Thursday, September 30, 2010

Time to Repeal Congress' Blank Check on Wars

by Barbara Lee from

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress passed a joint resolution broadly authorizing the president to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against those involved in attacking our nation and to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States. I was the only member of Congress who voted against the "Authorization for the Use of Military Force" because I knew some would use it as a blank check to wage war anywhere around the world. It is safe to say that if we knew at the time what the next decade would bring, I would not have been alone.

In the nine years since Congress passed this authorization, the United States has waged two wars at a cost of more than $1 trillion. Afghanistan has now become the longest war in our history - longer than World War II or the Vietnam war. Estimates for the total direct and indirect costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by their end range from $5 trillion to $7 trillion with more than 5,700 Americans having given their lives in these conflicts. As we watch an increasing number of lives lost abroad and jobs lost at home, it is clear we cannot accept a policy of open-ended war without accepting a less prosperous, less secure country for ourselves and future generations. Every additional dollar invested in war is a dollar we take away from much-needed investments in health care, education, infrastructure and clean energy that will preserve and create high-quality jobs, as well as ensure America's future competitiveness.

Unfortunately, my prediction that the broad 2001 authorization would open a Pandora's box has come true - and not just in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Domestically, civil rights advocates have challenged the legality of the National Security Agency's warrantless electronic surveillance and wiretapping activities. The detention center at Guantanamo Bay, operated under the pretext of "all necessary and appropriate force," continues to symbolize our eroding constitutional values. United Nations officials have expressed concern over lack of accountability within U.S. intelligence-run targeted killing operations, most notably drone strikes and related civilian casualties. Further, U.S. involvement or tacit backing of military operations in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere shows that an indefinite pursuit of loosely defined global targets is opening the door to war without end. All this, and more, started with that fateful vote on Sept. 14, 2001. Encouragingly, we are hearing bipartisan calls both inside and outside Congress that America cannot afford, nor is it in our long-term national security interest, to wage endless war around the world. As long as the expansive mandate of the 2001 authorization remains in force, the politics of "victory" may result in an ever-growing U.S. military commitment.

Correcting mistakes begins with accepting them. So I have introduced bipartisan legislation for Congress to sunset and repeal the "Authorization for the Use of Military Force" over a six-month period.

This legislation is not a referendum on any one U.S. operation, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, or elsewhere. The repeal of the act is about Congress restoring its constitutional prerogative in determining and defining the commitments of our country while at war. Anything less does a disservice to our military service members, our nation, and our democracy.

© 2010 The San Francisco Chronicle

Barbara Lee represents Oakland and other parts of Alameda County in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Life after the ROD

Friday, 24 September 2010 04:00 By Gerry R. Partido from MarianasVariety

You have to hand it to the military, they spun the release of the Record of Decision beautifully.

For weeks, anticipation had been building towards the release of the ROD with protests planned and statements set to be released about how the military wasn’t listening to the concerns of the community.

The fact that it is election season added to the fireworks, with every politician worth his salt bashing the military to score some political points.

Then, when the ROD was finally released, surprise! Action on two of the most contentious issues of the buildup, namely Pagat and the Apra coral reefs, were indefinitely postponed.

The military must have known that the ROD would withhold action on these two issues. After all, various federal and Navy officials had further studied the issues after the release of the final environmental impact statement.

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Jackalyne Pfannenstiel even made a personal visit to the Pagat site when she visited the island last month.

But by keeping the decision to postpone action very close to their chests, the feds and the military had the element of surprise and effectively undercut whatever protests were planned after the release of the ROD.

To be sure, postponement of the action on Pagat and Apra Harbor does not mean that those who oppose the military’s original plans can breathe easier.

As our editorial earlier this week pointed out, the military can still proceed with its original plans, maybe after the election season, when passions would have cooled down a bit.

But just because the ROD has been released doesn’t mean that GovGuam and the rest of the community should stop airing their concerns about the military buildup that is now about to start in earnest.

There is life after the ROD and even Joint Guam Program Office executive director David Bice acknowledged that the FEIS did not address all of Guam’s concerns.

Bice also assured that there will be further discussions and collaborations between the military and the Guam community beyond the ROD.

In the meantime, a number of island leaders are continuing with a planned massive demonstration in Adelup on Oct. 1 to draw attention to their feelings about the ROD.

The organizers are saying this will be a non-partisan and multi-sectoral event, with even representatives from the national media invited.

Obviously, the aim is to approximate the massive demonstrations in Okinawa that had drawn worldwide attention to the plight of the native inhabitants there.

But again, being political season, it would be difficult to distinguish between what is true sentiment and what is just rhetoric.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

American Federation of Teachers Regional Director is on Guam, Investigates Complaints Against GFT President


GUAM - If you attend tomorrow's genernal membership meeting of the Guam Federation of Teachers, don't expect any constitutional amendments.

The GFT website says all such amendments have been tabled till the next general membership meeting on November 29th.

That, reportedly on the advice of American Federation of Teachers Regional Director Sol Smith and AFT General Counsel David Strom.

According to Agana Heights Elementary School teacher Carol Somerfleck, Smith is on island to investigate a number of complaints against GFT and its president Matt Rector.

Somerfleck says one of those complaints is by disgruntled DODEA bus drivers, who reported Rector to police today, alleging that Rector threatened their jobs if they didn't join the union. And that most of the dues paying drivers have spent four years with zero representation.

"We should have a choice..Just like everyone else here on Guam. Have a choice to join the union or not. We are the only ones with GFT who are being forced to join the union."

Tomorrow's meeting at the GFT compound by Guam Community College in Mangilao will proceed as planned. Somerfleck encourages all members to attend. The GFT website reminds you to bring your picture I.D. or member card.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Teenage soldier dies

By Janela Buhain from

A TEENAGE soldier from Guam died from a bomb attack in Afghanistan on Friday raising to 18 the total number of fatalities here since the U.S.-led war in Iraq and Afghanistan began seven years ago.

The Department of Defense identified the fallen Guam soldier as U.S. Army Private First Class Jaysine Petree of Yigo.

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, DELAWARE--Soldiers carry the body of Army Pfc. Jaysine P.S. Petree of Yigo, Guam upon arrival at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware on Sunday. According to the Department of Defense, Petree, 19, was killed while serving in Afghanistan. Guam Acting Governor Mike Cruz declares a state of mourning and ordered all flags to be half-flown to honor the fallen soldier. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Acting Governor Mike Cruz declared a state of mourning and ordered all flags to be flown in half-mast to honor Petree.

Petree joined the U.S. Army straight out of high school last year because she wanted to relocate her family to the U.S. mainland.

“It was our goal together that we were going to have a big house in the mainland and bring our family there,” said Jam Petree, the victim’s younger brother.

After moving to Guam from the Philippines in 2002, the siblings promised each other to work together to help their family.

“We just wanted to be successful in life. That was our main goal together,” the brother said.

He flew back to Guam from the Philippines upon learning about his sister’s tragic death.

“My uncle called me because my mom couldn’t speak,” he said. “She was in shock.”

Petree’s body was flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware yesterday Guam time. But it’s still unknown as of press time when it will reach Guam.

Petree is Guam’s 18th casualty since the start of the War on Terror in 2003 and Micronesia’s 37th casualty.

“Governor Camacho and I join the family, friends and the people of Guam in mourning the loss of U.S. Army PFC Jaysine Petree. We will forever be grateful for the sacrifice she paid on behalf of our freedom and liberty. She will always be remembered and honored in our hearts,” the acting governor said in a statement.

Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo also expressed her condolences: “I am deeply saddened by the passing of PFC Jaysine Petree. She made the ultimate sacrifice in answering the call of duty, and I join our island in mourning the loss of PFC Petree. I extend my most sincere sympathies and prayers to her family, friends and loved ones.”

Rosaries are being held nightly at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Yigo at 7:30 pm.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Son Also Rises

by Gwynne Dyer from

Next week, according to North Korea-watchers, the Korean Workers' Party (i.e. the Communists) will hold an assembly in Pyongyang to anoint Kim Jong-un, the youngest son of Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, as the successor to his father and grandfather. There is already a song, "Footsteps", that praises the young man's qualities as a leader, and lapel badges with his image are already being churned out so that every North Korean citizen can wear one.

Egypt is not quite so weird, in the sense that the three generals who have ruled the country for the past 54 years were not actually blood relations, but it is getting weirder. It is universally believed that President Hosni Mubarak, now 82, is grooming his 46-year-old son Gamal as his successor. There were public protests about that in Cairo and Alexandria last week, though the police soon broke them up with the usual arrests and violence.

But where does this all come from? How can anybody believe that none of the 85 million Egyptians is better suited to be president than the son of the present incumbent, or that the "Young General", Kim Jong-un, is the only one of North Korea's 24 million people who is qualified to rule the country?

In fact, nobody does believe it, and neither of these men has a powerful personal following of his own. Moreover, these countries are republics, not monarchies. They may be dictatorial, repressive republics, but the whole notion of dynasties is alien to republics of any sort. So how can this sort of thing happen?

In monarchies, the son is SUPPOSED to inherit power from his father. In modern monarchies, they don't usually get much power anyway, since the job is largely ceremonial, but at least there is a theoretical basis for passing power down in this way. In a republic, on the other hand, there is just no room for the hereditary principle in politics.

Power does pass down within families in democratic republics from time to time, as with the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in India and the Bush family in the United States, but only if the would-be successor can win a real election. What's happening in authoritarian republics like Egypt and North Korea is quite different - and neither the father nor the son may be the prime mover behind the choice of the latter as successor.

The first modern case of an inherited dictatorship was Bashar al-Assad, who succeeded his father Hafez as the president of Syria in 2000. The way he got chosen is quite instructive.

Hafez al-Assad was a former air force general who had ruled Syria with an iron fist for thirty years. He did want to keep power within the family, but it was his older son Basil whom he was grooming to succeed him. However, Basil died in a car accident in 1994, and Bashar (who was studying ophthalmology in London at the time) was ordered back to Syria by his father and put into an intensive program of military and political training.

When his father died six years later, Bashar, at the age of 35, was swiftly chosen to succeed him - but how did that happen? Hafiz al-Assad had wanted it to happen, but he was now dead. Why did all the other major players in the Syrian regime, a notoriously ambitious and ruthless group of men, agree to make this inexperienced nobody their leader?

Because they wanted to preserve their own privileges and power, and that could best be guaranteed by letting the old dictator's son take power. In a one-party regime, there are no real rules for the succession, and the risk that a struggle between rivals for the leadership will destroy the unity of the party and bring the whole regime down is ever-present.

Unless the son of the late leader is a murderous megalomaniac, he is the safest choice no matter how poor his qualifications are for the job. He can lead in name while the real decisions are made elsewhere, and all the powerful people within the regime get to keep their accustomed places at the trough.

That is the logic that brought Bashar al-Assad to power in Syria ten years ago, and it is what creates support within the North Korean and Egyptian regimes today for the elevation of the current dictators' sons to supreme power after their fathers die. It really doesn't matter who is up on the reviewing stand taking the salute, as long as the thousand most powerful people in the regime keep their jobs.

So Kim Jong-un (now 27 years old) will be acclaimed as the next leader of North Korea by the Party congress - and will probably take up the job quite soon, since his father had a stroke two years ago and is now very frail. Gamal Mubarak will run for president in next year's "election" in Egypt, and will win because the regime always fixes the elections. But despite the extraordinary durability of these regimes, they are not indestructible.

If you can credibly say about some situation that "it cannot go on like this forever," then the only logical alternative is that it will eventually stop. Just not right now.

Gwynne Dyer's latest book, "Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats", was published recently in the United States by Oneworld.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

DoD to build Marines' housing on GALC land

by Lannie Walker from

Guam - It seems the Tiyan landowners who are in line to receive the Federal Aviation Administration property in South Finegayan are having not only to deal with a lawsuit filed by other original landowners, but there's no telling what challenges may lay ahead now that Uncle Sam wants the same piece of land.

Landowner Benny Crawford told KUAM News, "We at one time thought wow we are going get dirt we are going to build our ranch and do what we need to do and life goes on, but now with that military buildup, that's not going to happen. However, we realize now that there is a need for these two parcels: the FAA and the Marbo Command."

According to the Record of Decision the Department of Defense plans to use the former FAA property in South Finegayan to build homes for the U.S. Marines and their dependents. Yet this same piece of property is the subject of a lawsuit filed by a number of original landowners who argue that a new public law that deeds the land as well as land at Marbo Command to Tiyan landowners is unfair.

The Tiyan landowners are being given these properties in exchange for the government taking their properties for use by the airport. Crawford has been at the forefront of the battle for compensation, and said, "Originally it wasn't about finances it was about the dirt and now it turned out to be about finances and it might be lucrative for the landowners. And if that would be the case right on more power to the landowners."

But according to the Tiyan land swap law, the Guam Legislature made known that their intention was not for these ancestral lands to be made available to the Department of Defense. So the worst-case scenario, should the military moves forward with the ROD, would be that one of the recourses it might have to pursue is condemnation.

Crawford continued, "However if they are going to condemn the land that doesn't leave the landowner in a good situation because condemnation would be fair market value and leaves us out of the negotiation, how much and how to use land for."

On the other hand, Attorney Curtis Van De Veld, who represents landowners against the Tiyan land exchange law, believes there's billions that could still be made. But it wouldn't be just for Tiyan landowners but all original landowners under the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission. "And it's going to be substantial," he noted. "The estimate is in excess of $2 billion."

Van De Veld still believes the deal with the Guam Economic Development Authority and Jortberg Properties is still valid. The two sides were on the cusp of signing a deal to lease the GALC's FAA property when public law was signed mandating that same piece of land be deeded to Tiyan landowners. GEDA subsequently withdrew the request for proposal.

The attorney explained, "When you make an offer and it is accepted, you create a contract. And there was no termination of the offer prior to the acceptance was my understanding, so I think there is likely to be a binding lease on the property."

While Jortberg Properties has not indicated what it plans to do about the GEDA request for proposal, Van De Veld is still moving forward with his clients case, hoping to strike the Tiyan land swap law so that all landowners will benefit no matter what's done with the land. Van De Veld's request for a temporary restraining order has already been granted by a superior court judge, with additional hearings planned ahead.

"At that point, it will simply be a matter of submitting legal argument to the court and letting the court come up with a full and complete judgment in a short period of time which in the best interest of everyone," said Van de Veld.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Howard Zinn's Last Testament to the Immorality of War

by Ben Dandelion from

Howard Zinn died this year. He is perhaps best known for his People's History of the United States, a book that has featured in The Simpsons and was recommended by Matt Damon's character in the film Good Will Hunting. This book, which offered a view of US history in terms of 500 years of imperialism, colonisation and racism, was less well received academically, with critics calling it polemical and revisionist. Zinn ultimately was an activist and it shone through his academic work as well as his more political essays.

Delivered to the publisher one month before his death, The Bomb falls into the latter category. In it, Zinn puts two essays side by side, one entitled "Hiroshima, breaking the silence", the other "The bombing of Royan". As a young man eager to be demobbed, Zinn recalls celebrating the dropping of the atomic bomb; it meant the end of a war he did not wish to return to. He had taken part in the bombing of the French town of Royan just three months earlier. The essays revisit that unthinking celebration and desire to follow orders of those months in 1945. Using historical evidence, it also argues that neither mission was necessary and asks what prompted military action that would transcended military logic and moral sensibilities.

Like Zinn, I have changed my mind over the need and glory of war. Leaving Quaker school at 17, I wanted to be a fighter pilot. But travelling the world on my bicycle, I came to the same realisation as Zinn - that there is no "them", but only a global "us". I will gladly say that changing one's mind is not and should not be seen as a sign of weakness, as it so often is for politicians, but of creative reflection. Of course, now that I am a committed pacifist, I hope the changes people make follow the same direction as Zinn and me rather than the other way round - from pacifist to militarist.

However, Zinn is also involved in arguments more complex than a simple pacifist one. He is critical of portrayals of any portion of humanity as "lesser" and rightly points out that only by dehumanising the enemy could strategies such as blanket bombing or the dropping of atomic bombs be perceived as possible by people who also saw themselves as moral. I remember an analysis of the media by the sociologist Christie Davies which explained how humanity could at any point be counted as identified humans, nameless members of a group or statistics, and that their moral status shifted within press coverage depending on the degree of humanity ascribed to them. "Eighteen die in bus crash" constructs the dead as a statistic. So it is with war, where "the enemy" is dehumanised or even demonised to the point where killing them is not perceived as murder, and where there are no longer "innocent" victims, just "dead enemies".

This is a conscious process of state and media which can be seen in the censorship of films documenting the effects of the atomic bombs in the years following the war. Zinn implicitly argues that if we place ourselves into that "enemy" situation and cannot justify the military action proposed, then we are morally at fault. This may end up as a kind of pacifism, but it is one which takes critics on in different ways and asks more pointedly for each proposed action to be examined in a globalising moral light.

In these particular cases - especially the destruction of Royan, which was actually inhabited by allies rather than enemies, Zinn argues that motives of military pride, experimentation of new technology (napalm was used for the first time at Royan) and the desire for revenge outweighed the facts that none of it was strategically necessary - the port was a sideshow which posed no threat to the rapid advance of the allies towards Berlin in June 1945.

That said, the very "evils" that the war was meant to defeat was implicit in the actions of the allies. All of the allied powers had records of colonisation and all had previously invaded other countries for their own good, as they then complained of Germany or Japan doing. All defended their empires against independence movements in the years following 1945. All ultimately carried out military action that killed thousands and thousands of civilians. Blanket bombing in Dresden was described by Churchill as a "heavy raid". At the time, racism in the US underpinned the social system as much as it fuelled the rhetoric to go to war against Japan and Germany. In this sense too, less happily, "they" were actually just like "us". Yet, the rhetoric of war relies on "them" being seen as lesser.

The Bomb is not an easy book to read in places, given the accounts of the suffering inflicted by the bombings. It is one that will infuriate many. Some will resist its historical analysis, some its collage of arguments in its favour, and some will say Zinn just didn't understand the true nature of the decisions that had to be (and still are) made. What he shows however, is the divide between those in the corridors of power, and those of us who do not really know what is going on and only have their polemic of the necessity of war to go on.

Unfortunately, Zinn's book remains timely and crucial. As a last testimony to a life of scholarship and activism, it serves us well to take his writing seriously.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

USAO warns of more financial crimes


U.S Attorney Alicia Limtiaco warned more financial crimes may occur in Guam as the multi-billion military buildup unfolds.

Limtiaco made the statement at yesterday’s opening of the conference about financial crime where 214 people attended at the Hilton Resort.

The conference which will conclude today aims to help participants train and prepare for the possible increase in financial crimes that may come with the billions of dollars flowing into Guam for the military buildup.

“This training is very important in order to provide the skill set to our law enforcement, regulatory and other financial stakeholders to be better able to identify, assist in investigations and prosecution of these types of crimes,” she said.

Highlights of the Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering/Financial Crimes Bankers and Law Enforcement Conference include sessions on the bank secrecy act, money laundering act, mortgage fraud, bulk cash smuggling, ATM fraud and other fraudulent practices.

They also have training on foreign assets control regulations, internal bank fraud, terrorist financing, the Guam military buildup and identifying and preventing fraud, internal movement of money in the Pacific and Asia region

Trainers for the conference are from the law enforcement and regulatory communities at both the local and federal level as well as private sector trainers from a variety of agencies.

Some of the agencies represented at the conference include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Secret Service and more.

“The information, the training that our participants are receiving today from the high calibur consistent with the mission of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force established in November 2009 by President Obama and the mission of the Department of Justice,” said Limtiaco.

“We are working together strengthening our collaborative and proactive effort in investigating and prosecuting financial crimes,” Limtiaco added.

The conference was the idea of a member of the Marianas chapter of the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators.

The group’s president, Danny Rapadas spoke about the non-profit organization that provides an environment within which information about financial fraud, fraud investigation and fraud prevention methods can be collected and taught.

There are over 4,000 members of the organization worldwide and includes employees of financial institutions, law enforcement agencies, and crime investigators for large retail stores.

The Marianas chapter was started about a year ago. He said Guam’s location provides many advantages and disadvantages, but one of the disadvantages is access to training. The group originally came up with the idea, and received a great response from federal officials and other people were very interested.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Guam Region Watch: Dept of Interior Provides Capital Improvement Grant for American Samoa

Written by Michael Rudolph, Guam News Watch Reporter
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In a release today from the Department of Interior, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Areas, Tony Babauta, signed a Capital Improvement Project Grant to help improve the quality of life for American Samoans.
Over $400,000 will be used to support two projects addressing an ever increasing demand on health care services, the other on improving delivery of safe water, by means of infrastructure upgrades and facility expansion.

Monday, September 20, 2010

University of Guam President Underwood Expresses Willingness to Partner with DoD on Research for Island Sustainability

Written by Jeff Marchesseault, Guam News Watch Anchor
Monday, September 20, 2010

GUAM - It's a delicate balance between the viable defense of a "free Pacific" and the quality of life rite here at home. As with anything worth having, there are trade-offs. Something's always got to give. As they say, freedom isn't free.

To balance the high cost of that freedom, local leverage and say-so are priceless tools for helping Guam's community get what it needs out of the buildup – namely affordable and sustainable supplies of energy, water, and land.

Perhaps that's one reason University of Guam (UOG) president Robert Underwood is pushing so hard to establish UOG as a Research and Development resource thru the university's center for island sustainability.

Underwood addressed Rotary Club of Northern Guam at the Hyatt Regency today, telling Rotarians that UOG aims to ensure we're able to use our resources today in ways that don't keep future generations from using those same resources.

"So, as we go through this process of creating the Center for Island Sustainability, we're reaching out to the broader community and we're creating a series of advisory councils. And we're inviting members of the business community, members of the activist community, just village mayors, anybody who's interested to become members of these advisory councils. So that as we set up our research and our educational, and our outreach activities, we get good faith participation from all of the sectors of the island and that it would have the desired effect."

"The University of Guam is willing to be a partner in the research. And I think it would really behoove the Department of Defense to engage us in a partner because when you have researchers who are from here, and researchers who are committed to a life here, then I think they'll do the very best by both the island and give the military honest research. And so our point in setting up the Center for Island Sustainability is to provide a venue for that."

Underwood told Guam News Watch that local officials' concerns over the potential radioactive contamination of Apra harbor is a case in point. That if qualified Guam-based authorities are concerned that dredging Apra could disturb suspected radioactive waste left over from nuclear testing in the Marshalls in the 1940's, then they could help the university solve the dilemma, through the Center for Island Sustainability.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

10,000 May Die in Ecuador Due to Chevron's Pollution

by Nick Magel from

Shockwaves rippled through the world's largest environmental lawsuit on Friday, as a new damages assessment was submitted in the lawsuit between 30,000 Indigenous peoples and local farmers against the global oil giant Chevron. The damages assessment finds that because of factors still persisting in the Ecuadorean rainforest from Chevron's pollution, nearly 10,000 Ecuadoreans are at significant risk of dying from cancer by the year 2080. The technical and medical experts who authored the assessment claim that the conditions that remain from Chevron's systemic pollution in the Amazon will continue to cause cancer, birth defects, and other ailments for decades.

"The information in this submission is highly significant because it reflects clearly that there is a terrible oil-related disaster in Ecuador in the area where Chevron operated," said Pablo Fajardo, lead lawyer for the Ecuadorian communities suing Chevron.

The new assessment also placed damages to Ecuadorian communities at $40-90 billion rather than the court's original $27.3 billion. The increase in damages is due to Chevron's "unjust enrichment." Unjust enrichment is essentially money saved by using sub-standard drilling practices. Simply, Chevron cut corners and communities paid the price, a very high price.

Fajardo was clear about Chevron's human impact in the region. "What these analyses make chillingly clear is that thousands of Ecuadorian citizens may well contract and die of cancer in the coming decades because of Chevron's contamination."

Marta Isabel Arrobo, 49, recalls numerous health problems she and her family have suffered living in close proximity to several toxic oil pits abandoned by Texaco (now Chevron) in the Ecuadorean Amazon rainforest. Photo by Caroline Bennett / Rainforest Action Network

This new damages assessment submitted by the plaintiffs comes after the presiding judge opened a 45-day window for both parties to submit their own damage assessments to the court. The plantiffs accepted the offer while Chevron rejected the opportunity. A peculiar move considering Chevron has spent the last two years attacking original independent damages assessment that contained over 105 expert reports and more than 64,000 samples. Fajardo points that many of the reports and samples Chevron argues are in fact Chevron's own filings.

"The Ecuador court has more than enough evidence and expert analyses to determine the cost of remediating the extensive oil pollution that has devastated thousands in the region for decades," Fajardo added. "There are more than 100 different expert reports in evidence, dozens of them produced by Chevron, which overwhelmingly demonstrate extensive contamination at all of Chevron's former oil production facilities."

Furthermore, court documents filed in US federal court two weeks ago detailed environmental audits commissioned by Texaco in 1993 (Chevron bought Texaco in 2001) before they pulled out of Ecuador showed that:

· "Hydrocarbon contamination requiring remediation at all production facilities and a majority of the drill sites."· "Produced water (which contains carcinogens and toxic heavy metals) is being discharged to the environment in all cases."· "Contamination of soil and water was observed at well sites, production stations and along roadways, flowlines and secondary pipelines.

Rainforest Action Network Executive Director Rebecca Tarbotton follows up, "These documents say two things. One, if Chevron is genuinely digging for truth, they are only going to find more evidence that shows one thing: they are guilty. Two, these documents not only illustrate Chevron's liability; they demonstrate the company's knowledge of this liability when they acquired Texaco." Although somewhat technical, you can read the audits here and here.

These audits and the new damages assessment were completed decades apart, but both illustrate the insurmountable evidence against Chevron. Perhaps it is that reality that has left Chevron refusing to complete its own assessment. The breadth of Chevron's pollution and the toxic conditions that still exist in the Amazon are clear not matter whose assessment it is.

The official court assessment placed the human cost and ecological damages at $27.3 billion in 2008. Since that amount was established Chevron divested energy from arguing the case and relied on a delay and deflect strategy. Having already conceded that it expects to be found liable for the pollution, Chevron has turned its efforts towards spy tapes, manufactured media, and a PR blitz even BP is envious of.

One of Chevron's most infamous ploys is that of a spy videotape scandal (not to be confused with Chevron's attempts to turn journalists into spies). Chevron associates, one a former drug runner and the other a former employee, secretly videotaped conversations in which they actively attempted to entrap the judge presiding over the court case, the case as come to emblemize Chevron's "dirty tricks". Coincidently this "dirty trick" and its legality being called into question the same week as the new damage assessments announcement.

Diego Borja, a former Chevron employee, has been ordered by a US federal judge to appear for a deposition to explain his relationship with Chevron and his motive for the potentially illegal video sting operation.

The US federal judge who ordered the subpoena said: "There is evidence ... suggesting that Mr. Borja was not an innocent third party who just happened to learn of the alleged bribery scheme but rather was a long-time associate of Chevron whom Chevron would pay for any favorable testimony."

It's easy to understand why the judge would draw such conclusions. Soon after Borja recorded himself in conversations Chevron uprooted him from Ecuador gave him a $10,000 monthly stipend and placed him in a secluded townhouse on the outskirts of San Ramon CA, where Chevron's world headquarters are located. There he as been hidden from the public while Chevron pays for his legal fees and counsel. Depending on the outcome of the deposition Chevron could find itself in not only a very embarrassing situation but also a very illegal one.

As the truth in Ecaudor continues to back Chevron into a corner we unfortunately can expect more baseless fireworks and delay tactics. However, a recent article on Dow Jones is hopeful in describing the case as "entering a decisive stage." Then we can turn our focus from Chevron's shenanigans to Chevron's clean up in the Amazon communities that have waited to long for Chevron to do what's right.

Nick Magel is a Human Rights and Environmental campaigner working on corporate accountability projects for the last 4 years. He lives in San Francisco. You can follow him on twitter @nickmagel or email him at

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Guam strategic locale for carrier facility

by Nick Delgado from

Guam - While the Record of Decision anticipated to be released on Monday, the commander of the USS George Washington says Guam is a very strategic area to have an aircraft carrier berthing facility. The military plans to dredge Apra Harbor to accommodate a deep draft wharf for the berthing facility inline with the buildup and relocation of Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

Commanding Officer Captain David Lausman says that other vessels such as the Kittyhawk, the Midway and the Independence have all been to Guam before, and he feels this will only strengthen the relationship with the military in the area. He does admit that it is rare for a Navy ship to hit a port more than once a year.

"It is very beneficial to have that," he explained. "It gives us another area to operate, we have a long history of military relationships there, some of the ranges are good, the ability to work with other forces there are good and operating area around that is very beneficial, so it's a very good thing and we are looking forward to coming back to it."

The George Washington is currently part of the annual Operation Valiant Shield exercise.

Friday, September 17, 2010

U.S. Money for Prisons, Not for Social Services

by Haider Rizvi from

NEW YORK - Many of those who have lost their jobs and homes in the United States due to the lingering economic recession are ending up in jail, according to a new study released by an independent think tank Thursday.

[Due to the prolonged economic meltdown, many states are now making drastic cuts in funding for social services - such as health, education, and public housing - but not on policing and prison improvement and expansion. (photo by Flickr user seantoyer)]Due to the prolonged economic meltdown, many states are now making drastic cuts in funding for social services - such as health, education, and public housing - but not on policing and prison improvement and expansion. (photo by Flickr user seantoyer)
There is a strong link between poverty and incarceration in the United states, according to the report, "Money Well Spent: How positive social investments will reduce incarceration rates", by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI).

The report's findings on the relationship between poverty and the justice system suggests that more and more people from poor and low-income communities are being arrested and jailed, even though nationwide, crime rates have fallen.

"What we have seen in this research is that there is less focus on safety for the poor and more on policing and arrests," Tracy Velázquez, executive director of the Washington-based JPI, told IPS.

The report notes that as prison populations have grown, so too have racial disparities in the justice system.

"This is especially evident in arrest and incarceration patterns for drug offences," said Sarah Lyons, National Emerson Hunger Fellow and primary author of the report, who added that without adequate funding for social services, it is less likely that people will be able to succeed and avoid contact with the justice system.

Despite comparable usage of illicit drugs, in 2008, African Americans, who make up 12.2 percent of the general population, comprised 44 percent of those incarcerated for drug offences, according to the report.

Researchers say that disproportionate enforcement of drug laws in communities of colour destabilises families and communities and decreases the likelihood of positive outcomes for children and other family members left behind.

Due to the prolonged economic meltdown, many states are now making drastic cuts in funding for social services - such as health, education, and public housing - but not on policing and prison improvement and expansion.

There are nearly two million people behind bars in the U.S., most poor whites and people of colour, making the United States the number one country in the world in terms of the imprisonment rate.

The report notes that about 16 percent of incarcerated people also experienced homelessness before being arrested.

"Most of these people are significantly more likely to have both a mental illness and a substance addiction, which frequently go untreated," said Nastassia Walsh of JPI. She said that states with higher high school graduation rates and college enrollment have lower crime rates than those with lower educational attainment levels.

The JPI study points out that the stress of living in poverty is a "risk factor" for experiencing mental health problems, and that many people who want treatment can't afford it.

"More than 50 percent people in prisons are suffering from mental illness of some kind," said Walsh, who holds that increased investment in mental health and substance abuse treatment can improve public safety and reduce criminal justice involvement.

According to the study's findings, investments in job training and employment have been associated with heightened public safety. Youth who are employed are more likely to avoid justice involvement. In addition, people who are incarcerated are more likely to report having had extended periods of unemployment and lower wages than people in the general population.

"It's time for our elected officials to realise that creating safe, healthy communities is a better investment in our country's future than more prison beds," stated Velázquez. "Low-income communities and people of colour are bearing the brunt of this recession, as well as of our policies that have led to mass incarceration."

"By shifting our priorities, we can reduce these disproportionate impacts and make a real difference, especially for our country's children and families," she said.

More funding for affordable housing, education and employment could help turn around the lives of people struggling with homelessness, including children and youth, who are particularly affected by lack of housing, the report says.

'It's a question of where we choose to spend our money," said Velázquez. "Until we quit funneling tax dollars into prisons and policing practices that sweep large numbers of people into the system - many of whom pose little risk to public safety - we should not be surprised to see incarceration rates continue to climb."

Last year, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed similar concerns about the lack of progress to end racial discrimination in the U.S. criminal justice system and urged Washington to take practical actions to end unjust police actions against the poor and minorities.

The international body documented a number of cases that showed that police officials in many cities were not only engaged in acts that violated the U.S. constitution, but also the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The report's authors urged the U.S. government to take actions to comply with that international human rights treaty.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Funds Ready For Guam's JFK High School Rebuild



GUAM - For students and alumni of John F. Kennedy High School comes good news from San Francisco. Guam Economic Development Authority (GEDA) Administrator Tony Blaz broke word this morning that the money's in the bank to spark up the demolition and reconstruction of JFK's dilapidated old Tamuning campus.

If the project remains on schedule, the rebuilt campus could be completed in time for a June move-in and ready for students by the start of school next fall.

Here is the original news announcement from GEDA:

(San Francisco, CA) - At 2 am Guam time this morning, the Government of Guam was successful in closing the JFK High School financing and funds were delivered for the project. Tony Blaz, Administrator for GEDA states " It took a strong collaboration of people, to make this day happen, truly a prime example of public-private partnership. We all worked hard to make this happen so that the students of JFK are back where they belong. Congratulations to all the JFK islanders, alumni, stakeholders and the people of Guam. Biba JFK! Biba Guam!"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Has US Empire Benefited the World?

By Ivan Eland from

In a recent column, Thomas Friedman, probably the most influential “internationalist” — read: proponent of U.S. interventionism in faraway places — has finally discovered that the United States must soon turn inward and put domestic economic growth first because of its massive public debt, huge federal budget deficit, and looming fiscal crisis caused by a dramatic automatic escalation in entitlements spending.

Eureka, the foreign policy rapture has begun!

The real problem with Friedman’s piece is not him reaching a conclusion that was obvious even before the onset of the Great Recession of 2008, but that he laments how dangerous the world will be without the steady guiding hand of the United States.

Friedman writes, and most Americans will be eager to believe, that the diminished interventionism of the now “frugal superpower” will be bad for the world because:

“[T]he most unique and important feature of U.S. foreign policy over the last century has been the degree to which America’s diplomats and naval, air, and ground forces provided global public goods — from open seas to open trade and from containment to counterterrorism — that benefited many others besides us.

“U.S. power has been the key force maintaining global stability, and providing global governance, for the last 70 years. That role will not disappear, but it will certainly shrink.”

Then Friedman, whose muse is Michael Mandelbaum of Johns Hopkins University, quotes Mandelbaum as opining:

“When Britain could no longer provide global governance, the United States stepped in to replace it. No country now stands ready to replace the United States, so the loss to international peace and prosperity has the potential to be greater as America pulls back than when Britain did.”

But have the British Empire and the American Empire been all that good for the world? The world somehow got by before they came along.

The American public and many of its foreign policy experts praise the British Empire for ensuring stability, when they probably should examine its violent and often brutal colonial subjugation of what it regarded as inferior races for economic gain.

Adolf Hitler admired the British Empire, but thought it too brutal.

As for the American Empire, it is littered with foreign policy interventions that caused more international problems than they solved.

American entry into World War I led to a string of disasters that the world has never fully recovered from. Without the decisive U.S. entry into the first European war in its history in contravention of the Monroe Doctrine, a win by Germany, then merely a constitutional monarchy with a bombastic king, in a 10-round decision would have led only to the incremental adjustment of European borders to German advantage.

Instead, U.S. entry to tip the balance of the war inadvertently brought about an allied victory that rubbed Germany’s nose in the dirt — demanding a war guilt clause for a conflict in which blame should have been shared across Europe, requiring harsh reparations on an economically drained nation, and deposing Kaiser Wilhelm II.

The latter demand paved the way for the rise of Adolf Hitler, who exploited the war guilt clause, reparations, and the economic depression to rise to power and attempt to conquer Europe. World War II was merely a resumption of World War I two decades later.

The likely U.S. entry into World War I also kept the Russian provisional government (succeeding the fallen czar) involved in the conflict — increasing the probability of winning and providing much needed aid to do so.

Had the Russian government sued for peace earlier, Vladimir Lenin could not have used the unpopular war to bring a communist government to power. The post-World War II Cold War was borne out of the ashes of World War I.

During that Cold War, the U.S. created the national security state, the first large peacetime army in American history, and a far-flung empire of military bases, unneeded alliances (especially after the advent of nuclear weapons to protect the homeland), foreign military interventions, and large amounts of foreign aid.

Instead of spending much money and many lives (in brushfire wars in the developing world) to conduct an expansive worldwide Cold War against communism, a cheaper approach to accelerate the Soviet Empire’s collapse — as many empires have fallen over the course of history, by financial exhaustion — would have been smarter.

With a less interventionist and less costly U.S. foreign policy, Soviet finances would have been depleted even faster than they were by the costs of providing aid and governance to basket cases they took over in the developing world.

During the Cold War, the U.S. also encouraged the spread of radical Islam around the world to counter godless communism, including providing aid to the anti-Soviet mujahedeen to “give the USSR another Vietnam.” As an unintended consequence of supporting such Islamic militancy, the U.S. created the biggest threat to its homeland since the War of 1812 — al-Qaeda.

Indirectly, the U.S. also helped encourage another strand of radical Islam in Iran. In 1953, it helped overthrow the democratically elected Mossadegh government in Iran, which led to the restoration of the autocratic shah. Radical Islam has gained support in many Muslim countries because the only dissent that is permitted against authoritarian governments is in the mosques.

The United States has supported such autocrats, for example, the shah’s Iran and Egypt’s Mubarak today. The shah’s oppression led to the radical Khomeini revolution and to Iran being a problem to its neighbors.

The United States then helped Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran as a counterweight and eventually built up another future enemy. And these are only a few of the many examples of ill-fated U.S. meddling in faraway, non-strategic countries and regions of the world.

Of course, as Friedman alludes, the United States created the system of open trade, yet trade happens naturally and U.S. efforts merely institutionalized it. An era of free trade had preceded restricted markets during World War I and the Great Depression.

But to accurately portray U.S. interventionist empire-building, especially after World War II, is not to “always blame America first.” In fact, disagreeing with the government’s foreign policy is different from hating American’s society and way of life.

The founders of the United States, who are regularly idolized by most Americans, would roll over in their graves at the mutation of their traditional, peaceful, and restrained foreign policy into a militaristic, globe-girdling empire that is exhausting the country economically and ruining the republic that they created.

Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Japan funding almost $500M for relocation

by Sabrina Salas Matanane from
Guam - With a Record of Decision on the military buildup due out next week, it's becoming increasingly clear the transition of troops is going to happen and where they plan to plant their boots.
As a matter of fact, an announcement was made in Tokyo that U.S. Ambassador in Japan John Roos and Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada have sealed an agreement providing that the Government of Japan will provide almost a half-billion dollars to the U.S. Government during Fiscal Year 2010 for the Marines' relocation from Okinawa to Guam.
And according to the breakdown of the money, it's going to projects in the Finegayan and Apra areas.
$497 million is the total, to be divided as such:
  • $309 million will go to on-base infrastructure projects in the Finegayan area
  • $25 million will go to the construction of a fire station
  • $25 million to build a port operation unit headquarters building in the Apra area
  • $96 million to build a medical clinic in the Apra area
  • $43 million to design the Marines administrative building, headquarters, police station, physical training complex, dining facility and bachelor enlisted quarters all in the Finegayan area