Monday, December 28, 2015

Puerto Rico Population Drops 10% Over Past Decade

Press Release by the Jubilee USA Network on December 23, 2015.

Most People Left During Island's Economic Decline

WASHINGTON - The United States Census Bureau announced that Puerto Rico's population dropped nearly 10% over the past ten years. The island's population was at 3.8 million in 2004 but is now estimated at less than 3.5 million. Of the 330,000 people who left, the majority left in the past five years. The US territory is embroiled in financial crisis and according to the island's Governor, Puerto Rico could default on its $72 billion debt in January or May.

"The Census numbers reflect how deeply the crisis is hurting the millions of Americans who call Puerto Rico home," said Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious development group Jubilee USA. "Nobody should have to leave their family and community behind out of desperation."

According to the Census Bureau's report, the only US state to lose population over the past five years was West Virginia, which lost less than 20,000 residents compared to Puerto Rico's 251,975.
Congress is currently debating laws to address Puerto Rico's debt crisis. Speaker Paul Ryan promised the House of Representatives would address the crisis by March. Various observers note that the US Treasury and Federal Reserve ‎also have tools to intervene in the growing economic crisis.

"The US Government needs to act immediately," noted LeCompte. "With no action, Puerto Rico's crisis deepens every day."

Read the latest Census Bureau report.


Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 80 religious denominations and faith communities, human rights, environmental, labor, and community groups working for the definitive cancellation of crushing debts to fight poverty and injustice in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

'Whatever It Takes': Okinawa Sues Tokyo in Effort to Block US Base

Prefecture's governor vows to take anything necessary to block construction of American military camp

By Nadia Prupis published on on December 26, 2015. 

Protesters in Tokyo rally against the proposed construction of the Henoko base in 2014. (Photo: AFP)

Okinawa officials on Friday filed a lawsuit against the central Japanese government in a new bid to block the slated construction of a U.S. military base in the prefecture's Henoko region.

"We will do whatever it takes to stop the new Henoko base," Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga said during a press conference Friday. "Okinawa's argument is legitimate, and I believe that it will be certainly understood."

Residents and officials charge that the Japanese government's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism illegally intervened in Onaga's order earlier this year that halted preliminary work on the base. The prefecture said that the ministry acted unlawfully when it suspended Onaga's permit cancellation for work needed to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to its slated spot in Henoko.

The legal challenge is the latest effort to block the continued militarization of the southern Japanese island, which has long served as home base for more than half of the 50,000 American military service members in Japan, as well as over two-thirds of U.S. bases in the country. In late October, hundreds of Okinawa residents, largely elders, linked arms and physically blocked vehicles transporting building materials to the base.

"Don't the people of Okinawa have sovereignty?" one protester, 70-year-old Katsuhiro Yoshida, told Japanese paper The Asahi Shimbun at the time. "This reminds me of the scenes of rioting against the U.S. military before Okinawa was returned to Japan (in 1972). Now we are facing off against our own government. It is so contemptible."

Residents have long expressed anger and frustration over the crime and pollution they say comes along with the presence of foreign troops.

"Democracy and local self-determination in Japan are in severe condition," Onaga, who was elected on an anti-base platform, said Friday. "We want the rest of the world to know how the Japan-U.S. security treaty is affecting us."

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Marines Plan Guam Exercise in January

Published by Pacific Daily News on December 23, 2015

CLD trains for urban warfare

Marines from Okinawa plan to conduct urban environment training in Guam next month, which could create noise in some villages. The Marine Corps officer in charge of the operation, Col. Daniel H. Wilson, on Tuesday issued the following open letter to Guam in connection with the training:

By now you may have heard that a small force of Marines and sailors are scheduled to conduct a training exercise in Guam next month. As the Officer in Charge of this exercise, I would like to explain to you what we have in mind and why your community is so important to us.

The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is the fighting force for the Okinawa-based Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, set to deploy in the Asia-Pacific region. Typically, a MEU’s mission is to serve as a sea-based quick-reaction force, ready to respond to any crisis that occurs in its area of operations.

Many of the Marines you may see in the coming few weeks have served all over the world but we also have new Marines preparing to make their first deployment. Their lives and the success of our future missions depend on the training we accomplish during our work-ups in your community.

Months prior to deploying, an MEU begins training intensively for a multitude of separate and distinct missions which it must be ready to execute at any time. We conduct much of that training at our home bases in Okinawa and aboard Navy ships at sea; however, we cannot adequately prepare to operate in an unfamiliar environment without moving out of our comfort zone and into areas like yours with which we are not familiar.

Marines are trained to fight in every clime and place. For desert training, we go to Twentynine Palms, California. For cold-weather and mountain-warfare training, we head to Bridgeport, California, or Norway. For jungle-warfare training, we’ve sent Marines to Panama, the Philippines, Thailand, and Okinawa.

Training in an urban environment, though, is the most challenging situation we are likely to face. Maneuvering in a heavily congested area, identifying threats lurking in windows and around street corners, trying to tell whether a car speeding toward a vehicle checkpoint is a real threat or a simple mistake, are just a few examples of the challenges Marines face in an urban setting.

Our aim in Guam is to expose our Marines to realistic scenarios and stresses posed by operating in an actual urban environment, thereby increasing their proficiency in built up areas. Operating in Guam provides us with conditions we are not able to replicate aboard our home base.

The exercise runs from January 6 to 16. While most of the activity will take place aboard Navy installations, residents of the island could see Marines periodically throughout the exercise and are likely to notice increased military activities on the 13th and 15th of January.

We have coordinated our plans through the appropriate territorial agencies and village officials including the Guam Police Department, Guam Fire Department, the Office of Homeland Security, and Village Mayors to ensure the safety of residents and to minimize any impact on the community.

We understand that our presence may briefly raise the noise level in some villages and we greatly appreciate your patience and understanding. We hope you will bear with us as we complete this critical training exercise. Finally, we hope that what you observe will make you as proud as we are to serve on your behalf.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Decolonizing Our Minds and Our Lands

Reviving seeds, culture, and African strength

Published on
 by Other Worlds

'Even though African countries gained political independence,' writes Mburu, 'we did not gain the spiritual independence which is so critical to our development even today.' (Photo:

Recolonization is happening. There is a second scramble, not just in Africa, but across the global South. Corporations started it. We need to name and shame these corporations – Monsanto, Syngenta, Cargill, and the program promoting them, AGRA [A Green Revolution for Africa] – to take this battle to the next level.

The wars [of conquest of Africa] have not actually ended – the artillery has just transformed into a different type against us farmers today. All of us are fighting.

Organizing from the Grassroots, to the National, to the International

The problems we’re facing today can’t be solved by individuals. The way to fight the war is through a collective approach.

The African Biodiversity Network is working to bring communities across Africa together and connect them to strengthen the grassroots. Communities are reviving their culture and their seeds, and forming local alliance which we call “communities of practice.” Then we connect these communities of practice at the local, national, and regional level, and they form active coalitions.

This is why the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa formed, which consists of 13 networks collectively covering 40 of the 54 countries. We have huge strength. We can actually change farming, seeds, and culture en masse in Africa.

We are doing this first and foremost at the grassroots level, because our national and international campaign relies on people at the local level taking control, taking advocacy into their own hands. The national and international levels need to learn from the ground up to have credibility and be informed.

We also are learning from other countries which have progressed in having good seed laws or recognizing the work of family farmers. We are coming together to learn about good practices and the lessons from both the successes and failures in the movement.  
If you look at Kenya where we have made some strides, we are engaging even the government. We are trying to contribute to policy-making on farming and the handling of seeds. A small example is the new constitution of Kenya. We managed to push and have the constitution itself recognize the diversity of seeds, including the farmer [local, indigenous] varieties. It was a big success for that coalition and we are going to keep pushing further.  But we must always be vigilant to ensure that the spirit of the constitution is actually kept in the laws that are developed.

Reviving the Culture and Family Farming

Reviving the seed comes with reviving the culture, because it’s not only about the seed. You also need to bring back the context of that seed, which is the knowledge of the people, the knowledge held by elders, both men and women.

We have learned from the elders that traditional communities had very well-defined roles and responsibilities for men and women. There were specific seeds for men, and the same for women. So when bringing back the seeds, we’re bringing back the knowledge of women and of men. They are different but they are complementary. And if we are bringing back ecosystems in whole, using a holistic approach, then the two need to work together.
We also understand that our knowledge is not static. And we understand that other communities have their own knowledge. The important thing is how we connect these communities so that they can continue learning from one another and thereby strengthen one another.

Bringing back seeds and knowledge is also about bringing back rituals before planting, after planting, and before harvesting. It’s about celebration. You bring back life the way it used to be. It’s about restoring the whole ecosystem and people again.

The Strength of Spirituality and Common Principles

Reviving the culture is also about reviving the spirituality of the people. Even though African countries gained political independence, we did not gain the spiritual independence which is so critical to our development even today.

We first have to decolonize our minds because we are still carrying the shame of our ancestry. Unless we are able to shed this, our efforts are futile. It all starts in the mind. You can then look at issues from a different perspective, bringing the power inspired by your ancestors from within. You are then able to distill the answers and solutions to your problems from that ancestral knowledge.

So [our challenge is] to bring back the whole ecosystem. We are communities of humans, and the ecosystems are the other communities of the earth. These, plus our spirituality, are very important pillars in our work.

There was a meeting in Kenya that brought elders together from four different countries [South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia]. They were looking for common principles that can bring communities throughout Africa together. We are finding that even within the diversity across Africa, there are common threads, common principles, that join us together. We can derive our strength from that, so that we reclaim Africa from the yokes that we are still finding ourselves under.

This is the fourth article in a series which features interviews with grassroots African leaders working for seed and food sovereignty, the decolonization of Africa's food system, and the preservation of traditional farming practices. This series is made possible with support fromNew Field Foundation and Grassroots International.
Gathuru Mburu is an ecologist and activist from Kenya. He is Co-Founder of the Institute for Culture and Ecology and part of the African Biodiversity Network, which is a member of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Life at the Tip of the Spear

Life at the Tip of the Spear
by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
The Guam Daily Post
December 2, 2015

This week I am giving my students at UOG a questionnaire about risk, threats, fear and safety. The survey is simple, and asks students to consider how often they worry about certain potential man-made or natural disasters. The purpose of this study is to understand the way people on Guam (starting with a sample of UOG students) perceive Guam’s relation to the world and how they see our position in relation to various potential threats and dangers.

Earthquakes and typhoons are common, looming problems, always lurking to the East or in the waters beneath us. Given Guam’s history we also experience recurring worries about war. Although the Spanish-Chamorro Wars have largely faded from conscious memory, I Tiempon Chapones or World War II hasn’t. Rumors of war, saber-rattling between nations still evoke, sometimes very strongly and traumatically memories and images of brutality and occupation. This is so, even if we have come to accept a very different image of the average Japanese person today. They are not taiase’ and malamaña conquerors and would be world rulers, now they are banana boat riding, ABC store shopping economic drivers.

One major concern, which is always there, but often disappears in regularly occurring patriotic hazes, is the inherent dangers in being “the tip of America’s spear.” Or what our status as an unincorporated, but strategically important territory on the edge of Asia means in terms of potential dangers in our lives. The tip of the spear is kept close to the warrior in battle. It can be wielded for defense and offense. It can be a prized and cherished item, which leads to victories, which leads to security, but for whom? In battle, the spear is usually the first thing to get bloodied. It can be broken. It can be used to mow down enemies, slaughter foes left and right. A good spear can keep a warrior safe in battle, but what about the spear itself? Does the warrior or the battle keep the spear safe? When the warrior fights, even if the spear may seem strategically important to him in that moment, it may be something his father passed down to him, possibly won from an earlier opponent in another battle, does he love the spear? Is he fighting to protect the spear itself or his family? His nation? His own interests?

When China dubs a missile the Guam Killer or North Korea boasts of its ability to hit Guam with their missiles, we should ask ourselves these questions. How aware are we of the risks involved with being America’s spear tip in the Western Pacific?

Historian Pedro Sanchez wrote that the World War II shouldn’t have really been a surprise for the Chamorros of Guam. By 1941, Europe was at war. Japan had conquering new colonies in Asia for years by that point. Anyone who know anything about what was happening in the rest of Micronesia would have seen Japan increasing its military presence and preparing for war. Sanchez argued that Chamorros had “blind faith” in the power of the United States, and that as long as Uncle Sam was defending Guam nothing could or would happen to it. Sanchez was in some ways overstating things in order to enhance the idea of Chamorros as helpless victims in order to set up their suffering during the war. But there is an element of truth in his statements, which still rings true today. What does blind faith or blind patriotism achieve for us in today’s world? How does an unrealistic idea of war or of American power keep us safe? How does seeing the United States in an uncritical light, as a crusading liberator for justice and democracy potentially put us in the same position of our ancestors on the even of the Japanese invasion?

One issue that I am interested in studying is the fear or lack of fear around potential dangers in Guam due to our significant military presence. Much attention is given to countries such as China or North Korea or Russia as threats, but how much to we understand or ignore the threats that simply having so much military power and machinery concentrated on this small island might represent? How much attention do we give to the dangers to the environment? The dangers that come with frequent training? The dangers that are involved with the storing of weapons of war, in particular, weapons of mass destruction?

It is this last question that I plan to address this Thursday, December 3rd at 2 pm in the Dean’s Professional Development in the HSS Building at UOG. I’ll be giving a colloquium presentation as part of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Dean’s Colloquium Series. My presentation is titled “Confronting Nuclear Legacies and Realities in Guam.” If you are able, come and join the conversation. I’ve included below the abstract for more talk if you’d like to know more:

“The 3/11/2001 tragedy in Japan and the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Genpatsu was the latest reminder of the potential dangers of nuclear energy. Radioactive fallout was carried by wind and water throughout the Tohoku region of Japan, south to Tokyo and even reached the shores of Guam in the Marianas. Although Guam has no nuclear power plants, the use of the island by the United States military has ensured that the risks involved with the weaponization of nuclear energy are always present. This presentation will provide an overview of Guam’s historical relationship to nuclear weapons and also recommendations for how these issues can be more prominently incorporated into public school social studies curriculum. “

Indigenous Group Brings "Canoe of Life" 6,000 Miles from Amazon to Paris to Call for Climate Action

Published Dec. 11, 2015 by

On Tuesday, as the sun rose in Paris, a delegation of indigenous people from Sarayaku, in the Ecuadorean Amazon, set out in a handmade, wooden canoe along the Villette Canal. The Kichwa people of Sarayaku have been fighting oil exploitation on their lands for many years; in 2012 they won a case at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights against the Ecuadorean government for permitting oil drilling on their land. Democracy Now!'s Juan Carlos Dávila and Amy Littlefield were there as the Sarayaku launched their canoe after its 6,000-mile journey from the Amazon. "Those who are actually negotiating right now, they might not have to live with the consequences of climate change, but I will," Nina Gualinga, a Kichwa activist from Sarayaku, says of the COP21 negotiations. "Who are they to decide over my future, over my sister's future, over my children’s future?"

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We wrap up our broadcast with an action earlier this week. On Tuesday, as the sun rose in Paris, a delegation of indigenous people from Sarayaku, in the Ecuadorean Amazon, set out in a handmade, wooden canoe along the Villette Canal. The Kichwa people of Sarayaku have been fighting oil exploitation on their lands for many years. In 2012, they won a case at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights against the Ecuadorean government for letting an Argentine oil company explore for oil on their land. This is the piece.

JOSÉ GUALINGA: [translated] For the first time in history, a canoe, that we call the "Canoe of Life," named after the hummingbird fish in our territory, a canoe from Sarayaku, from the Ecuadorean Amazon, has arrived here to Paris, France.

NINA GUALINGA: My name is Nina Gualinga, and I am here with a delegation from Sarayaku. And Sarayaku is situated in the Ecuadorean Amazon. And we have brought a canoe all the way to Paris, here to the COP, with a message of peace, of hope, and a proposal called Kawsak Sacha. That means "The Living Forest." And it is a proposal to make sure that nature’s rights are being respected, indigenous peoples’ rights are being respected, and also a way to combat climate change.

The whole community has been involved, pretty much. There’s one person who shapes the canoe, and then there are others also helping to burn it and things like that. And then you make like a big party. You gather all of your friends and family and community members to drag the canoe all the way from the mountain down to the river. We had to take it all the way to the nearest port, which is in Canelos, by canoe, so that took, I think, a day or so. And then, from Puyo, we had to take it to the capital of Ecuador, Quito, and then from Quito, on a plane—or from Guayaquil, maybe, to Paris. But first, it got stuck in Ecuador because of troubles with the flight, I think. And then it got stuck in customs here in Paris. So, it’s been quite hard to get it all the way here.

AMY LITTLEFIELD: Could you talk about the negotiations here at the COP? And do you feel your voice is being heard inside the summit?

NINA GUALINGA: I think that indigenous peoples’ voices are the voices that should be heard. Indigenous people should be inside the actual negotiations, but we are not. Those who are actually negotiating right now, they might not have to live with the consequences of climate change, but I will. I will have to live with it. My sister, my little brother and my children, they’re all going to have to live with the consequences of climate change. And who are they to decide over my future, over my sister’s future, over my children’s future?

AMY GOODMAN: Nina Gualinga of the Sarayaku of the Ecuadorean Amazon, speaking to Democracy Now!'s Amy [Littlefield]. Special thanks to Mike Burke and to Carla Wills, to Nermeen Shaikh and to Deena Guzder, to Denis Moynihan. I'm Amy Goodman. This is Democracy Now! I’ll be speaking tonight at 9:00 at The Place to B here in Paris.