Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Videos of Catherine Lutz Visit to Guam

Military Households in Hawai'i Use 1.7 Times More Power

Wind Power Tested for Military Housing
Reported by: Gina Mangieri
Email: gmangieri@khon2.com

Last Update: 7/26 7:02 pm

Navy and Marine Corps housing on Oahu may soon be going even more green by tapping into wind power.

One test is underway, another near, to see if wind can help generate electricity in Pearl City and Kaneohe. There are also new incentives to curtail the often higher power consumption in military homes.

It’s a hot day on the Pearl City Peninsula, and the kids in Navy housing are finding fun ways to cool off — when gentle Pearl Harbor breezes don’t do the trick.

But even light winds may still be just enough someday to keep the lights on — that’s what this contraption is here to figure out.

“We hope to understand how the wind operates here off of Pearl Harbor and eventually try to generate power using wind energy,” said John Wallenstrom, senior vice president of military housing for Forest City Military Communities Hawaii.

A 164-foot tall meteorological tower or “MET” is measuring wind speed to see how well smaller wind turbines could work here. The same test will get underway soon at other housing Forest City manages on the Marine Corps base in Kaneohe.

The grant-funded, year-long tests could lead to smaller wind turbines that could generate enough power for 10 homes each.

“We’re doing things in residential neighborhoods, and it’s very important to us to treat our residents well and do things that don’t upset the quality of life,” Wallenstrom said.

Wind would join already prevalent solar power in the Forest City communities. Whenever they get a chance to build new, even more steps are taken, making homes 40 percent more efficient than code.

Forest City is also working on helping residents be more energy conscious. Navy households in Hawaii use about 1.7 times the average amount of electricity as off-base housing. Military families don’t directly pay their electric bills.

“We don’t see it, so we can leave all the lights on and stuff like that, since we don’t see it,” said Sgt. Adrian Puentes, a Pearl City Peninsula. “I’m sure those who do pay it probably have a fit.”

A new incentive will give $100 a month to the top 5 percent of residents who cut their consumption the most. The Puentes family says they’ll go for it — which could mean even more pool time instead of air conditioning.

“We’re in the service and people think we don’t have hard times,” Puentes said, “but we need the money too, so it’s pretty good.”

Source: http://www.khon2.com/news/local/story/Wind-Power-Tested-for-Military-Housing/fLEN761UZku1GoYywXQxhw.cspx

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Likely New Japanese Prime Minister Could Stall Guam Buildup

Likely "Japan Prime Minister" Could Stall Guam Buildup
Guam News Factor
By Jeff Marchesseault
July 26, 2009

GUAM - On Thursday the Democratic Party of Japan announced a set of platform-basing policies that includes a potential stumbling block on the road to Guam's military buildup. It's a sticking point that could conceivably stall the scheduled transfer of the first of thousands of U.S. Marines and their families from bases in Okinawa to new, refurbished and expanded installations on Guam, beginning in the fall of next year.

Walking Softly With A Big Stick

A month before an election that's likely to topple Prime Minister Taro Aso and the five-and-a-half-decade reign of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) that backs him, the rising opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has toned down its stance against U.S. policies. Led by likely Prime Minister-Elect Yukio Hatoyama, the DPJ has also cut back its criticisms of the ruling party's generous investment in American military security for the region.

This quieting of the DPJ's rhetoric may have as much to do with the opposition's desire to secure as many votes as possible going into August 30th elections -- as it does with a stark realization that the 50-year-old U.S-Japan economic and security alliance is worth preserving. Especially in a Pacific region seething with lingering security questions.

Harbinger Of Hope

Communist Chinese naval power is on the rise while communist North Korea continues to advance and test its nuclear capability and long-range missile effectiveness. What better friend for democratic Japan to keep in this war of the ideologies than the one with the world's most-advanced defense technology, the world's biggest economy, and arguably the world's most ardent tradition of equality and human rights?

Wallowing In The Mire

But recent outward signs of 'playing it safe' haven't stopped the DPJ from including in its just-released election platform the kind of policy points that are apt to set the U.S. defense community on alert.

In particular, the Guam buildup could trip over a controversial plan to move a U.S. defense facility within Okinawa -- a plan the DPJ has opposed and is still making an issue of within its recently-released 57-page "INDEX 2009" policy stance.

The plan to move 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam between 2010 and 2014 is tied to a larger bilateral agreement to realign U.S. armed forces in the Pacific. The realignment includes moving Futenma Air Station from the crowded Okinawan municipality of Ginowan City to a remote peninsula on the Japanese island near Camp Schwab.

According to today's Asia Times...

INDEX 2009 also mentioned the party's plan to raise the issue of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), a long-standing issue of jurisdiction over the 37,000-strong US military presence in Japan.

The party has proposed relocation of the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Ginowan City, Okinawa Prefecture, to outside the prefecture, and has opposed the agreement between the US and Japanese governments on the planned relocation of that station within the prefecture.

Under the US-Japan accord, 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents will be transferred from Okinawa to Guam by 2014, while the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the city of Ginowan will be relocated to Henoko district in Nago, Okinawa. Okinawa is home to 70% of the US military facilities in Japan. The DPJ has advocated reducing Okinawa's burden of hosting US military bases as a principal policy imperative.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Guam Medical Community Talks About Bringing Talent Back Home

Guam's medical community talks about bringing talent back home
By Janjeera Hail
Published Jul 23, 2009

Local doctors and island leaders are concerned over about the state of healthcare in the territory and are coming together to find solutions. This morning, local doctors and medical professionals hosted a very special meeting - a discussion with medical professionals from Guam on how the island can stop the brain drain and bring local talent home.

Joining the conference via telephone were off-island physicians and medical students who discussed their perspective on why doctors from Guam choose to stay in the States after receiving training. Local physician Dr. Patrick Santos said, "The cost of medical education is astronomical - it's just too much and you owe money because you have student loan, and of course, there's bureaucracy on Guam. He added, "if you sub-specialize, Guam may not have that clientele patients, or Guam may not have that facility. So there's a lot of factors involved."

With the impending military buildup, Guam will require a greater number of medical professionals to serve a growing population. And that also means a greater number of opportunities. Now, more than ever, medical students from Guam have the opportunity to return home to a strong economic environment even while the rest of the nation struggles.

Medical student Christian Eusebio told KUAM News, "There's first-year residents in the States I've talked to; they want to come back so if we can continue to have this communication and improve the healthcare on Guam, that'd be great," he said.

In the meantime, Senator Eddie Calvo says that there are steps that policymakers and the local community can take towards enticing medical professionals to share their talents on Guam. "They mentioned certain laws that were enacted in the past that need to be worked on, so that's where we can move on there are also some of these areas in the administrative level and administration of certain things such as the Pro-Tech Scholarship, those things don't need to be worked on legislatively, but we have to look at the process and try to improve on it," he said.

Although the island will continue to face hurdles in drawing home medical professionals, today's forum illustrates the island's commitment to bringing our doctors home.

Ann Wright Visits Guam

Ex-envoy warns against US plan for Guam
Wednesday, 22 July 2009 00:51 by Jude Lizama
Marianas Variety News Staff

A FORMER U.S. diplomat turned peace activist advised Guam residents to be
wary of the American government’s military buildup plan for the
island.Retired U.S. Army Colonel Ann Wright speaks against war and
militarization during a presentation held Monday at the University of Guam.

“We need to be looking very carefully at what our federal government does
to us,” said Ann Wright, a retired U.S. Army colonel who spoke to a small
crowd on the implications of the relocation of 8,000 U.S. Marines from
Okinawa to Guam during a presentation held Monday night at the University of

“While we all want to be safe and secure in the world, sometimes our federal
government uses this issue of national security to do things to us that we
normally wouldn’t put up with,” she added.

Wright accompanied members of the Code Pink Japan, a peace activist group,
who visited Guam to discuss the impact of the military buildup with local
activists. The group left Guam yesterday.

“Our delegation is here in solidarity with the people of Guam in terms of
the movement of 8,000 marines from Okinawa. The people of Japan,
particularly the people on Okinawa, have been working very hard to remove
some of the extensive military forces. Now, they seem to be coming to your
lovely island,” said Wright, a native of Arkansas.

“The [Okinawans] certainly understand that whenever the U.S. military lands
somewhere, it leaves a very large footprint. You all know it very well,
because much of your land is already occupied by the U.S. military,” the
former U.S. envoy told the audience.

Wright is a former U.S. deputy ambassador who was assigned in Sierra Leone,
Afghanistan, Mongolia and Micronesia. She joined the military at the time
when the U.S. military was invading Vietnam.

On March 19, 2003, the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Wright cabled a
letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin Powell, stating that
without the authorization of the UN Security Council, the invasion and
occupation of a Muslim, Arab, oil-rich country would be a isaster. Since
then, she has been writing and speaking out for peace and is now a resident
of Honolulu.

“It has been deeply emotional for all of us. Here we are in war again. The
United States has started wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” she said. “When you
look at the number of civilians who have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan,
and Guam, it brings home to us all what we should be working on.”

“The history of the United States is not a peaceful history,” said Wright,
who added that the U.S. has, “a history of invading other countries.”

Land grabbing
With regard to the local military buildup, Wright told the audience that,
“You have been seeing your own lands being taken from you,” adding that,
“The federal government builds without your agreement. They build enormous
facilities that have disastrous effects on your environment.”
The retired colonel suggested that people weigh the importance of their own
lands, and whether or not it is worth it to lose those lands for an increase
in short term values such as trade and business.
“Once the federal government gets its hands into something it never
gets it out. With the Obama administration I certainly hope that we will all
join together to throw out many of the provisions of the Patriot Act that
are really curtailing our own civil liberties,” she said.

Japanese parliamentarian and Code Pink member Sumi Fujita said that because
of the long military presence and all of the rape cases in Okinawa, “women
[there] now feel threatened.”

“All of the military promises to help the Okinawan economy have been a big
lie,” Fujita said, through interpreter Hisae Ogawa.

As for the rape issue, Wright said, “This is a failure in leadership that is
coming to you, that will allow this to continue.”

“Sometimes being an activist leads to things that you’d never thought you’d
be doing,” said Wright.

The former U.S. diplomat also stated that we should all be aware of the
“isms” created by policy makers. “Our government has been very good, meaning
very bad, in using the ‘isms’ like communism, terrorism, and fascism to
frighten and scare the American public so that they can do things that
normally we would protest,” she said. “It something we should always be very
wary of, when there’s another ‘ism’ coming up.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Japanese Peace Groups in Guam

Retired Army officer, Japan peace delegation tour Guam
By Michele Catahay
Published Jul 20, 2009

A peace delegation from Osaka, Japan is on island to study and tour Guam and to hear from the locals on their thoughts about the Marines' relocation from Okinawa to Guam. Joining them is a retired U.S. Army colonel who says the move won't be good for Guam.

During the eve of Liberation Day, a peace delegation from Osaka took a tour around the island today to visit the many sites where Chamorros suffered the atrocities of war. The group toured various locations and memorials, to include here at the Tinta caves, where they paid respect to those Chamorros who died during the Japanese occupation of Guam. Joining them is retired Colonel Anne Wright, who says their mission is to study the impact Guam will have on the move.

In fact, Wright says there will be a negative impact, noting, "I'm very concerned about the militarization of Guam. Of course, it is a dilemma. Where does the U.S. put its military forces, but to put it in such small islands that are going to be negatively impacted by such a large increase in population. Plus, the weapons that are going to be used, the toxic materials that are used as a part of war, fighting and practicing the exercise training areas that will be used here on Guam."

Wright was once a diplomat in Micronesia and visited Guam in the past. She says Guam's pristine lands will be greatly impacted by the increase of Marines and their dependents. "I would urge our military to take our military to other places and put it in an area that has the capability of absorbing so many people and so many war-fighting materials," she said.

Wright will be speaking at several conferences as she joins the peace delegation back to Japan.

Meanwhile, trip organizer Ako Miamoto from Osaka says her group currently promotes peace in a nuclear-free world. She says the trip will give them insight on what happened during World War II and what could happen once the Marines move to Guam. "Today we're traveling all around Guam to study what our Japanese military did during the Second World War and now the relocation issues," she said. "They are already so many concerns about it. So that's why we invited 18 people." She also said, "It's our common issue. We're all against the relocation of U.S. Marines."

The group also met with native rights groups. They will leave the island tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Things We Must Remember

ben’s Pen: The things we remember today
Tuesday, 21 July 2009 03:14 by Sen. Ben Pangelinan
Marianas Variety

EACH year, for the past 65 years, this day rolls around and we remember.

At Sumay, we remember the place where our parents made their homes and buried their parents, brothers, sisters and family. We mark this with a mass at the Sumay cemetery; not for those buried there who died during the war, but those buried there before they took the land away and now need permission to return to honor and pay respect at that hallowed place.

At Fena, we remember the pain and the memories, and for some the unspeakable guilt they carry with them for surviving, while others did not, the brutality and atrocity of the enemy-- an enemy not of our own making.

At Manengon, we remember the suffering of the children left to the care of young new mothers with babies exposed to the risk of disease and sickness, because a fire could not be built to boil water from the river, the same river they used to wash clothes and bathe in.

We remember mothers, wives and children who watched husbands, brothers and fathers, walk away from the camp, obedient to the enemy’s order to come with them. And they never looked back. The wives, mothers and children watched never knowing; if the husbands, brothers and fathers did not obey, it would be they who would be beaten or killed.

At Tinta and Faha, we remember the deaths and the fact that our people knew their fate as they were forced into the caves. The explosion of the grenades and the sound of bayonets piercing flesh, looking for the kill left unfinished by the force of the explosion and the shrapnel as clear today as it was 65 years ago.

And we remember the brave men of the Malesso rebellion, those who knew that no amount of cooperation or compliance with the enemy’s orders would spare their innocent loved ones pain or death, who summoned the courage, and who rose up to overpower the enemy. Facing death, they fought and some lost their lives, and their sacrifice and gallantry saved the lives of countless loved ones.

And we remember, the over 45 strong young Chamorro men found at Chi gi’an, with their hands tied behind their backs and be-headed, after they carried the enemy’s provisions to Yigo for their last stand.

Each year, for the past 65 years, this day rolls around and we celebrate.

We celebrate liberation from the hands of a brutal enemy. We celebrate the return of the Americans, who say they gave us democracy and self-government. And they stayed, a kind and generous occupier, but an occupier nonetheless.

Last year, this day rolled around and amidst the remembrance and the celebration we chose to actively embrace a full democracy and freedom as a people. We chose to act to bring about decolonization, move forward our destiny, and fulfill our human right to self-determination.

It is a right that a liberator does not bestow to the liberated. It is a right that a just and moral authority recognizes belongs to those peoples denied such right.

It is a right that can, only by the action of those who have yet to exercise such right, bring about real freedoms and true liberation.

Abiba self-determination! Biba Liberation!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

DPJ May Seek Funding Cut for Troop Realignment

Japan’s Opposition Would Push U.S. to Renegotiate Troop Move
By Sachiko Sakamaki and Takashi Hirokawa

July 17 (Bloomberg) -- The Democratic Party of Japan will seek to cut the estimated $10.3 billion cost for transferring 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam by 2014 should it win next month’s elections, the party’s shadow defense chief said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone signed an agreement in February for Japan to provide $6.09 billion for the move and infrastructure. The costs include a projected $700,000 per housing unit for the troops, which is too much, DPJ legislator Keiichiro Asao said.

“Given the fact that the land is free, $700,000 is too expensive,” Asao, 45, said in a July 15 interview in his Tokyo office. “We’re ready to pay and aren’t calling for lowering the quality. But we cannot convince taxpayers unless we examine the grounds of such an estimation and cut what we can cut.”

Polls show the DPJ is poised to unseat Prime Minister Taro Aso and his Liberal Democratic Party in parliamentary elections on Aug. 30. The LDP has governed almost without interruption since 1955, with foreign policy centered around a U.S. security treaty that keeps 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan. DPJ leaders have called for a less subordinate alliance.

While echoing the call for “equal” ties, Asao said any concerns that a DPJ government would alter the fundamental relationship with the U.S. were misguided.

“We’re not going to be making major policy changes,” he said. The Japan-U.S. alliance “will be fine.”

Ending Refueling Mission

His party has opposed dispatching Japanese naval refueling vessels to the Indian Ocean to help the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and will end it once in office, Asao said.

“We’ll stop the refueling mission,” he said. “There won’t be much of an impact because the amount of fuel Japan is providing is decreasing.”

Aso has made the DPJ’s opposition to Japanese military missions overseas a campaign issue. He criticized former opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa’s suggestion that the U.S. should eventually reduce its forces in Japan, saying it would weaken the country.

Asked who they would support in next month’s election, 37.4 percent of voters favored the DPJ compared with 19.5 percent for the LDP, according to a Jiji News survey published yesterday. Aso’s support rate fell to 16.3 percent from 24.1 percent last month, according to the survey, which didn’t provide a margin of error.

The DPJ will submit a bill to enable Japan to inspect North Korean ships suspected of carrying nuclear-related goods to implement a U.N. resolution against North Korea once the party takes power. A similar bill introduce by the LDP, which cleared the Diet’s lower house, is likely to die because the DPJ- controlled upper house stopped any debate after Aso on July 13 said he would dissolve parliament next week.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Waimanalo wants Air Force to return Bellows Land

A proposed resolution claims the Air Force no longer needs 400 acres and should give it up
By Kaylee Noborikawa
July 12, 2009
Honolulu Star Bulletin

Some Waimanalo residents are calling for the U.S. Air Force to return about 400 acres from Bellows Air Force Station because the land is being used for recreation rather than critical military purposes.

“I’m asking the neighborhood board to adopt a resolution which asks for the return (of the land), and I expect the neighborhood board to transfer that resolution to Congress, our senators, and President Obama,” said Joseph Ryan, a former member of the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board and a Waimanalo resident since the 1960s.

Ryan drafted the resolution after receiving an environmental assessment in March by the U.S. Air Force which wants to construct at Bellows 48 vacation rentals, a nine-hole disc golf course, a community activity center, a car wash, a water park, a resort pool, and a nine-hole par-3 golf course.

Ryan said his action is not related to the military’s closing of Bellows to the public for a month recently. The popular beach and camping area was closed because of misuse and vandalism, military officials had said. It was reopened over the July 4th weekend.

According to Ryan, the state should get the land, which was appropriated by President Woodrow Wilson in 1917, since the military is no longer using it for its original military purpose.

A total of 1,510 acres of ceded land was appropriated in the presidential executive order, but in 1999, about 1,100 acres were transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps, according to the Corps.

“When the Air Force decided by its EA to use the base for recreational services, they made the decision that this is no longer critical defense purposes. Recreation is a collateral purpose. It doesn’t support the primary mission,” said Ryan.

The military responded by saying that although the primary mission is recreation, the Armed Forces continue to train on the land. Hickam’s 15th Security Forces Squadron, U.S. Marine Corps security forces, and the Honolulu Police Department use Bellows for training, including building clearing, hostage negotiation training, and robbery response.

“Bellows continues to fill key roles in troop recreation and training,” said Capt. Christy Stravolo of the Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs. “One of the key priorities of the Air Force Chief of Staff is airman morale and readiness. Bellows contributes to this priority every day.”

The Bellows Air Force Station offers cabins, camping sites, and other recreational activities for military retirees, soldiers in the reserve/guard, active military members, and U.S. Department of Defense civilians. According to Stravolo, 500,000 visitors use Bellows’ facilities every year.

“Troops can’t afford the expensive commercial establishments, so here’s a chance they have to relax with their families at a very reasonable price. The fees they charge are quite a bit less than Waikiki,” said Gen. Robert Lee.

Lee is in charge of the Army National Guard at Bellows and trains newly promoted sergeants on unit tactics.

“I think we can work it out with the community. We allow the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board to use our facility for their meetings; I believe we can work out a good solution,” Lee said.

Legal Status of Uighurs still an issue in Palau

Legal status of Uighurs in Palau an issue
Palau Horizon
Monday, 13 July 2009 13:15 By Bernadette H. Carreon - Horizon News Staff

KOROR(Palau Horizon) - President Johnson Toribiong said Palau and United States are still “ironing out” the travel documents of Uighurs detainees who may want to resettle in this island nation.

The Guantanamo Bay detainees cannot be issued Palauan passports, Toribiong pointed out.

“The Constitution requires that you must have Palauan blood to be a citizen,” he said.

Palauan passports are tied to bloodlines, he added.

Palau is working with the U.S. to address this issue.

The Uighurs are concerned about the legal status they would have in Palau, and whether they could obtain documentations such as a passport.

Palau has agreed to provide temporary resettlement to the Uighur detainees as a humanitarian gesture.

Four of the 17 detainees have already moved to Bermuda and eight of the remaining 13 have expressed interest in resettling in Palau.

Toribiong said the resettlement proposal is still being drafted.

The Guam Military Buildup by Congressman Neil Abercrombie

By Neil Abercrombie
July 11, 2009

Some in Guam have expressed strong opposition to provisions in the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, passed overwhelmingly this week by the U.S. House, concerning military construction in Guam.

The measure authorizes a multi-year, multi-billion dollar building program to construct a new home for the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Forces and elements of other units stationed on the island of Okinawa and in mainland Japan for many years. This means building permanent military facilities to accommodate about 8,000 military personnel and as many as 9,000 family members. The move is the result of a lengthy and detailed agreement between the United States and Japan, under which the U.S. will pay about 40% of the cost.

When Members of the House Armed Services Committee considered the matter, we had two aims: 1.) to assure our men and women in uniform and their families high quality, comfortable and durable buildings and facilities in a secure environment in which they can work, train and live, and 2.) create stable, well-paid jobs for skilled American building and construction workers to replace some of the thousands of jobs lost in this economic recession,.

This five-year project will require 15,000 or more construction workers. Thousands will have to be recruited to relocate to supplement the local workforce. The legislation reserves 70% of those jobs for American workers.

My ideal for the quality of housing and facilities we want on Guam are the military construction projects in Hawaii and across the country through public-private joint ventures, in which companies win multi-year contracts to build, maintain, repair and manage family housing and other structures on a base. The company builds out the project and makes its money from the Basic Allowance for Housing paid by the military families who live in the housing. In Hawaii, we negotiated 50-year agreements with our construction companies at Schofield Barracks, Hickam Air Force Base, Pearl Harbor Naval Station and Marine Base Kaneohe. The product and the process have been widely praised by military families and military leaders.

Wages should be commensurate with the experience and skills of the building trades workers who can provide the quality construction our military personnel deserve. The legislation established wages at the level for similar projects in Hawaii, the closest U.S. labor market. Guam’s prevailing wage is significantly less than most U.S. labor markets; its tax base is limited; and its workforce has only a fraction of the trained and skilled people needed for this job.

The alternative is to outsource to Japanese companies that will bring in foreign workers, for which the Guam government collects a bounty of $1000 per head. This will open the door to profiteering and continued wage bondage, and be a slap in the face of every qualified, unemployed American worker.

Relocating thousands of military personnel and their families is a massive undertaking, and will dramatically alter Guam’s future. Building a new military base from scratch will take several years and billions of dollars. The project will offer thousands of local jobs, thousands more from outside, create opportunities for local small businesses and transform the economy of the island. It is also a singular opportunity to put Americans to work, in an American territory, building America’s future in the Pacific region. Economic security and national security go hand in hand.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What's Behind Abercrombie's Ammendment?

What’s behind the Abercrombie amendment?
Sunday, 12 July 2009 23:49 by Jayne Flores
The Marianas Variety

It’s a trade off: the long-awaited payment of war reparations to our dwindling number of survivors of the Japanese occupation, for a Hawaii-based wage rate for the buildup.

That seems to be the most logical reason behind Hawaii Rep. Neil Abercrombie’s two additional amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010.

Abercrombie is running for governor, and if he can boost his state’s struggling economy by giving construction workers jobs on Guam that pay just as much as if they were working in Hawaii, it would be a large feather in his political cap. It’s a cap that, according to a candidate watchdog web site, has been paid for with contributions from the likes of Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, and 21st Century Systems, all military contractor heavyweights.

On the other side, we’re getting to the point that if we don’t settle this war claims issue soon, there won’t be any WWII survivors left to receive the money.

Abercrombie’s first amendment requires that Hawaii construction wage rates, which are approximately double what construction workers on Guam are paid, will apply to all build-up related projects funded with money specifically earmarked for the build-up.

The second amendments says that not more than 30 percent of the total hours worked per month on a buildup construction project may be performed by foreign workers, or workers holding temporary work visas.

So we’ve now got requirements that the Defense Department has to pay everyone who works on a buildup project those high Hawaii wage rates, and on each of the jobs, 70 percent of the work hours have to be worked by U.S. workers.

Obviously, Abercrombie is trying to prevent jobs going to foreign workers while construction workers in his state and other states are out of work. His amendment makes perfect sense if you’re a senator watching unemployment rates skyrocket in your state, or watching your state hand out vouchers for payment because it is broke.

This amendment seems to strike fear in the hearts of contractors on Guam and the overall Guam business community. They’ve been collectively saying that doubling wage rates for these projects might kill the buildup, or cause a domino effect and increase the cost of living on the island. But would it?

The large contractors that will be paying these higher rates already pay similar rates in many states. According to www.payscale.com, journeyman electricians make an average of $25.44 an hour in the states. Carpenters make from $22.33 to $32.43, depending on where they work. So these contractors’ bids will reflect the Hawaii-based wage rates accordingly. It’s the Department of Defense that will have to fork out the big bucks.

Local contractors are not getting these jobs – that’s the word through the grapevine. They may get subcontracts, but they can work the higher wages into their subcontract bids. So the local contractors won’t actually have to pay these rates, because Abercrombie’s amendment is specific to the buildup, not to the prevailing wage rate on Guam.

What will happen, though, is that the buildup will create two classes of H-2 workers and local workers, those who work on federal projects and are paid the higher wages, and those who work on local projects and are paid Guam’s prevailing construction wage rates. This could cause some animosity among workers within a company, especially among foreign workers who might fight over who gets to work the 30 percent hours on federal projects.

The higher wage rate might actually work in Guam’s favor. Although stateside workers will probably send home a significant portion of their paychecks if they don’t move their families out here, rest assured, they’ll frequent local restaurants and other establishments, and spend more of their money here than would foreign workers, who as a general rule send home most of their paychecks.

The defense budget bill, including the war claims and Abercrombie amendments, is now in the U.S. Senate. What senators are going to have to decide is whether they want to increase the cost of the buildup in order to put more Americans back to work, or scratch the whole bill and start over. Or, they could take out Abercrombie’s amendments, or the war claims amendment, or both.

At this point, anything can happen. But having to deal with the higher buildup wages won’t be as devastating as will having the war claims legislation slip through our fingers once again.

If this is the deal – we should take it.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

War Stories from the Tip of the Spear

War Stories and the Chamorus: journalism and militarization on the tip of the spear.
By Beau Hodai
Special to News From Indian Country 7-09
The weight of occupation and corporate media self-censorship

It was a typical day in the jungle, though more overcast than the constant island diet of endless blue skies and fluffy white clouds; humid-- drizzling rain that would materialize from the sticky mist in the air, a breeze stirring through breadfruit and banana leaves.

I was at the family home of Navy Hospital Corpsman Second Class Anthony Carbullido, Jr., whom the Department of Defense had recently listed among the dead to be routed back from Afghanistan to Guam through Dover, Delaware-- the victim of an improvised explosive device.

Family and friends of the corpsman were seated in rows of folding chairs under a glowing green fiberglass awning reciting the rosary, “may eternal peace and rest be unto Tony…” a dull, sleepy drone mixed with the static rain.

I was seated in one of the chairs, as were my photographer and his girlfriend. To the side of the house, under a separate awning, large tables were being set with large trays of traditional Chamorro food. A pit-bull puppy pawed at the kitchen door, leaving streaks of red clay as more family members prepared food inside.

I had arrived on Guam less than a month before to work for the island’s largest newspaper, the Gannett-owned Pacific Daily News. My assigned beat was “health and environment,” and while the Carbullido rosary service did not exactly fall under the banner of that beat, it was assigned to me as one of my co-workers, who was usually assigned to rosaries and military funerals, had said he needed a break from covering such functions, as the process of extracting a story from a grieving mother is-- at best-- draining.

In the darkened living room of the family home I was made to understand this sentiment all too well as I held my little recorder in the mother’s face and asked her how she felt about her son’s death.

Aurora Carbuliido, the sailor’s mother, said that her son’s death was the realization of her fears as a mother of a sailor involved in active duty.

“I’ve seen past pictures and past articles (of troops who have died in combat) and it scared me because my son is over there,” she said.

“This is a hard situation to be in,” his father said. “It’s hard to believe that this is happening to us.” (From: “Family, friends mourn sailor: Acting governor orders flags to half-staff,” Pacific Daily News, August 9, 2008).

It should be noted that the idea that what a person is quoted as saying in a newspaper is accurate is not necessarily accurate; as the photographer haggled with the father about his desire not to be photographed, Mrs. Carbuillido spoke of her son and her fears in the present-tense… “and it scares me because my son is over there.” The idea that they would be shoveling clay into their son’s face sometime in the weeks to come had not yet hit home.

There had been a steady succession of these stories, as Cabullido was the 17th casualty from Guam and the 29th from the northern Marianas region since the outset of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001.

This succession has given Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, with a population of under 300,000, the dubious honor of being the region of the United States with the highest number per capita of such casualties.

This is comparable to a city the size of Spokane taking the same blow in the “War on Terror,” but with one large difference: in the insular world of Micronesia, everybody is related in one way or another to everyone else. Few get out. It is because of this that one family’s pain ripples out through the entire community.

A brief history of Guam to bring you to this point:

Guam, the northern-most island of the Marianas Archipelago, known to the Chamorus who occupied it as Guahan, was dubbed the “Island of Thieves” by Ferdinand Magellan when a group of natives attempted to steal one of his ships during his 1521 landing.

In 1668, the Jesuit Padre San Vitores, began colonization of the island for the Spanish crown.

San Vitores was promptly killed in 1672 by a Chamoru chief named Matapang for baptizing his daughter without permission. Matapang was eventually killed in turn.

At the time of Spanish colonization, there were 175,000 Chamorus on Guahan; 100 years into colonization, the population had dwindled to 1,500.

Following the Spanish-American War, Spain ceded the island to U.S. forces in 1898, at which time it served as a small military outpost.

In 1941, Japanese forces invaded the island. Fortunately, U.S. citizens on the island were evacuated prior to the occupation. Unfortunately, all Chamorus were left behind to face three years of forced labor and life in concentration camps around the island. A further 300 Chamorus died during this period. Scars from this period can be found throughout the island in the form of old munitions and tunnels bored though hillsides by Chamoru slave labor for the Japanese.

On July 21, 1944, the U.S. Marines retook the island in the bloody Battle of Guam. Today, Liberation Day warrants a week-long barbeque party along the island’s main drag, Marine Corps Drive, in the capital of Hagatna.

In 1950 the Guam Legislature passed the Organic Act, which laid the foundation for local government as it is now and established Guam as an unincorporated territory of the United States.

Today, Catholicism extends to every facet of life on-island and the Archdiocese of Hagatna holds heavy political sway. The word “Matapang,” which, at the time of San Vitores’ death meant “to be made pure by cleansing,” means “silly” or “foolish” in modern Chamorro, which is a polyglot of English, Spanish and Chamoru.

The word Guahan, which meant “we have”, has long since been replaced by the bastardized “Guam,” which means nothing; and every day the most mournful cacophony I have ever heard rings out of the synth bells atop the Basilica of the Archdiocese of Hagatna, echoing off the cliffs and out into the Philippine Sea like a funereal music box opened for a dead child.

At present, a full third of the island’s land mass of 209 square miles is occupied by either Andersen Air Force base or U.S. Naval Base Guam. Guam is often proudly referred to as the “tip of the spear” for U.S. military operations, as it is the furthest military outpost from the U.S. mainland. Many bumper stickers also proclaim: “Guam: where America’s day begins,” or “SPAM!”

Guam has no exports, virtually no agricultural production (due in large part to military contamination of the land and water—much of this contamination has been attributed to nuclear weapons testing that took place in the Marshall Islands from 1946 to 1962, the effects of which were documented in a 2005 report filed by the National Research Council under the National Academies of Science. Because of this, legislation has been introduced repeatedly—and with little success—by Guam Congressional Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo to include the territory in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act) and no other line of production. Outside of federal subsidies, the main source of revenue on-island is in the trade of Japanese tourist dollars—a revenue stream that has been dwindling in recent years.

This dead-end environment leaves the military as the only viable option for many young people looking to get out.

Following the recitation of the rosary, while waiting to interview Carbullido’s parents, I spoke with several of his friends, his siblings and some of his cousins.

As I was speaking to his teenage brother, one of his cousins joined us.

“What do you think? Still planning on joining up?” the brother asked the cousin, a man in his early twenties clutching a pale blue Bud Lite can.

“Yeah,” he said, raising the can and tilting his head.

“This doesn’t change your mind at all?” asked the brother.

No, the cousin replied; there really wasn’t much other choice for him—no other way out, or up-- even if it meant coming back in a box.

Unfortunately for those whose families could not afford private school tuition or cannot afford higher education and who are products of the Guam Public School System, even the military option appears to be closing on them.

A recruiter for the Guam Army National Guard told me in an interview at the time that, while he has seen an increase in interest in military service in the region, increasing numbers of young people educated on the island have been unable to pass the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Test.

GPSS is, by far, the GovGuam line agency beset by the most demons—which is considerable, given that GovGuam could be likened to a boondoggle of contemptuous, incompetent snakes, each trying to bight the other’s head off in the perennial battle over the territory’s small annual budget.

Last year the office of the Guam Attorney General closed down several of the system’s schools, citing exposure of students to raw sewage, asbestos and fire hazards.

All but one of the schools have been reopened to date, but the department has still been unable to fill its staffing needs, students still continue to perform well below national standards and at a 2008 budget hearing a GPSS employee told the Guam Legislature that teachers in the system actually had a higher absenteeism rate than students.

But, even if enlistment is not an option, many still see the Department of Defense as Guam’s Savior.

In 2006, the DoD announced plans to relocate some 5,000 Marines and their dependents from the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa to a new to-be-built base on Guam.

The estimated impact of the shift, or “military buildup,” as it is commonly referred to, when considering the number of workers to fill jobs created by the need to expand both civilian and military infrastructure, translates to at least a twenty percent population boom over the course of a few years, set to begin (tentatively) in 2010. Some believe that a twenty percent population increase is a conservative estimate and set the number much higher.

Many members of the Guam business community and government are bedazzled by what they anticipate to be a cornucopia of new possibilities in profit and employment offered through the expansion.

Many of these dazzled individuals are the same ones who advertize in, and thereby underwrite, the island’s news media, chief of which is the same Gannett-owned Pacific Daily News that I covered the Carbullido rosary for.

When my editor changed Aurora Carbullido’s quote, he also buried it at the back of the article. He had placed canned statements from the island’s acting governor and congressional representative before not just statements from the grieving mother, but of all the corpsman’s family members.

“We extend our sympathies and prayers to all his family, friends and loved ones,” said Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo…

“Anthony will rest in the hearts and minds of a grateful people humbled by his ultimate sacrifice,” said Acting Governor Mike Cruz in a statement yesterday. “I have ordered all government… agencies to fly flags at half-staff in honor of…”

This same editor had lectured me on previous occasions about putting the statements of “real people” above whatever hollow canned crap you may get from the desk of a politician. This rule apparently did not apply to cases involving a military death.

Cases when the rule did apply, by PDN/Gannett standards, were when you’d be handed a press release on some banal item, such as “Healthy Snack Food Month,” or “Infant Automobile Safety Awareness Month,” from some ad hoc task force. You’d then be given your orders to go over to the shopping center down the block, get three “reactions” from “real people,” then march back to the newsroom and churn out six to eight inches of copy by combining all or parts of the press release with the quotes.

That is Gannett journalism: the best in fast food, bulleted coverage—as pioneered by U.S.A Today.

My theory then, as this editor in the most gently condescending tones, explained the role of “real people” to me, is the same as it is now in hindsight; Aurora Carbullido’s reaction was too real. It was the visceral reaction of a shocked mind to an inconceivable pain. And this pain was brought about by involvement with the Department of Defense, the same DoD that so many underwriters looked on as a messiah that would finally put them on the map. This is why the quote of a grieving mother was altered and buried.

The statement that journalism at such a paper is only an incidental byproduct that suffers from this ad-driven editorial policy could be considered libelous if—for one, it was not true—or if it was not the Gannett modus operandi by definition:

The company was started by Frank Ernest Gannett, who in 1906 began buying small newspapers in New York state...

... These newspapers were usually the only ones published in their city and so could be run very profitably. The company’s growth was further spurred by the attention it paid to advertising and circulation and by its tight control of costs...

…This pattern of buying up all the newspapers in an area, slashing subscription rates to levels which (according to critics) only a national conglomerate could sustain, and then raising advertising rates once control over the local market had been secured brought Gannett severe criticism as well as lawsuits. Smaller community and privately owned newspapers have charged the media giant with predatory practices and violations of antitrust laws. Not helping Gannett’s image was the frank admission of brash business tactics by former Gannett chairman Allen Neuharth in his autobiography, Confessions of an S.O.B. (1989). (From, “Gannett Co., Inc.” as defined by Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009).

So it should have been no surprise when the PDN refused to cover any story outlining the long shadow of rape and assault allegations that accompanied the history of Marines stationed in Okinawa and whose arrival was being staged on Guam.

The same co-worker who had declined to cover the rosary and myself had been pressing our editors to do a story on this history, as there had been virtually no coverage of it in Guam media to that point.

Nothing ever came of it; each day we logged on to the program that contained the daily budget and found that the item had either been pushed back or removed entirely.

Eventually, unable to stomach their editorial policy any longer, I jumped ship and went to work for the PDN’s only competition, the Marianas Variety.

One day my old co-worker said he had given up trying to get the story into the PDN following an especially heated exchange between himself and the managing editor on the subject of the Okinawa Marines story in which he said the editor had indignantly exclaimed, “I have friends and family in the military!”

Military censorship

I had been holding the story up to that point out of respect for my friend, but on hearing that he had given up trying to run it in the PDN, I decided to run with it.

I set out to get some information on the allegations from the Navy and the Joint Guam Program Office, which had been set up by the DoD to act as a civilian-military liaison to pave the way for the Marines. It seemed that once the Navy had figured out I was going to write a critical article, my phone calls and emails went unanswered.

The Variety finally ran an article—despite lack of cooperation on the part of the Navy—in November highlighting the grave concerns of many Guam senators over the violent history of the Marines in Okinawa.

At about that time the Navy’s public information officer met with the Variety’s general operations manager, saying that I was harassing him and that he thought I didn’t know what I was talking about. He said the Navy did not keep any records of allegations against its service members and suspected that I had not done my research.

Given the Navy’s reticence on the issue, I cited numbers directly from the Okinawa prefecture government website, as well as data compiled by Japanese activist groups:

“A report filed this year by an activist group, Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, documented over 400 alleged cases of rape, abduction, assault, murder and other forms of abuse committed by U.S. forces in Japan from the period of their post-war occupation to the present.”(“Concerns raised over Okinawa incidents: part 1” Marianas Variety, October 30, 2008)

“(T)here have been more than 5,076 cases of crime caused by the SOFA (Service of Forces Agreement) status people since the reversion of Okinawa to mainland Japan (1972). This number includes 531 cases of brutal crimes and 955 cases of assaults. Thus, there is fear amongst the people of Okinawa as to whether or not security for their daily lives can be maintained and whether their property can be preserved."(From “Concerns raised over Okinawa incidents: part 2,” Marianas Variety, November 7, 2008—as quoted directly from the website of the government of the Okinawa Prefecture.)

In December, following the story on the Okinawa Marines, I wrote an article for the Variety entitled “DoD’s ‘mystery’ project puzzles Guam officials,” which examined a tip I had received that JGPO was looking to convert about 650 acres currently belonging to the Chamorro Land Trust Commission and 250 acres belonging to the Ancestral Lands Commission—which was currently occupied by Guam International Raceway-- into a firing range.

On January 15, Variety reporter and editor, Mar-Vic Cagurangan, wrote a follow-up article, based on a written statement from JGPO Operations Director, Lt. Col. Rudy Kube, confirming the suspicions.

On April 28, the Variety received payment from JGPO for their role as a ‘watchdog’ paper when Variety reporters were barred from attending the “Guam Industry Forum III,” while all other media outlets on-island were granted access.

Variety reporter, Jennifer Naylor Gesick, wrote:

Onsite industry forum personnel notified the reporting staff that the ban was on a “federal level” and was issued as a “government order” from U.S. Marine Corp Capt. Neil Ruggiero with the Joint Guam Project Office...”

The ban was in effect in all venues, as confirmed by Variety reporters in the field. Press passes were printed for every media company on island, except for the Variety...

... Ruggiero argued that Variety could have attended the event as a business if the publishers had registered with the forum.

“Marianas Variety was given the same opportunity as anyone else, they just chose not to be paying registrants, [Pacific Daily News] chose to pay and they were allowed access,” he said...

...However, any media covering the event was allowed in free.

In response to claims of a violation of the freedom of the press in restricting access to the forum, Ruggiero responded that “the press who only stays one session is allowed in free.” That accommodation was not extended to the Variety.

Ruggiero also said that a Variety columnist was given access to represent the paper.

Variety columnist Jayne Flores confirmed that she was given a pass, but Ruggiero later said, “I told her she could not come as Marianas Variety or write any news for them.”

(From “Variety banned by JGPO,” Marianas Variety, April 29, 2009)

Gesick went on to quote Ruggiero, who is the public information officer for JGPO, as saying that the ban on Variety reporters was in effect because he felt part of Kube’s statement had been published out of context, although he did not challenge the veracity of the story.

Despite this lack of cooperation with media outlets willing to report any story critical of the DoD’s plans for the island, events in which the public have been able to ask questions of those involved with the proposed buildup or voice their concerns have drawn large crowds.

The large turnout at such forums suggests that those who are concerned for their island’s future in light of such weighty developments are not marginal or fringe groups as the dismissive attitudes of the DoD and the PDN would suggest.

At a forum held in November at the University of Guam, panellists from both the Civilian-Military Task Force, which works under the auspices of the Office of the Governor with JGPO, as well as members of the community working toward Guam’s self-determination stated both their progress and concerns with the buildup.

Panelist Mike Bevacqua of Famoksaiyan said every resident of Guam—regardless of their position on the buildup—needs to realize that the buildup will affect them personally. He encouraged residents to take a more proactive role in the course of their and Guam’s future.

“It is taking place because we are America, and it’s taking place because we’re not. It is not only something that takes place because of our geographic position, but our colonial status as well...”

“...It is also taking place because we are one of the few American communities where a unilateral announcement by the DOD that it intends to drastically affect life in your community and cause a population increase of 34 percent is met with excitement, celebration and a frightening lack of questioning...”

“...and this military buildup is predicated on the fact that you live in a colony and you can be treated as an object for the subject of the United States, as a weapon of the warrior of the United States military. This is the United States military sharpening the tip of its spear.”

(“Military buildup forum draws huge crowd,” Marianas Variety, November 20, 2008)

Guam Military Move Exceeds Estimate

GAO Says Cost of Guam Move Will Exceed Estimate
By David Allen, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Thursday, July 9, 2009

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Relocating some 8,000 Marines and their families to Guam will cost far more than what the Department of Defense estimated, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

The report released July 2 examined the DOD’s estimated budget for realigning its global posture and recommended the department get a better handle on how much the projects will cost.

The DOD "understates the total costs associated with restructuring DOD’s global posture, because it does not report the total cost of each initiative, assumptions about host nation support, the full share of U.S. obligations, or sustainment costs," the report stated.

The report estimated the U.S. share to relocate several Marine commands to Guam to be at least $7.5 billion, almost double the original estimate of $4 billion. The total cost is currently estimated at $10.7 billion, with Japan contributing $6.09 billion.

However, the GAO said the estimate does not include other related costs, such as the cost to move military units to Guam; the development of training ranges and other facilities on nearby islands; the cost for beefing up other DOD agencies on Guam to support the additional military personnel and dependents; and the $6.1 billion Guam has requested to make improvements to its infrastructure to support the ensuing population boom.

Marines on Okinawa directed all queries concerning the report to the Joint Guam Program Office. Marine Capt. Neil Ruggiero, a spokesman for the JGPO, said Tuesday he had not seen the GAO report and could not comment on it.

It is estimated the move of the Marines and other units to Guam will increase the island’s population 14 percent. The move is expected to be completed in 2014.

The GAO report does not address the 2010 Defense Authorization Bill recently passed by the House of Representatives, which would mandate 70 percent of the construction force hired for the Guam project be U.S citizens at Hawaii wages, about 2 ½ times the prevailing wage on Guam.

The report concluded that the Defense Department "lacks a reliable process" for estimating how much the projects will cost and recommended the DOD issue better guidelines for determining "a credible cost estimate."

Support Bill 66

Support Bill 66
Thursday, 09 July 2009
Letter to the Editor
The Marianas Variety
by Scott "Taisapit" Knudson

DEAR people of Guam, it is your right under the 3rd amendment of the United States Constitution to approve or deny the peacetime transfer of military personnel to our island. Thus, it is your right to approve or deny the possible transfer of 8,000 Marines and other personnel from Okinawa to Guam.

This island is divided as to whether it should be allowed or not. Our leaders appear to generally support it because they are chasing $$, but this transfer will have such a large-scale and long-lasting impact on our island’s economy, population, environment, and quality of life that it demands approval by the people en masse.

Bill 66, submitted by Senator BJ Cruz, is currently under consideration at the legislature. It calls for an island-wide referendum, within 90 days of passage, with two questions being put before the people:

1. Do you approve the transfer of these military personnel?
2.Do you approve the lease of Chamoru Land Trust lands to the U.S. military?

This bill is the only bill currently under consideration that would mandate that the military transfer – and, by extension, its associated construction build-up – be put to vote before the people. For that reason, I am calling upon all the citizens of Guahan to show up at the public hearing at the legislature, which will take place on Thursday, July 16 at 4:00 p.m. There they will be free to express opinions and ask questions.

Regardless of whether one supports or opposes the build-up, it is absolutely essential to our dignity that the matter be put to vote before the people. The current intention of the Pentagon is to triple the military presence on island – from around 15,000 to about 40,000 – without even asking us, but merely by tossing money at us and relying on our leaders’ complacency. That’s called colonialism.

If we are ever to escape our subject status and achieve the dignity and equality that we deserve as U.S. citizens and human beings, we must exert our democratic rights under the constitution. That means telling the Pentagon that they have to check with us first before doing what they please.

So please, people of Guam, come to the legislature on July 16 and show support for democracy and human rights. Support the demand for an island-wide referendum.

Fanogue Taotao Guahan!