Monday, April 25, 2011

Water Wise Residents

The Michigan Citizen

Residents of Brightmoor Anxiously Wait for Rain

Eric T. Campbell
Sunday, April 17, 2011

Monique Adams and son Brandon almost ready to take their rain barrel home. ERIC T. CAMPBELL PHOTO

Detroit - Activists in Detroit communities are reclaiming their neighborhoods by harvesting natural resources.

For several years, Brightmoor residents have responded to newly vacant lots by planting crops. This spring, they will meet water needs by utilizing rainwater that would normally runoff into the city’s sewers.

Brightmoor learned the benefits of collecting rainwater in modified barrels at an April 9 outdoor workshop sponsored by the Michigan Sierra Club. The event was part of a program designed to create green infrastructure solutions, according to Sierra Club’s Melissa Damschke.

“We’re helping to prevent water from going down drains, which prevents sewage overflows,” said Damaschke, who organized the workshop.

“An inch of rainfall a day is way too much for our wastewater plant.”

Damaschke says water, not all of it treated, is released into the Detroit and Rouge Rivers when levels at the wastewater plant become too high. So collecting rainwater before that stage does a great service to the local environment.

Close to 50 Brightmoor residents participated in the workshop. They left with 55-gallon, terra cotta colored containers and a new appreciation for cloudy days.

Monique Adams, attending with her son Brandon, says they will use the collected water for all purposes, including watering a newly planted vegetable garden.

“Washing the car, watering the flowers, these barrels will help with anything we need water for,” Adams said.

Bramelle Street residents Charman Richard and Ray Porter say they would use collected water to sustain her butterfly garden she has planned for her property, next to her herbs, flowers and crabapple tree.

The event was held in a field next to the house of Clara Cupp, a 22-year resident of Dacosta Street. Her garden is one of many family gardens springing up in Brightmoor. The area supports seven community gardens and a growing sense of civic responsibility, according to Riet Schumack, co-founder of the Neighbors Building Brightmoor Association.

“Whenever the city tears a house down, we try to go in and at least plant a potato patch,” says Schumack. The Brighmoor Association now has a large group of block captains. Participation is increasing seasonally.

“We have found that when you do a big event, people’s curiosity is piqued,” Schumack continues. “Big projects are the way to get people involved.”

Rhonda Anderson and Michelle Rodriguez, both of the Sierra Club, explained to Brightmoor residents how to disconnect the down spout from the gutter and direct it into the rain barrel; and how the higher the containers sit, the greater the pressure to push the water out of the barrel. The barrels are fitted with spigots on the bottom to connect to water hoses and mesh covers the opening in the lid to keep mosquitoes, leaves and other debris from entering.

Melvin Williams, Sr., a board member of the Storehouse of Hope organization, says his awareness of rain barrel technology started with a home water audit he witnessed at a North End home in March. For that event, Michigan Sierra Club partnered with the People’s Water Board Coalition. Williams says he will keep a close tally of the water he collects this growing season and how it affects his water bill.

Brightmoor’s Shumack says during the 2010 growing season, she collected an estimated 275 gallons of rainwater every month — more than enough to keep the community garden adjacent to her house happy.

The Michigan Sierra Club received a $75,000 grant from the Erb Family Foundation to fund the rain barrel workshop. The 55-gallon barrels used for the Brightmoor workshop were purchased by the Sierra Club from Detroit’s Maxi Container Inc., a family-owned local business for over 100 years. Joshua Rubin’s great grandfather started the business building, reusing and repairing wooden storage barrels.

Now, Joshua and his father Richard are taking the industrial container business and adding a greener profile. They’ve been importing the plastic barrels from the European spice market for reuse and refitting them as rain barrels for almost three years. Joshua says most of them would otherwise end up in a landfill.

“Promoting sustainability has become an important part of what we do,” Rubin said.

“We like to work with non-profits and schools to help promote recycling. There’s really no other good use for these barrels.”

Maxi Containers sells the huge density, polyethylene rain barrels to the public for $60. They have expanded their line to include other utility items such as a barrel composter and a metal drum wood burning stove.

No one yet knows how rain barrels will affect the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s downward cycle of raising rates to cover an aging infrastructure, which leads to more shutoffs and fewer customers. For now, the rain barrel is succeeding in spreading the word about sewer runoff and water savings for consumers.

For more information on home water audit training call the Michigan Sierra Club 313.965.0055.

Maxi Container Inc. is located at 6000 Caniff, Detroit, MI. 48212. They can be contacted at 800.727.MAXI or at

Monday, April 18, 2011

Powerful U.S. Senators Arrive in Guam; Guam Governor Calls on U.S. Senate to End Its Bipartisan Colonialism

Office of the Governor of Guam

Powerful U.S. Senators Arrive in Guam; Guam Governor Calls on U.S. Senate to End Its Bipartisan Colonialism

Immediate Release: April 18, 2011

(Hagatna, Guam) Guam Governor Eddie Baza Calvo, one of the 55 United States governors, found out this morning that fifteen percent of the U.S. Senate landed on Guam in secrecy today. The contingent includes the Senate Majority and Minority leaders and other powerful U.S. Senators. These U.S. Senators, both Democrat and Republican, have decided to thumb their noses at the island and its government. The Governor, who is a member of the National Governors Association and the Republican Governors Association, releases the following statement about how this snub can severely affect Guam colonial-federal relations as the U.S. government pushes a $15 billion realignment of Asian-Pacific forces on Guam:

“This morning, Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo asked whether I would be greeting the 15 U.S. Senators scheduled to arrive at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base today. We were both surprised and extremely upset that no one in the federal establishment informed Guam of their visit. We called the Navy to verify this stopover and we were told that the U.S. Senators will not entertain any meeting or discussions with Guam leaders or the Guamanian people. Instead of landing at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam, they have decided to shield their visit in secrecy and land within the confines of Andersen Air Force Base.

“In the 100 years we have been a colony of the United States, the U.S. government hardly did anything to resolve our colonial status. What kind of democracy allows colonialism to flourish? I am livid the U.S. Senate, a body created by the will of the people of 13 colonies who wanted freedom and democracy, would turn its back on the Guamanian people. It is obvious we are not part of their constituency, and they do not consider us a valuable part of the American family. This only serves to inflame our long-held belief that we are an American colony of second-class citizens who matter only when our geopolitical position is needed by the U.S. government.

“This is a sad state of affairs. This is the third time in the last year that Congress has made it clear that we are of no importance to the nation. This snub follows Congress trying to sell our own resources to us at Fena and Congress taking away our Delegate’s voting power in House committees. These U.S. Senators are only hurting American interests abroad. Look at the great relationship we’ve built with the U.S. military. Congress’s actions only undermine that work. Why? If Guam was so important to U.S. strategic interests, then why would the nation’s leaders continue snubbing Guamanians?

“If the Senate wants to thumb its nose at Guamanians, then perhaps it is time for Guamanians to call in every injustice ever committed upon our people by the U.S. government. And we can start with the Insular Cases of the same U.S. Supreme Court of the 1900s that said people of color were separate but equal. How many times have Guamanians answered the call to serve? How many have died for a democracy that doesn’t even fully apply to us? How many more times must Guamanians accept colonial treatment before Congress ever recognizes that our voices count, too? How much more oppression can our people take before they get fed up and tell the Congress to take their buildup somewhere else?

“We can have the greatest relationship with the U.S. military and the Department of the Interior, but if Congress continues ignoring Guam like the colony it is, we will never truly enjoy the America that the Marines of 1944 fought and died to bring to Guam. What happened to the pledge of a “One Guam” policy? It’s clear these U.S. Senators have no intention of uniting our best interests. To them, there is an American inside a military fenceline, and an American colony outside of it. They want nothing to do with that colony. Here is yet another compelling reason the Guam Legislature, Lt. Governor Tenorio and I are working together to call for a vote of self determination. We cannot continue on as a colony of the United States. We should either be a part of the U.S., with voting membership in the House and Senate and the right to vote for President, or we should govern ourselves. This is a message we will share with U.S. Senators Jim Webb and Carl Levin when they visit with us next week. At least these gentlemen have the consideration and decency to meet with their fellow Americans in Guam.

“I want Guamanians living in the U.S. States where these U.S. Senators are from to remember what these U.S. Senators did to Guam in the next national elections.”

Guam is an organized unincorporated territory of the United States, a colonial status that has not changed. Its residents are called Guamanians and were granted U.S. citizenship by an act of Congress called the Organic Act of 1948. Only certain provisions of the Constitution's Bill of Rights apply to the residents of Guam, called Guamanians. Guamanians have among the highest enlistment rates in the U.S. military. There are 183,000 Guamanians living in Guam. An unknown number reside throughout the U.S. mainland, Hawaii and Alaska. A 2000 census of those who call themselves Chamorro (the ethnicity indigenous to Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) or part-Chamorro says that 33,849 Chamorros alone live in California. This does not include the broader number of Guamanians of other ethnic backgrounds who live in California. According to the 2000 Census, nearly 100,000 Chamorros live in the 50 States and Puerto Rico.

Office of the Governor of Guam
Ricardo J. Bordallo Governor's Complex | Adelup, Guam 96910
Tel: (671) 472-8931/6 | Fax: (671) 477-4826 |

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Crackdown on ‘Guam’ products


AFTER yesterday’s roundtable discussion regarding the deficiencies in the Guam Product Seal Law, Senator Judi Guthertz is expected to introduce legislation today which will fix the most obvious loophole that allows off-island products to use “Guam” in their packaging.

Some distributors who bring in off-island products using the name “Guam,” but clearly displaying the manufacturing origin, will no longer be able to take advantage of this loophole.

Guthertz’s bill is expected to give these distributors the opportunity to sell off their products in the local markets given their products’ shelf life. But afterwards, they will no longer be able to bring these products into Guam’s port of entry.

Guthertz said that section in the law will be amended in her bill. The senator said there are other issues that need to be addressed with the Attorney General’s Office.


The Guam Product Seal Law has two provisions, which state it is unlawful for any business establishment to state or imply in an advertisement display of any type, including packaging, that a manufactured product is made on Guam if the product does not have a Guam product seal on it; and that it is unlawful for any business establishment to sell a product that has the words “Guam” or “Chamorro” or a derivation of such words on the product, as such product was not manufactured on Guam, unless the place where the product was manufactured is clearly labeled on the product.

“That last statement is one of the technical issues which creates some of the problems right now,” said Guthertz.

James Bonanno, owner of Island Manufacturing & Wholesale which distributes locally manufactured products, said even with the current law, the labeling requirement is not being enforced.

Representatives from Customs and Quarantine said when they come across off-island products that have “Guam” on its packaging, these products pass Customs because the packaging clearly states its manufacturing origin.

Guthertz’s bill, if enacted into law, would disallow copycat products that mislead visitors and the general public into believing the products that are offered to them are actually made in Guam.

Denise Selk, who manufactures Coco Joe’s cookies, shared that customers may be thinking, “Are these made in Guam and packaged in China?” Selk also said a company that brings in off-island cookies manufactured in China has been copying her company’s packaging and flavors of cookies, which is not right.

Selk and other local manufacturers would like a resolution to the problems and hopes that closing the loopholes will provide the incentive for new entrepreneurs to produce locally-made products, proudly and legally displaying the Guam Product Seal.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

One dead, 3 hospitalized after military helicopter crash

KANEOHE (HawaiiNewsNow) - One Marine is dead after a CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter carrying four crew members crashed in Kaneohe Bay. The aircraft issued a mayday call shortly after it left Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

One crew member was removed from the helicopter, pronounced dead by the state medical examiner and later taken to Tripler Army Medical Center. The name of the deceased will be released 24 hours after next of kin notification.

The other three crew members were transported from Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay to Queens Medical Center. At last check, two were listed in critical condition and one in stable condition.

The aircraft made an emergency landing in shallow water on the Kaneohe Bay sandbar around 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, approximately two miles from the air station. The downed helicopter remains on its side in Kaneohe Bay and the salvage operation is being planned.

The emergency startled residents who live near the bay.

"One big boom like thunder, and then about 10, 15 minutes after that I noticed military helicopters was unusually circling around," said Kaneohe resident Glenn Pang.

"We're working with the Kaneohe Marine Base waterfront ops, working with US Coast Guard. Fed fire is on the base, and HFD, Coast Guard and waterfront ops are in the ocean with the patients," said Capt. Terry Seelig of the Honolulu Fire Department.

Containment booms have been placed around the wreckage as a precaution. The Coast Guard is enforcing a temporary safety zone extending 500 yards around the aircraft.

Rescue responders included the Marine Corps Base Hawaii Waterfront Operations, aircraft from the U.S. Coast Guard and Army and the Honolulu Fire Department as well as another CH53D from HMH363.

This incident is under investigation by the Marine Corps.

Copyright Hawaii News Now 2011. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Military's Rape and Sexual Assault Epidemic

On February 15, 2011, fifteen female and two male military veterans filed a class action lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and current Defense Secretary Robert Gates. A second round of plaintiffs will likely be announced in early April. These veterans have charged the defendants with the wholesale and systematic failure to protect service members from being oftentimes repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted while serving in the military; and with a failure to investigate and subsequently prosecute and punish perpetrators.

The complaint reads like a horror story. One gruesome account after another detailing brutal assaults; sometimes repeated and sometimes committed by multiple perpetrators. Rapes and sexual assaults that are ignored and if not ignored so callously prosecuted within the Military Code of Justice as to suggest that rape is nothing more than a minor infraction deserving of little punishment, if any. A system set up to hide evidence, encourage victims to recant, and when the victim tries to receive some semblance of justice they are generally rewarded with demotions, harassment, and shockingly further rapes and sexual assaults as punishment. Victims are warned to stay quiet or face dire consequences. The brave victims are blamed – the women in particular were just asking for it.

One victim in the lawsuit recounted being gang raped; the perpetrators videotaped the rape and then circulated it among other soldiers. When the victim reported the rape to her superior officer, who then viewed the video recording, he told her bluntly that he did not believe she was raped because she “did not act like a rape victim” and “did not struggle enough” in the video. This same victim was seriously injured and covered in severe bruises after the assault --- particularly from her shoulders to her elbows from being held down during the repeated rapes.

Another victim was threatened with a court martial if she continued to “lie” about being raped by her superior officer. Because she deigned to report the rape, as well as the months of sexual harassment and physical abuse she had endured prior to the actual rape, her identity was revealed to others on the military base by her commanding officers. She was subjected to harassment from other soldiers who spit on her, called her names, and one commanding officer said “let her burn” because “she ruins careers.”

Yet another victim that reported her rape to the military chaplain was told that “it must have been God’s will for her to be raped” and he then suggested that she needed to go to church more. Still another victim who was raped in 2007 was later murdered and then buried in a shallow fire pit six months after reporting the rape.

The ramshackle investigatory apparatus and reporting system in place is staffed with military personnel who are often completely unqualified to investigate these crimes. The Department of Defense’s (DOD) token attempt to address the epidemic by creating the very limited and still underfunded “…Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO), which distributes posters, collects data, but has no enforcement or investigative authority…” has been a constant reminder of how the military thumbs its nose at any attempts to implement genuine reform. In fact, the director of SAPRO, Dr. Kaye Whitley, has absolutely no experience or training dealing with sexual violence. Greg Jacob, the Policy Director for the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), said that Whitley, a social worker, has no real access to policy makers. She has no enforcement, or investigatory authority, and no actual authority to really do anything at all. The Pentagon even went so far as to ignore a subpoena and prevent Dr. Whitley from testifying before the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs in July 2008.

Specifically, Secretary Gates is accused of ignoring specific Congressional mandates and deadlines designed to implement a sexual assault and harassment prevention system. Instead, plaintiffs allege that Gates hired an inexperienced contractor to implement that prevention system – and that the contractor that was selected had only three employees and their prior contracts were solely for janitorial work. The Washington Post reported on this specific contractor story debacle on November 26, 2010. The inexcusable lack of seriousness with which this epidemic has been treated by the Pentagon truly shocks the conscience.

SWAN Policy Director and former Marine Greg Jacob recently detailed the crux of the investigatory deficiencies within the military for these types of crimes. He stated “[t]here’s no investigatory training. They don’t tell you to look for evidence…Instead, they hand over a manual for courts martial, which explains, among other things, that the investigating officer should consider, first and foremost, ‘the character and military service of the accused’.” Jacob described the assessment of each reported crime as “…an HR approach to criminal conduct…Military justice imbued me with the ability to be judge and jury. Honestly, I had no idea what to do.”

It almost sounds impossible to believe – how the DOD has ignored this growing epidemic for years and still no one has been held accountable. Where is the outrage – and where are the resignations? Donald Rumsfeld has not been held to answer for his knowing refusal to implement reform measures mandated by Congress. And on Rumsfeld’s recent book tour, not once during his numerous interviews did any journalist ask a single question about this issue. Meanwhile, Secretary Gates has responded with vague acknowledgments of a clear problem but with no specific response regarding his own failures to address the problem of what can only be characterized as complicity in perpetuating the problem.

An August 2008 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report detailing the results of a 2006 survey of 3,750 servicemembers stationed in the U.S. and overseas concluded that:

…occurrences of sexual assault may be exceeding the rates being reported, suggesting that DOD and the Coast Guard have only limited visibility over the incidence of these occurrences. At the 14 installations where GAO administered its survey, 103 servicemembers indicated that they had been sexually assaulted within the preceding 12 months. Of these, 52 servicemembers indicated that they did not report the sexual assault. GAO also found that factors that discourage servicemembers from reporting a sexual assault include the belief that nothing would be done; fear of ostracism, harassment, or ridicule; and concern that peers would gossip.

Despite the inescapable evidence that this problem is getting worse with each passing year the DOD still maintains that it has a zero tolerance policy for sexual assault in the ranks.

So now these seventeen brave veterans have gone public – with news conferences and repeated interviews – detailing the horrific assaults they have endured and the aftermath of deigning to report these crimes.

The problems for these victims do not get any better when they return home. Shamed, traumatized, and psychologically scarred – suffering from a form of post traumatic stress disorder known as military sexual trauma (MST) – these victims are so disabled that they cannot function let alone find employment. To add further insult to this disgraceful treatment of the women and men victimized by the DOD’s recalcitrance, these victims have found it next to impossible to receive disability compensation from the Veterans Administration (VA) for their resulting MST. The main reasons being a lack of evidence, evidence being destroyed, and a patently unfair evidentiary burden that victims finds nearly impossible to satisfy. Representative Chellie Pingree (D - ME) recently introduced legislation to redress this specific compensation issue. H.R. 930 will “…mandate that survivors of military sexual violence get the same service-connected disability compensation for their mental health conditions and physical injuries that combat veterans are currently awarded for wounds of war.”

A previous lawsuit filed last December has also charged the DOD with a failure to comply with numerous and ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for documentation regarding the military’s records detailing the reports, investigations, and subsequent dispositions of these crimes.

And the statistics are indeed staggering. In December 2010, the Pentagon released its annual report on sexual harassment and violence – and the number of reports increased 64 percent from the previous year.

Last December, Al Jazeera reported the following shocking statistics:

Every year, rape increases at an alarming rate within American military institutions – and even males are victims of the cycle. In fact, due to raw demographics, one can roughly surmise that most victims of sexual abuse in the military are male. Regardless of gender, reports of victims of military sexual assault have been increasing. In 2007, there were 2,200 reports of rape in the military, whilst in 2009 saw an increase up to 3,230 reports of sexual assault. Many of the victims suffer from Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and are shamed into silence, with numerous cases not even reported. A disturbing trend, however, is how military officials seem to be sweeping this damaging issue under the rug and deflecting blame.

Even more disturbing is the fact that “[a]ccording to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the rate of sexual assault on women in the military is twice that in the civilian population.” Furthermore, “[c]ompared with a 40 per cent arrest rate for sex crimes among civilians, only eight per cent of investigated cases in the military lead to prosecution.”

In 2006 Congress required the Pentagon to begin tracking these reported crimes and their subsequent disposition. Al Jazeera reported that in 2006:

…there were 2,974 reported cases of rape and sexual assault in the military. Of these, only 292 cases resulted in trials, and those netted only 181 prosecutions of perpetrators. Nearly half the cases are dismissed for lack of adequate proof or due to the death of the victim. Less than 11 per cent of the cases result in a court martial. Often, those prosecuted merely suffer a reduction in rank or pay, and 80 per cent receive an honourable discharge nonetheless. The victim, on the other hand, risks ending his or her career when they file charges.

Last week the Air Force released a study finding that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men have been sexually assaulted while serving in the Air Force.

Speaking with SWAN’s Policy Director Greg Jacob, he discussed the current status of the litigation and how SWAN has been working to garner increased bipartisan support for legislative and regulatory reform within the military and the VA. He believes Congress has the political will to act and that the issue is being taken seriously now that the class action lawsuit has been filed. He told me that even though the victims desperately need to be compensated for their disabilities, what these women and men are really seeking is real reform and justice for their suffering and help for those women and men dealing with the threats of sexual violence each and every day while still trying to serve the nation with honor.

But real change can only be achieved when the military begins to consider the seriousness of the crimes and the impact on the victims as paramount to any potential impact on the careers of the accused servicemembers; right now the concern within the military is focused solely on protecting the accused and not the victims. The military has become an entrenched system that all too easily blames victims – and retaliates against those victims with systematic harassment and intimidation. Victims are subjected to ridicule and they all too often become convinced that the shame will be too much to bear.

Real change will take time – but before that change can even begin the military and Secretary Gates must take responsibility for refusing to confront the problem and acknowledge the military’s complicity in obstructing justice for so many years and creating what Greg Jacob called a “climate of impunity.”

You can visit SWAN’s page to take action and let Congress know that the Armed Forces must be held accountable for perpetuating this rape and sexual assault epidemic.

Antoinette Bonsignore, J.D., is a Seattle based workers’ rights advocate most recently focused on worker compensation issues. She is a regular blogger for NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. She lives in Redmond, WA.