capitalist model. A lot of people are getting rich, but a lot are getting stepped on."

Some of his fellow demonstrators banged on drums or wore traditional Hawaiian kapa cloth garments.

Hawaiian officials had embraced the summit as a chance to showcase the islands' famed hospitality, but it also has sparked grumbling among ordinary Honolulu residents and tourists unhappy with security that interfered with life in the laid-back holiday idyll.

"This is totally not what Hawaii is about," local resident Tino Fornas said, gesturing at a roadblock manned by grim-faced police.

"Yeah, welcome to Hawaii. Now please leave," he said of the assembled Pacific Rim leaders.

Some of Waikiki's busiest streets were empty due to road closures on routes leading into the resorts area's forest of hotels as federal agents and police barked at any cars or pedestrians that went astray.

"It's insane. It feels like Communist China," said Marvin Schuster, a 39-year-old from the US state of Pennsylvania who shelved plans to leave his hotel due to the difficulties getting around.

The discontent has been exacerbated by the killing of a Hawaii man who was shot by a US State Department security agent in a late-night altercation last weekend.

Reports indicated both men were inebriated. The agent was charged with murder. Dozens of people held a protest march last week calling for justice.

Meanwhile, about 150 members of the Falungong spiritual movement held a protest along a two-block stretch throughout Saturday near the hotel where China's Hu was staying.

They held banners bearing statements such as "President Hu, stop persecuting Falungong," and jeered Chinese delegation members who hurried past.

"We want the world to know about the Chinese government's persecution of Falungong and its murder of our members," said Cornelia Ritter, a Swiss native who lives in San Francisco.

She said most protesters came from abroad, many from Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

US GI in S. Korea gets 10 years in Prison for Rape

By HYUNG-JIN KIM - Associated Press | APTue, Nov 1, 2011 from Yahoo.com


SEOUL, KOREA (AP) — A South Korean court sentenced a U.S. soldier to 10 years in prison Tuesday for raping a teenage girl — the second harshest punishment handed down to a convicted American Soldier here in nearly 20 years.

Uijeongbu District Court convicted 21-year-old Pfc. Kevin Flippin of sexually assaulting the 16-year-old girl numerous times after breaking into her small boarding room near Seoul in September, court spokesman Lee-Sang Yup said.

Flippin committed many "sadistic and sexually perverted acts" while threatening the girl with a pair of scissors, a knife and a lighter, Lee said. The soldier robbed the girl of 5,000 won ($4.50) as well, he said.

The court verdict said the girl felt "terrified and sexually humiliated," according to Lee.

The case, along with a separate rape allegation by a teenage girl against another U.S. soldier, prompted top U.S. military and government officials to offer public apologies.

"Our sincere apologies go out again to the victim, her family and the Korean community," the 2nd Infanty Division said in a statement later Tuesday.

About a dozen South Korean activists rallied near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, chanting slogans and holding placards, including one that said: "We need Obama's apology!"

The court ordered Flippin to undergo 80 hours of counseling and his personal information to be made public on a South Korean government website for 10 years, Lee said.

Prosecutors had demanded a 15-year prison term. The court, however, decided on a 10-year sentence because Flippin had repented, was still young and the rape was his first crime, Lee said.

Both prosecutors and the soldier have one week to appeal, he said.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, and crimes involving them have fired anti-American sentiments among many South Koreans.

In 2002, the acquittals of two American Soldiers whose armored vehicle ran over and killed two South Korean schoolgirls during training prompted massive nationwide protests against the U.S. military presence in the country.

Following the latest rape case, the U.S. military reinstated a curfew for U.S. soldiers and increased joint patrols by U.S. soldiers and South Korean police around U.S. installations in South Korea.

Tuesday's sentencing is the longest prison term for an American soldier stationed in South Korea since 1993, when a U.S. soldier was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a South Korean bar employee, according to the Foreign Ministry. His life sentence was later reduced to 15 years, and the soldier was eventually released in 2006.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Local Family Launches ‘Learn Chamorro’ Program

TUESDAY, 01 NOVEMBER 2011 01:24 BY JANELA BUHAIN CARRERA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Troy Aguon spent 13 years in Las Vegas, Nev., not knowing how to speak Chamorro, the language of his home island.

Troy Aguon talks about the “Learn Chamorro” program during his address to the Rotary Club of Northern Guam yesterday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Photo by David Castro

Stumped by this, he set out to learn the “dying language” to revive it and pass it on to his children. He then moved back to Guam about 13 years ago and began his endeavor.

He visited the University of Guam and local bookstores, searching high and low to find every available kid-friendly tutorial for his children to learn Chamorro, but to no avail.

“There was none; it didn’t exist,” Aguon told Rotary Club of Northern Guam members during a meeting yesterday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

“They had other books, but they were too in-depth and too formal.”

Because of this, Aguon, along with his wife and a few friends, has decided to embark on a journey to introduce educational materials that will encourage children and the general public to learn Guam’s native language.

Aguon is on a mission to get every single word in the dictionary translated into Chamorro within three years. He has launched a website, learnchamorro.com, which aims to teach Chamorro to anyone wishing to learn in a fun and friendly environment.

He has also produced an educational DVD with similar content as the website for $20. The price for the DVD, which is a “kid’s edition,” he said, is to cover the cost of producing the DVD, among other expenses. He also noted that any excess funds from DVD sales will go directly back to his cause. While the website is free of charge, Aguon said the DVDs can be purchased as a gift or for collection.

“It breaks my heart to know that you have to pay for something that’s dying right now,” he said. “So I’m going to do it myself and I’m going to challenge everyone on Guam.”

The DVDs can be purchased at Bestseller Bookstores, Nunu Tree at the Agana Shopping Center, The Piazza Restaurant, the USO headquarters, Che’lu Store at Chamorro Village, Cost-U-Less in Tamuning, and Island Fresh in Ordot/Chalan P├ągo.

Aguon has also partnered with the Marianas Variety to introduce a section today that will feature Chamorro words/phrases and their English translations.

Monday, October 24, 2011

‘Webb Letter Gives False Hope on Military Realignment’

Monday, 24 October 2011 00:42 by Therese Hart | Variety News Staff

GUAM Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo last week said a recent letter sent by U.S. Senator Jim Webb to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta regarding the realignment of U.S. forces in Okinawa “gives false hope that the issue of realigning U.S. forces in Japan can be revisited.”

In addition, Bordallo said the letter is “unhelpful to Japan Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s efforts in trying to obtain consensus on these issues in Japan.”

In his letter, Webb urged Panetta to “re-examine carefully” alternatives to resolve the 15-year dispute surrounding U.S. military bases in Okinawa, stating the dispute is “the most serious defense and foreign policy issue facing our foremost ally in the Pacific.”

Last Friday, Panetta left for the Asia-Pacific region to attend meetings in Tokyo with Japanese government officials.

Webb wrote that the U.S. alliance with Japan “has long served as an absolutely crucial element in guaranteeing the stability of East Asia ... but despite well-intentioned efforts on both sides, there are credible concerns that the provisions of the 2006 agreement between our two national governments are not capable of a timely, cost-effective, politically agreeable and strategically viable implementation.”

Webb further wrote that the U.S.’ failure to resolve “the issue of American bases on Okinawa has resulted in a volatile political debate in Japan, the implications of which should not be underestimated by American leaders. It is in our national interest that this matter be resolved both quickly and smartly, for the well-being of our alliance and the stability of the region.”

Recommendations


Webb mentioned in his letter that five months ago, he, along with Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, sent recommendations to then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

“With regard to basing in Okinawa, we recommended that the Department examine the feasibility of moving U.S. Marine Corps aviation assets assigned at Futenma into Kadena Air Base, while dispersing a percentage of Air Force assets now at Kadena to other locations in the Pacific region, including Andersen Air Force Base in Guam,” wrote Webb.

Webb said his recommendations were based on many years “of careful consideration dating to my time in the Pacific as a military planner during the 1970s,” in addition to two visits to Okinawa and Guam during the past 20 months.

“I have also made three visits to Tokyo during that period, and have hosted numerous meetings with Japanese officials here in Washington. I believe this alternative for Futenma is the most workable, cost-effective and least intrusive approach to resolving the most serious defense and foreign policy issue facing our foremost ally in the Pacific region.”

Webb stated he was aware that resolving the Okinawa basing issue would require stiff political debate with different interest groups in the U.S. and in Japan. Webb wrote he was also aware that any change in the American basing structure threatens institutional "turf" areas within the U.S. military.

Webb added, “At the same time, Senator Levin and I were told repeatedly by officials at the highest level of DOD and the uniformed military that there are deep concerns regarding the affordability and workability of the 2006 Roadmap Agreement for basing on Okinawa and Guam, even though our two national governments seem unable to admit this publicly. Thus, my sole purpose in raising this matter with you is to encourage the formulation of a reasonable and timely solution that will guarantee a credible U.S. presence in this vital part of the world, well into the future. I would suggest that you seriously re-examine carefully the proposals that Senators Levin, McCain and I put forward last May.

I would also suggest that you look at the possibility of our military contingency plans including the option of sharing non-American aviation facilities on Okinawa, which were specifically called for in the 2006 Roadmap Agreement.”

Webb further wrote, “As you know, the Senate has expressed strong interest in these matters, as reflected in legislative provisions in both the Senate versions of the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act and the Fiscal Year 2012 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act. I hope you will keep this in mind during your discussions with government officials in Japan.”

Five Candidates for the Corporate Death Penalty



by Russell Mokhiber

One of the most famous signs to come out of Occupy Wall Street stated simply: “I will believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.”

That was sort of a joke.

But in fact, for the benefit of real live human beings, some corporations ought to be executed.


When it comes to the serious crimes that big corporations engage in – pollution, corruption, fraud, threatening the lives of real Americans – the death penalty is off the table. (photo: David Shankbone)

My guess is that most of the occupiers at Wall Street would be in favor of the corporate death penalty.

Some – like Richard Grossman – would criminalize the corporate form.

But if you want to take the incremental approach, here’s my list of five candidates for the corporate death penalty.

Health insurance corporations. Most western industrialized countries – with the exception of the USA – already have this death penalty in place. In those countries, corporations are not allowed to sell primary private health insurance. Instead, there is a public single payer – everybody in, nobody out. Under this death penalty proposal corporations like Aetna, CIGNA, UnitedHealth, and Wellpoint would be put out of business. And with a public single payer to replace them, we’d save billions of dollars and the lives of more than 45,000 Americans who die every year from lack of health insurance.

Nuclear power corporations. Do we really need a Fukushima here in the United States? We do not. Without government loan guarantees and federal limits on nuclear liability, the industry would be put out of business. So, we could simply cut the federal subsidy and that would be the end of it. And we should. A wide range of safer, cleaner energy options is available to replace the energy currently being generated by unsafe nuclear power.

Giant Banks. Wells Fargo. Citibank. Bank of America. JP Morgan Chase. Morgan Stanley. Goldman Sachs. They should be executed – broken up and replaced by smaller banks. Break up the big banks. And impose a hard cap on their size. No bank should have assets of more than four percent of GDP. There is support across the political spectrum for this proposal. During the debate over financial reform, the measure garnered 33 votes in the Senate – it was called the Brown-Kaufman amendment.

Fracking corporations. Hydraulic fracturing – fracking – is wrecking havoc in the northeastern part of the United States. Any corporation engaged in fracking behavior that threatens drinking water supplies ought to be put out of business. Anti-fracking activists in New York have already drafted legislation that would criminalize fracking corporations.

Corporate criminal recidivists. Legislatures should adopt provisions to strip corporations of their charters for serious corporate violations or for recidivist behavior. Some states already have such provisions, although they are rarely invoked.

Some corporations have been put to death for wrongful behavior, but they have been mostly smaller companies.

In 1983, the Attorney General of Virginia asked the state’s corporation commission to dissolve a book company convicted of possessing obscene films.

But when it comes to the serious crimes that big corporations engage in – pollution, corruption, fraud, threatening the lives of real Americans – the death penalty is off the table.

If we are serious about corporate crime, the death penalty is a deterrent that will work.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. He is also founder of singlepayeraction.org, and editor of the website Morgan County USA.

America’s Secret Empire of Drone Bases

October 24, 2011 by from DMZ.hawaii.org

Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam could start controlling one of the military’s newest and most lethal weapons.The Air Force announced that the base is a candidate to operate Predator and Reaper Aircraft.

[...]

The aircraft would not be assigned to Hawaii, however, they would be controlled from here [...]

If Hickam is selected as a drone base, it would join an invisible empire of drone bases that have multiplied in recent years. Nick Turse has written an excellent expose on the vast network of U.S. drone bases:

Using military documents, press accounts and other open source information, an in-depth analysis by AlterNet has identified at least 60 bases integral to U.S. military and CIA drone operations. There may, however, be more, since a cloak of secrecy about drone warfare leaves the full size and scope of these bases distinctly in the shadows.

Here is “America’s Secret Empire of Drone Bases: Its Full Extent Revealed for the First Time”.

Turse believes that the impending Pentagon budget cuts will mean an increase in the use of drones:

Drones are now the bedrock of Washington’s future military planning and — with counterinsurgency out of favor — the preferred way of carrying out wars abroad.

The global network of more than 1000 U.S. military bases will provide infrastructure for expanding the drone programs:

Earlier this year, an analysis by TomDispatch.com determined that there are more than 1,000 U.S. military bases scattered across the globe — a shadowy base-world that provides plenty of existing sites that can, and no doubt will, host drones. But facilities selected for a pre-drone world may not always prove optimal locations for America’s current and future undeclared wars and assassination campaigns. So further expansion in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia is likely.

What are the Air Force’s plans in this regard? Lieutenant Colonel John Haynes was typically circumspect. “We are constantly evaluating potential operating locations based on evolving mission needs,” he said. If the last decade is any indication, those “needs” will only continue to grow.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

What is the rate of accidents? Civilian casualties? Military.com reports that a military cargo plane was struck by a drone in Afghanistan recently:

A military cargo plane from the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station was damaged when an unmanned drone crashed into it during an Afghanistan mission last month, officials have confirmed.

The C-130 Hercules transport plane, assigned to the 914th Airlift Wing of the Air Force, had to make an emergency landing after it was struck by the drone on Aug. 15, authorities said.

The rapid rise of drones has opened up a can of ethical and legal issues that humanity has yet to reckoned with.

US Seeks to Establish Naval Base on Jeju Island in Spite of Protests

Tuesday, 18 October 2011 00:00 John Lasker from TowardFreedom.com

At protest against base on Jeju Island

At protest against base on Jeju Island























On beautiful Jeju Island, south of the Korean peninsula, the South Korean Navy is building a base that will soon harbor some of the world’s most advanced weapons.

But the mystery is: who inspired the base to be built on this island of pristine waters and stunning volcanic peaks in the first place?

Peace activist Bruce Gagnon says all one needs to do is call the South Korean embassy in Washington and ask.

“We have had four of our people tell us when they called the (South Korean) embassy to protest the naval base, they were told, ‘Don’t call us, call your own government,’” said Gagnon. “The US is forcing South Korea to build this base so to harbor Aegis destroyers. The base is a key part of Obama’s ‘Forward Base’ strategy for missile defense. This is a very provocative act.”

Gagnon is the director Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, which is referred to as the “Global Network” amongst its 150 affiliates across the planet. The Global Network’s mission is to raise awareness about US’s emerging missile defense “arsenal” – an arsenal they believe is a “Trojan Horse” the US is secretly and quietly rolling into the global courtyard.

Missile-defense technology, such as the Aegis-class destroyer that South Korea said will be stationed on Jeju Island, is “dual use” technology, claims the Global Network. An Aegis-class destroyer is equipped with the Aegis system of high-powered radar and missiles that can shoot-down intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and other warheads. But this same Aegis technology, created mainly by aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, has offensive capabilities as well, such as the ability to shoot down satellite constellations the world has become so dependent on.

The Global Network’s dual-use theory is backed by plenty of incriminating evidence. The Pentagon has spent over $100 billion researching missile defense technology that has never proven itself in real combat. This $100 billion technology can also be deceived by balloon decoys that look like warheads, a fatal flaw the Pentagon has desperately tried to keep secret. While billions were being pumped into so-called missile defense during the past three decades, many high-ranking officers from the US military and US Congressmen publicly stated the nation that controls space, controls earth.

Intimidation in the Pacific and at the White House

Gagnon says the emerging Jeju island naval base, currently a construction site under heavy protest by Jeju island locals, is situated just a few miles from a Pacific sea route China uses to import oil, and that building the base is a provocative act towards China.

“China ships 80 percent of its oil through this transit line,” says Gagnon. “[And if a hostile confrontation were to occur] the US can successfully choke off their ability to transport oil. The US essentially holds the keys to China’s economic engine.”

What is equally disturbing, says Gagnon, is how two US defense contractors and their stock holders are salivating at the chance to make a buck off the threat of war between super powers.

Gagnon believes one reason the US is strong-arming South Korea to build this base on Jeju Island – a World Heritage Site designated by the UN, no less – is so General Dynamics and one of America’s largest shipyards, Bath Iron Works of Maine, can continue to score huge defense contracts from either the Pentagon or South Korea. Gagnon foresees a future where Jeju Island becomes a base where US-built Aegis-equipped destroyers are also harbored.

Both General Dynamics and Bath Iron Works are two major defense contractors that build the destroyers that can be equipped with the Aegis system, and during the last two decades, the US Aegis-equipped fleet has gone beyond 60 ships.

Gagnon believes pressuring Obama to build more Aegis-class ships is the Chicago-based Crown family who helped fund the President’s political ambitions in the years leading up to his 2008 victory. The Crown family, worth $4 billion according to Forbes, is best known for nurturing General Dynamics over the past 60 years into one of the largest weapons-makers in the world. Family members today sit on its board of directors as they grow fatter and fatter from millions-of-dollars worth of General Dynamics’ stock they’ve hoarded.

According to Salon, the Crown family chipped in $500,000 for Obama’s 2008 presidential run.

Gagnon says the Crown family now wants some payback.

“He owes them,” says Gagnon about Obama and his relationship with the Crowns.

Sputtering Orbiter? Assange Reveals the Truth

There is no doubt, says Gagnon, that Sino-American posturing in the Pacific has ignited an arms race for the 21st century, as the US continues testing its missile-defense arsenal in the Pacific.

Recall in 2007, when China shot down one of its own satellites. The US followed suit in 2008 by using an Aegis-class destroyer to shoot down an apparent “malfunctioning” satellite as it orbited over Hawaii. WikiLeaks would later reveal the Bush White House essentially had lied about the sputtering orbiter.

The real story, as told by a once secret US cable that was exposed by the elusive Assange, is that the US shot down its own satellite as a direct response to China’s display of space weapon capability the year before in 2007.

Meanwhile, peace activists of Jeju Island are being arrested and harassed by South Korean police. Ironically, the “Island of World Peace,” as dubbed by its own political leaders, is turning into an “Island of No Free Speech”.

For the past year, scores of Jeju Island peace activists, who have elicited help from Gloria Steinem and Noam Chomsky, have camped-out to block construction of the 400,000-square meter base that will harbor over 20 ships and submarines.

On July 15th, undercover police raided the tiny fishing village of Gangjeong where much of the protest strategy is originating. Three key figures of the protest were arrested, including Global Network member Sung-Hee Choi of Gangjeong, who was imprisoned for three months. She was holding a banner that read, "We need international solidarity. Please protest against the South Korean authorities with letters, press interviews and others."

Sung-Hee Choi, an artist, continues to blog about the protests. She wrote the following on Christmas day of last year.

“Snowflakes fell onto the beautiful coast rocks and sea, displaying a mysterious view as the sea horizon became clouded. It was a terrible feeling to think that the most beautiful rocks and sea in the Jeju Island might be covered with concrete if the naval base construction is enforced.”

John Lasker is a freelance journalist from Ohio.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Iraq War Ain’t Over, No Matter What Obama Says

By Spencer Ackerman from Wired.com

President Obama announced on Friday that all 41,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq will return home by December 31. “That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end,” he said. Don’t believe him.

Now: it’s a big deal that all U.S. troops are coming home. For much of the year, the military, fearful of Iranian influence, has sought a residual presence in Iraq of several thousand troops. But arduous negotiations with the Iraqi government about keeping a residual force stalled over the Iraqis’ reluctance to provide them with legal immunity.

But the fact is America’s military efforts in Iraq aren’t coming to an end. They are instead entering a new phase. On January 1, 2012, the State Department will command a hired army of about 5,500 security contractors, all to protect the largest U.S. diplomatic presence anywhere overseas.

The State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security does not have a promising record when it comes to managing its mercenaries. The 2007 Nisour Square shootings by State’s security contractors, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed, marked one of the low points of the war. Now, State will be commanding a much larger security presence, the equivalent of a heavy combat brigade. In July, Danger Room exclusively reported that the Department blocked the Congressionally-appointed watchdog for Iraq from acquiring basic information about contractor security operations, such as the contractors’ rules of engagement.

That means no one outside the State Department knows how its contractors will behave as they ferry over 10,000 U.S. State Department employees throughout Iraq — which, in case anyone has forgotten,is still a war zone. Since Iraq wouldn’t grant legal immunity to U.S. troops, it is unlikely to grant it to U.S. contractors, particularly in the heat and anger of an accident resulting in the loss of Iraqi life.

It’s a situation with the potential for diplomatic disaster. And it’s being managed by an organization with no experience running the tight command structure that makes armies cohesive and effective.

You can also expect that there will be a shadow presence by the CIA, and possibly the Joint Special Operations Command, to hunt persons affiliated with al-Qaida. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has conspicuously stated that al-Qaida still has 1,000 Iraqi adherents, which would make it the largest al-Qaida affiliate in the world.

So far, there are three big security firms with lucrative contracts to protect U.S. diplomats. Triple Canopy, a longtime State guard company, has a contract worth up to $1.53 billion to keep diplos safe as they travel throughout Iraq. Global Strategies Group will guard the consulate at Basra for up to $401 million. SOC Incorporated will protect the mega-embassy in Baghdad for up to $974 million. State has yet to award contracts to guard consulates in multiethnic flashpoint cities Mosul and Kirkuk, as well as the outpost in placid Irbil.

“We can have the kind of protection our diplomats need,” Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough told reporters after Obama’s announcement. Whether the Iraqi people will have protection from the contractors that the State Department commands is a different question. And whatever you call their operations, the Obama administration hopes that you won’t be so rude as to call it “war.”

Japan Pushes Realignment

FRIDAY, 21 OCTOBER 2011 01:05 AP from MVAriety.com

TOKYO (AP) – Japan is stepping up efforts ahead of new U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's visit next week to break a stalemate over the relocation of a Marine base that has stalled the restructuring of U.S. military forces in Asia.

Moving the base is an essential step in Washington's big-picture plan to reposition about 8,000 Marines from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to the tiny U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, which is set to become a crucial regional hub for the U.S. Marines, Air Force and Navy.

Senior Japanese leaders have held repeated meetings in recent weeks with top politicians on Okinawa to seek their cooperation in moving the base – Marine Corps Air Station Futenma – to a less-crowded area of the island.

Japan is hoping to compile an environmental impact assessment by the end of the year.

But after a meeting with Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba on Wednesday, the mayor of the proposed relocation site angrily rebuffed Tokyo's pleas for support, saying there was "absolutely no room for negotiation."

Okinawa's governor, who must sign off on the plan for it to be implemented, suggested other options be pursued and told Genba it will not work unless the Okinawans support it.

The standoff has long been a sore point in Japan's otherwise strong military alliance with the United States.

Though they welcome the transfer of Marines to Guam, Okinawan leaders do not support the construction of a replacement facility within their prefecture (state). They say Okinawa already bears too much of a hosting burden and instead want Futenma closed and its successor built elsewhere in Japan or moved overseas.

Setting the tone for the Panetta trip, U.S. Senator Jim Webb – an outspoken critic of the current plan – said the issue should not be allowed to fester.

"Our failure to resolve the issue of American bases on Okinawa has resulted in a volatile political debate in Japan, the implications of which should not be underestimated by American leaders," he said in a letter to Panetta released by his office.

Webb, who is chairman of the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said "it is in our national interest that this matter be resolved both quickly and smartly."

Washington is Tokyo's most important ally, and Japan has agreed to contribute several billion dollars to pay for the move.

Japan hosts about 50,000 U.S. troops under a post-World War II mutual security pact and relies heavily on the U.S. forces to counterbalance potential threats from China, Russia and North Korea.

But more than half of the troops are concentrated on Okinawa. About one-fifth of the island is taken up by U.S. bases.

Local opposition to the bases is strong because of concerns over crowding, safety and troop-related crime. Okinawans are also wary of the military presence because of their bitter memories of World War II.

Futenma is seen by many as a symbol of the problems caused by the bases. The plan to close Futenma, which is in a particularly crowded area, came up after the rape of an Okinawan schoolgirl by three servicemen caused a huge uproar on the island in 1995.