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

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.