Friday, January 20, 2017

Independent Guåhan January GA

Independent Guåhan Upcoming General Assembly will Honor Former Bank of Guam President Anthony Leon Guerrero and Discuss Jones Act

For Immediate Release, January 20, 2017 – Independent Guåhan invites the public to its monthly General Assembly on Thursday, January 26 from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the main pavilion of the Chamorro Village in Hagåtña. For this first General Assembly of the year, the focus will be on the Jones Act and how Guam’s economy has been inhibited by this colonial imposition.

The Merchant Marine Act, more commonly known as the Jones Act, was passed in 1920 and is designed to protect U.S. shipbuilding and maintain a vibrant American maritime industry. It requires that trade of goods between U.S. ports, including those in the territories be conducted on U.S. built ships, owned by US citizens and crewed by permanent residents or citizens of the U.S. This act has led to an artificial inflation of prices on goods sold in places such as Guam, which cannot take advantage of their proximity to foreign countries that might offer comparable, albeit cheaper services. The educational presentation for this month’s meeting will discuss how this Act negatively affects our economy and explore the opportunities for economic growth that Guam could achieve as an independent country.

Independent Guåhan will also honor the late Anthony Leon Guerrero, former President of the Bank of Guam, as part of the monthly Maga’taotao Series. Leon Guerrero is best known for his role in helping the Bank of Guam, the bank his father Jesus Leon Guerrero helped found, to become the first Guam-based business to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange. In addition to his business acumen, Leon Guerrero was also a strong Chamorro cultural advocate, helping to found both the Guam Humanities Council and Guampedia. He was also highly critical of Guam’s unincorporated political status and strongly favored increased independence for the island. As he wrote in an essay, “…if we are to develop our economy, we will have to do it ourselves. The colonizers not only do not help in economic development, they discourage it, either through direct actions or by setting up systems that makes us dependent on their continuing activities.”

Monday, January 02, 2017

Alice in Musicland

Hiningok-hu gi ma'pos na såkkan put un kakanta giya Hapon, lamita Chamorro pat mesklaon Chamorro yan Chapones. Eståba gof ya-hu J-Pop na klasen dandan, ko'lo'lo'ña i dandan Ami Suzuki ni' mambisita giya Guåhan gi 1990s yan mangge' kånta put i islå-ta lokkue'. Lao gi Fino' Ingles ayu un "phase" ya esta hokkok soumtteru-hu nu ayu na klasen dåndan. Lao annai hiningok-hu put un kakanta taiguihi giya Hapon, gumai'interes ta'lo.

I na'ån-ña si Alice, lao fuera di enao ti meggai tinigo'-hu put guiya. Sigun i primet na tinige' guini mågi, malago' gui' hun manrecord kånta gi Fino' Chamorro. Malago' yu' tumungo' mås put guiya, ya anggen malago' gui' siña hu ayuda gui' tumungo' mås put i hale'-ña guini, put hemplo anggen malago' gui' muna'hålom mås infotmasion put Guåhan pat Fino' Chamorro gi kantå-ña siha, gof magof hu na bei ayuda.

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Alice in Musicland
by Johana Salinas
The Guam Sunday Post
July 24, 2016


Japanese pop singer Alice wants to spread joy with her music. She visited her birth island for the Guam Summer Beach Festival on July 16 to perform upbeat grooves. "I love R &B and pop," Alice said. "I love catchy sounds. I like hip-hop but it's not catchy."

That night, Alice covered the Chamorro classic "Hågu." The person she thought of when singing "Hågu" was her Auntie Diane. "She told me what the song meant and I mixed the ballad into a reggae beat," Alice said. Her cover of "Hågu" reveals her interest in Chamorro culture despite moving away when she was two years old.

While Alice is half Chamorro, her English is minimal; however, she is fluent in music. She understands the power that music has over a soul. Music can be an emotional escape from boredom and even from stress. "My music is meant for dreamers," said Alice, a dreamer herself. Her bubbly, encouraging songs depict her lively spirit and her youthful heart.

“I prefer ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ the animated version over the new live-action version,” she said. “The older version is dreamy and the newer one is dark and a little scary."

Alice is a little coy about big dreams, but she would like to win a Grammy award.

Yumi Yabe, the pop star’s translator and friend, finds a sanctuary in Alice's work. “My favorite song by her is 'Rainbow,'" Yumi said. "That song makes me more energetic. It gives me hope and dreams. This morning I was singing it while doing my makeup and it made me feel good. During this time, I have been tired and stressed and when I heard her song she made me come back to life.”

Alice and Yumi's different experiences with Alice's music fit into the aesthetic “151a.” Musician Kishi Bashi defined “151a” in a Ted Talk: "This moment is unique only to now, with or without its imperfections."

How Alice thinks and feels while writing a song is different from the experience she has each time she performs that song. The same goes for Yumi, who finds a new meaning in each of Alice’s song each time she listens to it. How "Rainbow" helped Yumi that morning will be different from how it'll help her in the future or how it may help someone else.

Alice is working on a new EP in Japan and hopes that it will lead to a full album. She enjoys coming back to Guam and plans to return again next year. "If I were to write a song about Guam it would be a love song," she said. She also hopes to do a duet in Chamorro or English. "I would like to collaborate with Pia Mia. She is the queen."


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Guam Visitor's Bureau
Press Release
September 16, 2016


(Tokyo, Japan) Guam continued to shine bright on the final day of the JATA Tourism Expo with added star power from half Chamorro, half Japanese pop sensation Alice and over 80 dancers from the Guam Chamorro Dance Academy.

Alice, who performed at the Guam Summer Beach Fest opening weekend in July, reunited with Team Guam for a special concert at the Guam booth. Her voice and dance moves brought crowds of people as she performed her original songs and a rendition of “Hagu” by Flora Baza Quan.

This year, the Guam Chamorro Dance Academy (GCDA) featured some of its youngest participants. Boys and girls, ranging from 5-10 years of age, moved the audience with their performances on both the Guam and JATA stages.

“It’s been an honor teaching and seeing them perform,” said Master of Chamorro Dance Frank Rabon. “These dancers may not be from Guam, but they are excited to learn and embrace our Chamorro culture and share it here in Japan.”

GCDA has grown successfully since the Guam Visitors Bureau (GVB) started the program in 2009, with more than 2,000 members actively participating from six different cities in Japan. The program has also expanded to the U.S. mainland in 2014 and Taiwan in 2016.

Guam also grabbed the attention of JATA attendees with multiple performances from Jesse and Ruby and their cultural dancers for the Håfa Adai Chamorro Dance Show, weaving demonstrations from Tony Mantanona and Arthur Pangelinan during the Chamorro Craft School, photo sessions and greeting calls from Ms. Earth Guam 2016 Gloria Nelson and Mr. Guam 2016 first runner-up Edward Malaca, a Håfa Adai Quiz Show and other key presentations. Additionally, the island’s signature sports and events were highlighted with GVB Community Development Officer Kraig Camacho and other Team Guam members promoting the “Sports Paradise Island” experience.

“We are working hard to maintain our footing in the Japan market while placing our Chamorro culture at the forefront,” said GVB President and CEO Nathan Denight. “JATA is the opportunity to build upon those long-standing relationships we’ve established with our airline, hotel and tourism partners abroad and thank them for their support. Our Japan Manager Yuji Mitsumori has played a key role in bridging those relationships together and I personally want to thank him for his efforts through the years. I also want to thank Governor Calvo, Lt. Governor Tenorio, Senator Barnes, our GVB Board, management, staff and the rest of our industry partners for their support of tourism and promoting our island paradise.”

Team Guam additionally included local businesses to further promote the island at the tourism expo. They were comprised of the Japan Guam Travel Association (JGTA), Hyatt Regency, Hilton Guam Resort & Spa, Fiesta Resort, Hotel Nikko Guam, Royal Orchid Guam Hotel, LeoPalace Resort, Lam Lam Tours, R&C Tours, Holiday Tours Micronesia, H.I.S., Nippon Travel Agency, Micronesia Hospitality Inc., TMI, Pacific Micronesia Tours, Skydive Guam, GPO and Tumon Sands Plaza, and the Pleasure Island Group (T Galleria by DFS, Outrigger Guam Beach Resort, SandCastle, Globe, Dusit Thani Guam Resort, UnderWater World, Sea Grill, Sky Lounge, the Plaza, Hard Rock Guam and IHOP Guam.

“Once again it was a successful year at JATA. Guam was represented and represented well,” said GVB Vice President Telo Taitague. “It’s so important we have our presence known here and although there are some challenges in Japan with the yen and outbound travel, we will be here again next year in full force to continue representing Guam at this amazing expo.”

Guam joined over 150 countries and regions for the JATA Tourism Expo, the world’s leading global tourism event. This year’s theme of “Be part of the world. Travel.” focused on giving a taste of travel destinations through exhibits that featured food, dance, music and performances at the Tokyo Big Sight with an estimated attendance of over 170,000 people.

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GVB unveils Visit Guam Expo 2017
Guam Daily Post Staff
July 18, 2016

This weekend, the Guam Visitors Bureau unveiled the Visit Guam 2017 Expo which highlights the GVB signature events and its industry partners who are supporting various objectives of the Tourism 2020 plan.

On July 16, GVB launched Summer Beach Fest which featured a workout, performances by local and Japanese musicians and films from the Guam International Film Festival family showcase.
According to GVB spokesman Josh Tyquiengco, both events this weekend had great turnouts.
The Visit Guam 2017 Expo entertained 75 international media members and presented to them the highlights of the expo at the Agana Stadium Theaters.

One of the highlights was acting Gov. Ray Tenorio, who was present to proclaim 2017 the Year of Love.

Raffle drawings were done throughout the day at the expo which went on from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Samples of barbecue were handed out from the Guam Community College culinary team who were the winners of GVB’s BBQ Block Party held July 2.

Tyquiengco said there was a constant flow during the expo and the Summer Beach Fest. At the beach fest, there was some rain, but that was to be expected this time of year, Tyquiengco said.

The Summer Beach Fest featuring the Tumon Night Market hosted many food vendors and different arts and crafts vendors as well.

According to a release from GVB, the Tourism 2020 plan includes improving quality and yield, growing arrivals and diversifying, focusing on MICE, promoting the Chamorro culture and Guam’s unique attractions.

The expo highlights “Only On Guam” events and activities brought to the island by tourism to celebrate the industry’s contribution to the local economy, business development, employment and quality of life on Guam.

The Visit Guam 2017 Expo and Events press conference was held Saturday, July 16 at the Agana Shopping Center.

The Agana Shopping Center provided GVB and its partners a high-traffic venue to display event information, increased opportunity for interaction and a chance to host its press conference with greater impact for local and international media partners. This gave event organizers an opportunity to register participants, answer questions and offer demos, raffle or other promotional opportunities to a broad audience of locals and visitors alike.

The opening weekend for the Guam Summer Beach Fest featured the new Tumon Night Market at the Gov. Joseph Flores Memorial Park (Ypao Beach) in Tumon.

On Saturday, the event featured a workout with H.I.I.T. by James Sardea of Urban Fitness and the musicians of GSBF in a special Hafa Adai pledge ceremony off-stage. The stage livened up with performances by The Dolls, The John Dank Show and J-pop star Alice performing until the 9 p.m. fireworks show closed out the night.

Sunday night's events also included Fitness on the Beach with H.I.I.T. by James Sardea of Urban Fitness, a performance by Alice and the exclusive Guam International Film Festival’s Encore Family Showcase on the beach. Throughout the next six weekends there will be food, a beach bar by Miller Lite, refreshing beverages from Pepsi, and performances and activity each night. Admission is free and the event is family friendly, however pets are not allowed.

Information was provided in a press release.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Impossible Path to Justice, Possible Path to Injustice

The late French philosopher Jacques Derrida referred to “justice” as a term we use for impossible things. It is a word that we use for things that we can’t ever seem to resolve, about the problems of the past and the present. When a wrong is committed, justice is the word we use for things done in the name of fixing the problems that emerge from that violence, from that harm. But there is no precise science to justice, no easy way to agree upon what is the appropriate means of making amends for something. Criminal justice systems, restorative justice, reparations, apologies, these are all ways that we try to channel the trauma of the past.

There is no equation for justice equivalence. Whatever happens in the name of justice will either be too much or too little. It cannot replace what was taken away, or those who have to give up something in the name of past wrongs will insist that they shouldn’t have to sacrifice for the sins of others. But the conversation and the process of dealing with that trauma is what is critical. Justice can take many forms and appear in unexpected ways, but most scholars agree that the opposite of justice, its greatest anathema is the idea that systems of inequality, exploitation or violence simply remain in the past and disappear just because certain people wish that they would.

When explicit forms of legalized violence against others are formally repealed, whether they be imperial, colonial, patriarchal or racial, they do not vanish, they persist sometimes in less obvious forms and sometimes more difficult to recognize forms. Take for instance the Black Lives Matter movement in the US.

In the past, a black life in the US could be taken with near impunity. To kill a black person represented an economic harm, damaging someone else’s property, and wasn’t a moral crime. Even when slavery was abolished in most areas of the US a white person could still discriminate against or physically harm black lives, with either no punishment or significantly less punishment than if they had harmed a white person. Vestiges of that history persist at the personal and systematic levels, to the point where a black man has a greater chance of being killed by a police officer, and said police officer(s) will be statistically be more likely to not be punished for the death. The All Lives Matter movement is a way of trying to prevent any type of justice from taking place by pretending that the violent past that marked certain bodies as being less valuable than others is long over.

Black Lives Matter does not preclude all lives having value. If anything it is a call to remember that all lives should matter, but the demons of America’s racist past create a present where basic statistical truths indicate that some lives matters less than others.

In Guam, we deal with our own problems of this sort, in particular what can be done about the island’s continuing colonial status. There are those who argue that things such as decolonization are unconstitutional, illegal or anti-American. According to international law however, the rights to decolonization and self-determination are clear. The native inhabitants of Guam have long been denied a fair shot at deciding their political destiny, and a decolonization plebiscite will represent an important symbolic moment in reversing hundreds of years of colonial disenfranchisement. 

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On September 1st of this year I sat in the US District Court of Guam to hear arguments over the case of Arnold Dave v. the Government of Guam. For those unfamiliar with the case, it deals with issues of who should vote in a political status plebiscite to help determine what should be the next political status for the island. Proponents of current Government of Guam law on this matter argue that this is not a normal vote, but a symbolic and unique exercise in order to help restore the long denied right to self-determination of the Chamorro people, who are the indigenous people of Guam. Davis contends that if he isn’t allowed to vote in this decolonization plebiscite it is a violation of his constitutional rights. On that day, two attorneys, Christian Adams representing Davis and Julian Aguon representing the Government of Guam gave arguments before Justice Tydingco-Gatewood. Both brought with them a series of cases that formed the constellation of their argument, and just like the stars of our ancestors, they each represented maps that led the audience in different directions in terms of justice and what America represents.

Adams, formerly of the Department of Justice under George W. Bush has made a name for himself in conservative media circles for proclaiming that the greatest injustice in the United States today is discrimination against white Americans, such as his client. The grotesque constellation he proposed was designed specifically to lead the court away from things such as human rights, international law, decolonization and the Chamorro people themselves. He presented a misshapen twisting of American history, which on the one hand distorted various progressive social movements that have made the US more inclusive, but also denied pernicious forms of oppression that the US has been built upon and continues to maintain, such as militarism and colonialism in the Pacific.

Aguon, who first made his name as a Chamorro author and is now an award-winning human rights attorney in the Pacific proposed a different path for the court to take on the sea of legal possibility. He wove together quite powerfully, a series of decisions and legal philosophical points meant to show the obligation of the US to support the proposed, non-binding political status plebiscite.

The arguments in a way seemed prophetic given the outcome of the US presidential election. One argument was strongly built around notions of American exceptionalism and that the US does not and should not address the wrongs of its past in any substantive way. Trump’s rise to power is derived primarily from people just like Davis, who is a member of one of the most privileged groups in human history (a white male), who is whining vociferously that he is being discriminated against and non-white groups are taking away America’s greatness from him. Their argument was based on the idea that whenever America might be forced to confront the demons or its past or present, you can deflect any intervention by blaming those who wish to talk about them and call them racists who are dividing communities.

Aguon’s argument was not necessarily tied to Hillary Clinton, but was still rooted in the vision of America that animated most of her base. The notion that the US will be improved and advanced based on its tolerance and inclusivity, not the walls the it petulantly erects. This America and Aguon’s argument was rooted in the principle that past wrongs cannot be forgotten or repressed and that concrete, albeit sometimes symbolic steps must be taken in the name of restorative justice. Decolonization is not meant to turn back time or reverse the social order. It is meant to be a process of attending to those impacts of colonization, whether they be obvious or insidiously imperceptible.

Aguon countered Adam’s arguments about the plebiscite being unconstitutional quite effectively, but pushed the court further to take seriously the possibilities for justice in terms of addressing Guam’s history and whether justice might be the opening up or the closing off of opportunities for its future. Predictably, Davis’ attorney argued that justice in this instance meant denying the particularities of Guam’s history and present. It required denying the legitimacy of international law. He argued that justice best resembled the erasure of the Chamorro people and their rights to self-determination.

Aguon proposed a far different conception of justice, but in order to perceive it the court needed to recognize that the US does not exist above the world, apart from it and should never imagine itself to be the whole world.  In his argument, the US inherits not only a history that is just as much injustice as it is innovation or progress, but also the obligation and the ability to make right what time has proven was clearly wrong. A version of the US which reveres its founding principles and best ideals even to the point where it might enact them even if it might conflict with its own interests.

As of today, we are still waiting for the judge’s decision, and can only wonder (and hope) which version of the US her and justices beyond her would invoke in their decisions.


Friday, December 30, 2016

UOG Language Drive

If you believe that the University of Guam should support bilingualism and encourage through its curriculum the learning of the many languages from this region and beyond, please read below the statement of our "UOG Language Drive." Faculty and administrators at UOG are planning on reducing the required language classes for undergraduates from 2 to just 1 next year. This would reduce the language learning for all students from a single year (8 credits) to just a single semester (4 credits). Students could still take more courses if they wanted to, or if their major required it, but in general this will lead to a severely negative impact on any programs, such as mine, Chamorro Studies that are language focused. Please read this statement, written by a group of faculty including myself, and consider signing our Protect Languages at UOG Petition.

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The purpose of this signature drive is to promote and to advance language learning at the University of Guam.

Students and faculty of the University of Guam learn, teach and serve in order to preserve the essential strengths of the region’s cultures and natural resources and to use those strengths to cope with current and future challenges. The preservation and revitalization of the Chamorro language and the learning of foreign languages are critical for the future development of the people of the Mariana Islands and the broader Micronesian region.

The University of Guam is now proposing to reduce the language requirement for General Education from two language courses to one language course, while keeping the number of minimum credit hours for graduation the same.

We, the people listed below, request the University of Guam to maintain the current two language courses requirement of General Education.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

War Reparations Teach-In


Media from Japan Trip

I traveled to Japan last month with Ed Alvarez the Executive Director for Guam's Commission on Decolonization. We were in Japan for just a few days but we were able to give a number of talks at two universities in the Kansai area thanks to our friends Ronni Alexander (Kobe University) and Yasukatsu Matsushima (Ryukkoku University), who arranged our visits to their institutions of higher education. Our visit also got us some coverage in the newspapers Tokyo Shinbun and Chunichi Shinbun. I have no idea what they are saying in the articles or in this article below taken from the website for Ryukkoku Uniersity, but I am hoping they are either speaking positively about the message we had about decolonization in Guam or about the illustrious nature of my beard.

Si Yu'us Ma'åse ta'lo nu si Ronni yan si Yasukatsu para i ayudon-ñiha gi este na hinanao! Gof ti apmam, lao gof gaibåli sinembatgo.

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グアム政府事務局長、グアム大学教授による特別講義を開催(地域経済論ほか)

12/26/16
Ryukkoku University
Japan

 経済学部・松島泰勝教授の担当する「地域経済論」「演習Ⅰ」の11月28日(月)の授業において、グアム政府脱植民地化委員会のエドワード・アルバレス事務局長、グアム大学のマイケル・ベバクア教授を招き、特別講義を行いました。
 「地域経済論」において、両氏は、グアムにおける経済問題、米軍基地問題、脱植民地化運動、独立と経済自立策等について話され、グアムが直面している問題を当事者として学生が考え、議論する授業内容になりました。なお、本講義の前の授業では、NHKBS1放送のDVD「グアムとオキナワ」を題材に、事前にグアム経済について松島教授が講義を行いました。
 「演習Ⅰ」においても、学生全員がグアムの政治経済社会について両氏に質問をする形で授業が進められました。両氏は特に、島内で資金が循環する農業、水産業の可能性を強調されました。
 2年前に、龍谷大学ボランティア・NPO活動センターの海外研修旅行において、松島教授が龍谷大学生とともにグアムに行った際、アルバレス事務局長の政府事務所を訪ねてインタビューをしたり、ベバクア教授のグアム大学での授業でチャモロ人の学生と意見交換したり、フィールドワークをしたことがあり、今回の特別講義に繋がりました。

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Interview with Hiroshi Katagiri

Film-making was something I never really imagined myself doing, even though I've always been drawn to films as a media. Gof ya-hu manegga' mubi siha. Lao gi minagahet taya' nai hu konsidera na sina mama'titinas yu' mubi siha. Over the past few years I've been able to work on several projects, sometimes as just a consultant, sometimes as a supporter and a few times as one of the primary filmmakers. It has been exciting and naturally time-consuming.

Here is one film that I did a small amount of consulting for, with the help of Ken Gofigan Kuper who is attending graduate school at UH Manoa.

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Q&A with Filmmaker Hiroshi Katagiri
by Ben Salas II
The Sunday Post
November 6, 2016

Throughout the years, Saipan has long been associated with many things: World War II, tourism, garment factories, commonwealth politics, Chamorro and Carolinian culture, and as a Pacific island paradise. And while various media entities have used Saipan as a shooting location for everything from Japanese tourism ads to Korean TV dramas, the island has never made any Top 10 lists of film production destinations. A Bollywood or Busan it is not.

That’s what makes Hiroshi Katagiri’s selection of Saipan so special as the setting for his feature-length directorial debut with the horror film, “Gehenna: Where Death Lives.” As a genre-defining creature designer, sculptor, and makeup effects mastermind, Katagiri, has worked on blockbuster films like Pirates of the Caribbean, Alien v Predator Requiem, and The Hunger Games. With 25 years of film industry experience and over 40 feature films to his credit, Katagiri is far from a novice. The fact that he saw a different kind of potential in Saipan as a setting bodes well for the CNMI and Guam’s emerging film industry.

I reached out to Katagiri to ask about his career and what drew him toward our corner of the world. [This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]

Please share a little about your beginnings and how you got into the creature creation and special effects business.

I left Japan when I was 18, after graduating from high school. The whole reason I moved to America was to pursue student internships as a special makeup effects artist, designer, and sculptor for the movie industry. I spent 10 months in Washington studying English language before eventually relocating to LA. I was fortunate enough to start as an intern when my field in the industry was still pretty new, because it allowed me to build a nice work portfolio. After about seven or eight years of working in the industry, I began working for the late Stan Winston. He is a legend in my line of work. His studio was working on two big Steven Spielberg productions at the time; “A.I.” and “Jurassic Park III.” They were holding openings for skilled makeup and effects artists so I guess it was just about the timing.

How much did you know about Saipan prior to writing the script for “Gehenna?” Had you traveled here before?

I had never been to Saipan prior to shooting “Gehenna.” However, due to its historical significance during World War II and the Battle of Saipan, I was quite familiar with the island. I think all Japanese know at least a little about Saipan. At the same time, there were certain things about Saipan that I knew could only be learned by going there.

What about Saipan drew you to it? Why were you convinced it would be a perfect location for a horror film?

Shooting on Saipan actually worked to my advantage. This was my first feature-length film as a director, so I was working on a limited budget. I needed a location that was isolated, limited size, and not as costly to shoot at. I did a lot of research about the fierce fighting that took place in Saipan between the Americans and the Japanese during WWII. I was fascinated with the concept of a Japanese underground military base and built a story around that setting. I needed a place that did not feel too much like Japan or too much like the U.S, but somewhere in between. Yet, I also needed it to feel unique. Saipan was perfect.

Times have changed since the days of the tourism economic boom that once brought many Japanese investors to Saipan. The market is different. Do you think a film like “Gehenna” can spark interest in Saipan as a shooting location for other filmmakers?

Well, I know in Asia, Korea is a good market to continue to pitch to. They have a very strong film industry. For Japan, you could market to Japanese music artists to shoot their music videos [in Saipan] because music videos are a really big thing these days, especially in Asia. The biggest challenge to overcome is limited infrastructure and the lack of readily available filmmaking resources on island. The upside, like I mentioned earlier, is it is it relatively inexpensive and quick to move from one shooting location to another. There is strong potential though. The more people learn about my production and how shooting was fractioned so that about two-thirds of the film was shot in LA and about one-third in Saipan, they might be inspired by that. It could give them some ideas on how to shoot in a place like Saipan and still make a quality film with high production value.

I haven’t seen the film yet, but from the trailers I can tell it has a distinct classical Japanese horror feel to it, almost reminiscent of “Ju-on” and “Ringu.” What would you say separates the Japanese horror genre from U.S. horror films?

The most obvious difference between traditional Japanese horror and traditional U.S. horror is in the motives of the killer or the villain. Usually, in American horror, it is made clear what the killer wants to do. He wants to kill people and he chases them down. In traditional Japanese horror, the intentions of the killer or the villain remains unclear until the end. It remains a mystery why the evil is doing what it does. The good guys have to investigate and find out. [Fans of the genre may have] noticed how many Western and American horror films of the last few years have been remaking Japanese horror films, or are now using the Japanese formula of horror.

Were you familiar with local superstitions and legends from Saipan before visiting?

No. Actually, I was not. All of my research was mainly done on WWII, combined with my knowledge of certain Japanese superstitions. But when I traveled to Saipan and learned more about the locals and their culture, I became inspired to incorporate some of their legends and superstitions into the story. It made the story scarier and more powerful. It made it more unique and interesting.

What was it like working with a Saipanese crew?

They were all so friendly and accommodating. One of the local hires, Keoni, was always attentive and went out of his way to make all of the cast and crew comfortable. When he knew I was thirsty, he gathered fresh coconuts from the nearest trees for me to drink. I got the VIP treatment! (Laughs) The people at Marianas Visitors Authority, the people we needed to get permits from, went the extra mile to take care of our transportation needs and made sure we always had private security escorts. Even the staff at our hotel were extremely helpful and friendly. I have lived in LA for many years and that is not something you experience very often. People in Saipan have such great hospitality and friendliness.

What advice do you have for other independent filmmakers seeking to use a Kickstarter campaign to fund their projects?

I can recommend Kickstarter but it is not easy. You must first focus on the limits of your budget and envision the cheapest way possible that you can accomplish your production. Know what resources you already have available to you so that you can save more money. For your first Kickstarter production, plan your story around the reality of your production limits. If you know your film will not raise $1 million, do not write a script that calls for a lot of expensive special effects that you cannot afford. Expect to do a lot by yourself at first. But if you make things clear for your funders, they will like that. People will be drawn to your passion. Show them and they will start believing.

Katagiri’s independent horror film, “Gehenna: Where Death Lives,” screens in various film festivals this Halloween season. To read the Sunday Post’s previous reporting on “Gehenna” click here.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Decolonization in December

While most people were spending December with their family or shopping, I spent much of it conducting outreach on Guam's decolonization. The Commission on Decolonization held three public village meetings over the course of one week. Independent Guåhan held its monthly General Assembly, and we also launched our weekly podcast series. Here are some articles below detailing some of our activities.

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Decolonization Meetings Kick Off in Dededo
by Tihu Lujan
Guam Daily Post
December 15, 2016

The Commission on Decolonization held the first of a series of village meetings arranged to discuss Guam’s political status yesterday at the Dededo Community Center.

Revolving around the island’s long-delayed plebiscite that has been in discussions since 1998, the commission has finally launched the village meetings as an educational campaign on the three proposed political options - independence, free association and statehood.

The plebiscite, which would be a non-binding referendum, was supposed to be included in this November’s General Election, as intended by Gov. Eddie Calvo, but was pushed back yet again after the commission decided against the idea, failing to launch an aggressive educational campaign beforehand.

Earlier this year, the Commission on Decolonization put together high school debates, in which students presented arguments for each of the three political status options.

At yesterday’s meeting, representatives from the Commission on Decolonization presented information on self-determination, the importance of Guam’s political status and who in the community can vote, namely native inhabitants of Guam.

The three task forces representing the three statuses then presented short pitches on what their individual statuses are and what they could mean for Guam’s political future.

Afterward, representatives from each of the task forces were able to meet with northern residents one on one to further discuss the options in a more intimate setting.

'A footnote to the United States'

The Independence for Guahan Task Force has been holding monthly forums to educate residents on the independence status since August. Task Force Co-chair Michael Lujan Bevacqua says that he wanted his pitch to center around calming the fears and uncertainties of an independent Guam.

“Many people feel that independence means isolation and cutting ourselves off from the world, but in truth, an independent Guam would mean joining the world as a partner,” Bevaqcua said. “Right now we’re a part of the world as a footnote to the United States. Imagine what it would be like if instead of being an American footnote, we got to sit beside other nations, tackling big issues like climate change. Imagine that.”

Middle ground

Free Association for Guam Task Force Chairman Adrian Cruz says that free association would be the middle ground of the three options, presenting opportunities for Guam to be more self-governing while still maintaining a relationship with the United States, referencing example nations such as Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.

“We’re sort of the middle of the road,” Cruz said. “We lack the ability to sit down with the federal government as partners, so free association would still give us a relationship with the United States and in the same token, free us up enough to manage our own internal affairs. We’re comfortable as Americans, but we’re not treated fairly in our relationship and that is unacceptable. We need to modernize our political relationship with the United States."

A complex process

Statehood for Guam Task Force Chairman Eddie Duenas spent his presentation discussing what Guam would need in order to become a state; a complex process altogether, and also mentioned the various advantages of Guam becoming a state.

All members of the Commission on Decolonization and the individual task forces encourage the community to register to vote, and to engage with their neighbors in meaningful conversation about Guam’s political future and the three political status options.

Two additional meetings are scheduled for Dec. 16 at the Merizo Senior Center and Dec. 19 at the Barrigada Community Center, both beginning at 6 p.m.

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The Future of Guam's Political Status
By Sandy Uslander
Guam PDN
December 17, 2016

With a new United States president, there is a lot of talk about change, including a change in Guam’s political status.

Ed Alvarez, executive director of Guam’s Commission on Decolonization, told me he has heard more talk, especially from young people, about the need to consider Guam’s political status now.
According to the U.S. agreement as a member of the United Nations, Guam’s status will change; there is just no specific time commitment for it to be done. Decolonization, or letting a people determine their own government, is something that the countries of the United Nations have agreed is a basic human right.

“It’s a raw deal,” says Alvarez of the current territorial status. “In trade, environment, taxation, military build-up, we are not having a say.”

It has been 66 years since the rights of Guamanians have been considered by the federal government. The current definitions established in the Organic Act in 1950 leave the island with its hands tied.
When the time comes for the citizens of Guam to vote on status, it will be the native inhabitants of the island and their descendants that make the decision. So, in 1997, Law 23-147 authored by Sen. Hope Cristobal and supported by Sen. Ben Pangelinan established a registry. A majority of native inhabitants of Guam would have to be registered in order for there to be a vote.

The decolonization effort lay dormant for many years until Gov. Eddie Calvo gave it new life in 2011. The movement has gained further strength with the award of a recent federal grant to the commission, the first of its kind. This is being used for registry efforts and education efforts.

“We had to educate about misinformation that was put out there,” Alvarez says. “People thought they would lose their passports, or welfare benefits, or not be able to survive without the U.S.”

He says that all of that is simply not true.

Alvarez has long gone into the high schools, but has more recently cooperated with the Department of Education and the Independence for Guam Task Force to organize a high school debate on the subject.

The Commission on Decolonization, together with the Guam Election Commission, has registered about 13,000 so far. Alvarez would like to see a number closer to 18,000. He will be increasing efforts on the island and now will expand it to the mainland where there are large concentrations of Chamorros. He will target community organizations as well as the military population.

“We need to modernize the political relationship,” states Alvarez.

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Independent Guåhan Launches Weekly Podcast On Decolonization
by Tihu Lujan
Guam Sunday Post
December 25, 2016

A new podcast series put on by the Independence for Guam Task Force (Independent Guåhan) began earlier this month with the goal of educating listeners from the Guam community and beyond on issues relating to decolonization.

Titled “Fanachu!,” which translates to “stand tall” in Chamorro, the weekly podcasts will feature casual conversations and interviews with a variety of individuals who are either decolonization experts, have a hand in Guam’s three task forces, or who simply contribute to the movement in their profession.

“Fanachu!” is produced by the Independent Guåhan Media Committee, headed by Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua, and is spearheaded by Manny Cruz and Independent Guåhan partners Becca Garrison, Jesse Chargualaf, and Ed Leon Guerrero. The series host is Manny Cruz, a former reporter who had a short stint on radio and is pursuing a Master’s degree in English. Even as a volunteer host, he provides the audio equipment and guides the flow of the show, posing insightful questions on decolonization to featured guests.

Starting discussions

The inaugural episode was recorded at Java Junction in Hagåtña as part of their “Coffee Shop Convo” sessions, featuring Independent Guåhan members Dr. Bevaqcua and Victoria Leon Guerrero, and Free Association Task Force Chair Adrian Cruz.

At a glance, this first conversation covered topics including anti-American outlooks in pushing for independence, similarities between Guam and an independence push in Scotland, and the role of the United Nations in the process of decolonization.

Their second podcast focused on the connection of Guam’s struggle to that of the highly contested Dakota Access Pipeline and explored ways to see Guam’s decolonization as a normal part of history.
Their third podcast featured Jason Datuin of DFRNT, to talk about how, according to Cruz, colonization’s affects can be found in virtually very aspect of our daily lives, including food.

Their fourth podcast in the ongoing series, scheduled to be released this week, features Moneka Flores and Melvin Won Pat-Borja, members of Independent Guåhan topics. They discuss the role of media companies in sometimes distorting decolonization efforts and, as they argue, creating an unbalanced picture of the status options, namely independence.

Progressive ideas

A grassroots operation, the task force decided to engage the public through podcasts as their medium of education due to their constraints on funding. But Cruz says that through the democratization of media, having his own microphones, a laptop, and an internet connection, he had all he needed to be able to publish engaging content with ease and at minimal expense.

"Podcasting just seemed like a great way to include the world in the conversations taking place locally," Cruz said. "There’s always a lot of great, progressive ideas floating around at our different meetings. But not everyone can be there all the time, so it just made sense to capture it in a way that's convenient for practically anyone."

The young graduate student and journalist took it upon himself to use the minimal equipment he had to contribute to the task force and to the decolonization conversation by producing the show. Cruz conducts the interviews, edits the recordings, and promotes the shows through social media.

“My interest in activism on Guam goes back a long way,” Cruz said. “This is my way of contributing with a skill that I have.”

Fighting colonization

The larger goal of Independent Guåhan, and Cruz's personal goal, is to contribute toward educating a community on a topic that is both far-reaching and frightening to some.

“There’s a huge barrier in us trying to communicate to the public, to people who don’t think about decolonization on a day-to-day basis,” Cruz said. “Most people are like ‘why should I care’ or ‘I like what I have.’ Breaking through the status quo is what is challenging for all of the task forces; getting over the idea that decolonization isn’t crazy, and it’s not scary. This is a common obstacle between the status options, so we try to figure out ways, like podcasting, to get through to people.”

Cruz said the common goal between the three task forces representing the three status options of Free Association, Statehood, and Independence, is to move the island toward a decolonized Guam, with more power over its own resources, people, and political destiny.

“At the end of the day the common obstacle is colonization, and what we’re fighting for is sovereignty,” Cruz said. “Thanks to the educative efforts of some people, there’s a shift in consciousness and way of thinking about decolonization."

Monday, December 19, 2016

Ti Matai Ha' Trabiha i Lengguahi-ta

Un apå'ka na taotao, i na'ån-ña si Paul Zerzan, sigi ha' umalok gui' gi gasetan Guåhan na esta måtai pat esta taisetbe i Fino' Chamorro. Esta ha na'bububu meggai na taotao guini giya Guåhan yan gi sanlagu lokkue'. Estague diferentes na kåtta ginen i PDN ni' kumokontra i taihinasso na tinige'-ña.

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Our Language Isn't Dead Yet
by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Pacific Daily News
11/3/16

My column this week is written in response to Paul Zerzan’s op-ed on Oct. 29 dealing with the death of the Chamorro language.

Men with the same complexion and attitudes as Zerzan have long felt it their right to determine the life or death of things related to indigenous people in the Pacific. For Chamorros, these sorts of pronouncements are common. We have been struggling against them for centuries and only recently realized that just because a man with a flag comes to claim us, it doesn’t mean he discovered us. Just because a man with a degree that says he is an expert, says we have no culture, doesn’t mean that we have nothing to call our own. Zerzan joins a host of others who sometimes say the language is useless, sometimes say its primitive, other times say its bastardized and not a real language. All of it is tied to the longstanding feud over what makes Guam, Guam. Is Guam on the map because Magellan found it? Is Guam part of history because Henry Glass took it? Is Guam a place that exists to be discovered by outsiders or does it have its own identity through its indigenous people?
Zerzan’s claims are polemical in the worst sort of way, as in they have no evidence to support them other than the flawed ruminations of the writer. By every metric that matters the Chamorro language is not dead. There are still tens of thousands of speakers of Chamorro in the world today. The Chamorro language is clearly endangered, but several hundred young people still learn the language each year and become fluent. I have raised some of them and continue to speak to them in Chamorro every day.

Zerzan’s reference to Latin and Chamorro as being useless shows the limitations of his thinking. In truth, Latin is far from useless, and in understanding why it might be valuable, you can see how languages are so much more than about convenient communication. As social organisms, they are far more complicated and multilayered. Learning Latin can help you navigate a world where Latin may no longer be fluently spoken, but is nonetheless integrated into the web of meanings in the sciences, in the legal world and life in general. Languages are social and do not just connect people to each other, but also connect them to the world around them, give form to their abstract ideas and provide the means through which we can express what are our values and culture. The Chamorro language has changed as this place and its people have changed. It is intimately tied to so many aspects of history, anthropology and geography here. Languages are not simply about communication, and never have been. They are the means through which we access and express all that is life. This is why people, large and small, seek to protect and promote their languages, because it represents one of their most concrete connections to the world.

In his characterization of languages, their movements and their deaths, we can get a sense of the type of worldview that Zerzan is invoking, and it isn’t particularly accurate or helpful. The myth of the Tower of Babel lurks behind his words, the idea that at one point we all spoke the same convenient language but because of some horrific original sin, the world has become a basket of conflicting tongues. In his mind globalization is taking us back towards efficient monolingualism, where every small language is quietly steamrolled to make way for the big languages. But the multiplicity of languages does not exist because of some angry deity. It exists because of the diversity of human experience. Languages bear the marks of human progress and innovation. They are scarred and track history in the same ways the rings within an ancient tree do.

This is the most fundamental lesson from languages, the lesson that is beyond the words themselves. It is that the purpose of life is not to dominate, but rather to understand. Zerzan should not seek to occupy the same position as those missionaries, Naval governors or members of Congress who sought to dominate the Chamorros and their language or culture. He should instead, if he cares anything about this place, seek to protect this language that is closely connected to it, and support the Chamorro people in this effort.

Michael Lujan Bevacqua is an author, artist, activist and assistant professor of Chamorro studies at the University of Guam.

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Letter About Chamorro is Uninformed
by Peter J. Santos
Letter to the Editor
Pacific Daily News
11/1/16

On Oct. 29, 2016, Mr. Paul Zerzan of Barrigada wrote a rather uninformed letter to Guam PDN’s Voice of the People discussing the Chamorro language. He posited that the Chamorro language has died and its time has passed. He analogized the language to a 105-year-old human being whose health should not be artificially prolonged at the expense of babies and children. First, he is making an unintelligent comparison. Languages, unlike humans, live for a long time, and can theoretically live indefinitely. He asserts that to promote and preserve the Chamorro language would be a “wrong” committed on the young.

This is a blatantly racist and anglo-centric mindset. Cultural genocide. The real “wrong” is what he is proposing. Everyone knows the value in preserving and practicing our culture so I will not recite it here.

He purports to know what is best for Guam and the Chamorro people. How has this worked out? I mean outsiders telling us what to do? All in the name of civilization and progress, improving our lot in life.

Today in the 21st century, we on Guam have health issues, crime like never before, homelessness, and degradation of morals and values. Mr. Zerzan wrote another letter in a different, new publication citing a fiction book of all things as proof that Chamorro people are immoral and lack values.

With regard to his remarks, he made the ubiquitous disclaimer in his letters: “with all due respect…”
Well Mr. Zerzan, here’s what I say to you and all like ilk. ... You preach ignorance, bigotry and disrespect of the highest order.

Peter Santos is a resident of Santa Rita.

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Chamorro Language is Alive
by Catherine Flores McCollum
Letter to the Editor
Pacific Daily News
11/10/16

I’d like to respond to Paul Zerzan on his letter to the editor, dated Oct. 29, 2016. Why does it drive you crazy that our island would like to preserve our language?  More and more of our young adults have already taken the initiative to speak our language at home, to each other and to their children.  I have seen and heard the beauty of our language exchanged and when their children are in my presence, I become a part of the conversation and that is mesmerizing!

When I was a child in school, I was punished abusively for speaking my native language — Chamorro.  We were forbidden!  My parents were afraid of the constant complaints from our teachers, so they spoke to us in your language, forcing English on us!  Finally years later, with legislative support, our language became “official.” But as an adult, my response in our “official” tongue was somehow lost due to the lack of speaking it and your English language muddles my tongue.

Thank you, to friends and family who now freely converse with me without the worries of being “offensive” or “punished.”

I encourage all who come to Guam and choose Guam as your residence, not to lose your native tongues and to speak to your children as you have been freely speaking as a child in your native homeland.  Imagine having more than one language to know!

I was taught Spanish, Japanese and English in school, but Chamorro was never a part of the language curriculum during my time.

I beg to differ, Zerzan, the Chamorro language from my great grandparents, grandparents, parents is very much alive! How can we teach and learn a “dead” language?
Saina Ma’asi!

Catherine Flores McCollum is a resident of Tamuning.

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Where is the Chamorro Language in Our Lives?
by Kenneth Gofigan Kuper
Letter to the Editor
Pacific Daily News
11/3/16

The Chamorro community on social media was rightfully outraged by Paul Zerzan’s op-ed “Chamorro language has died.” In his erroneous op-ed, he writes, “Trying to preserve a dead language is simply a lost cause and no good can come of it.” When thinking of how to respond to this colonial nonsense, I felt that it was more important for us to instead ask, “Where is the Chamorro language in our lives?”

I started learning the language when I was 20 years old, and since then it has reconnected me to who I am as a Chamorro. When my partner was mapotge, I wanted my child to receive the gift of Fino’ Chamoru. Now, my 2-year-old, Inina Concepcion, sings songs by Bokonggo, yells “Munga Tåta” when she’s angry, and loudly exclaims when she’s bored “Tåta, nihi ta hånao.” For Chamorros, we know the value of our language goes beyond “making money.” As Chamorro scholar Rosa Palomo once said, “Language is the umbilical cord to culture.”

Whenever Inina speaks Fino’ Chamoru, she gets nourished by this umbilical cord. She is a living example that the language lives. However, we still have to worry. The 2010 census indicated that only 16 percent of Guam’s population speaks the language, most of whom, like my grandmothers, are manåmko’.Therefore, which of these futures do we want to see? Fino’ Chamoru, the language used only in antiquated signs or Fino’ Chamoru, the language rolling off the tongues of our children? The next 10 years will determine which future we get, and this all depends on the actions we take today.
So, let us ask ourselves where the language is in our lives? Månu na gaige i fino’-ta gi lina’lå’-ta? Do we use it in daily conversation or do we simply use it in cuss words/slang? As Chamorro scholar Robert Underwood said, “You cannot ‘Håfa Adai’ your way to a Chamorro speaking community.”

So, when Zerzan writes that our language is dead, let us rightfully be angry. However, what will we do with that anger? For those who know Fino’ Chamoru, we can continue to speak it and pass it down. For those who don’t know it YET, we can find family members to learn from or use www.learningchamorro.com. We can attend some classes at University of Guam, Guam Community College, Hurao Academy, or the free lessons offered by Michael Lujan Bevacqua. Fino’ Chamoru is alive, and there is definitely hope.

I hope that the Chamorro language continues to be an everyday part of Inina’s life. I hope that she uses Fino’ Chamoru when she gossips with her friends, when she experiences love, when she comforts me on my death bed, and when she has children of her own. When the language is within us and in our everyday emotions, the language lives.

So, go home, and find a quiet place. Breathe in, take five minutes, and ask yourself, “Månu na gaige i fino’ Chamoru gi lina’lå’-hu?” or “Where is the Chamorro language in my life?”

Kenneth Gofigan Kuper, a resident of Tamuning, is a Ph.D. student in political science at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and a Fino' Chamoru language revitalization activist.

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 The Chamorro Language Should Be Preserved
by Mark Goniwiecha
Letter to the Editor
Pacific Daily News
11/2/16

I respond to the opinion of Paul Zerzan that the Chamorro language has already died (Oct. 26, 2016 opinion).

To paraphrase the words of Mark Twain, reports of the death of the Chamorro language are grossly exaggerated and greatly premature.

The reason that “everyone on Guam who can speak Chamorro can also speak English” is because of more than one hundred years of occupation, hegemony, colonization and militarization by insensitive American administrators.

Before the Americans, Chamorro people were directed to speak Spanish for hundreds of years, then Japanese.

Left to their own devices, Chamorro people in southern Guam, and in the Northern Mariana Islands, still prefer to speak Chamorro!

Required courses in the Guam Department of Education and Chamorro language immersion programs, have been chosen by Chamorro people to help preserve, retain, employ and utilize their own language.

About 20 Micronesian languages and about 20 Alaska Native languages are threatened by ubiquitous use of English. The English language is not threatened. Some insecure Americans are threatened by hearing other Americans speak another language.

I am somewhat embarrassed that, after a career of teaching on Guam, I have not become conversant in Chamorro language pleasantries.

However, to say that it is wrong to try to preserve the Chamorro language is disrespectful.

Mark Goniwiecha is a resident of Mangilao.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Russians are Hacking, The Russians are Hacking

What a strange moment we live in, where political loyalties and alliances are reforming and even crossing national and ideological boundaries in ways difficult to comprehend. When Obama says that Ronald Reagan is turning over in his grave right now because of the behavior of Republicans today and their new party leader Donald Trump, he is right in a very troubling sense. Having two main political parties is supposed to neutralize a lot of potential conflict, but also requires that the two factions ultimately hold above all partisan politics, the nation itself. In essence, like all political systems, a two-party one still requires that both parties but country first, and that be willing to accept losses for the betterment of the country and not seek all international or foreign means of achieving victory. What we see today however, is that the Republican party has been taken over by those who are willing to side with those who want to weaken American power and its place in the world, in order to win their partisan points, basically putting country behind their desires for vanquishing their political enemies.

The Russian hacking of the US election provides a clear example. Trump and his supporters were willing to condemn Hillary Clinton without any evidence, but seem committed to twisting themselves into knots in order to try to argue that there isn't enough evidence of Russian hacking.

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Reports of Russian officials intervening in the American presidential election have been percolating for months. The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence looked into the allegations, and the agencies came to the same conclusion: Vladimir Putin’s government deliberately interfered with America’s presidential election.

But as Rachel explained on Friday’s show, the controversy took an extraordinary turn on Friday night with the publication of a blockbuster report from the Washington Post about the Central Intelligence Agency’s findings.
The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.
A senior U.S. official, briefed on an intelligence presentation made to members of Congress, told the Post that it’s “the consensus view” of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia’s alleged crimes had one specific purpose: “Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected.”

There’s been some speculation in recent months that Putin’s suspected interference was intended to undermine American democracy in general, casting doubts about the strength of our system and its institutions. The Washington Post’s report indicates that those assessments were incomplete: Russia wanted Donald Trump in the White House, so Russian officials allegedly took a variety of criminal steps to ensure that outcome.

The White House, swayed by the evidence, wanted bipartisan support to pushback against Russian intrusion, and in mid-September, President Obama dispatched counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco, FBI Director James Comey, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to brief top members of Congress (the “Gang of 12”). Obama didn’t want to be seen as using intelligence for partisan or electoral ends, so he sought a “show of solidarity and bipartisan unity” against foreign manipulation of our democracy.

That didn’t happen, in large part because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused, raising questions about whether the Republican leader intentionally put his party’s interests ahead of the nation’s.

Indeed, given the fact that a variety of GOP leaders were made aware of Russia’s attempts to hijack the American election for its own purposes, Evan McMullin, an independent presidential candidate and former GOP policy staffer on Capitol Hill, asserted over the weekend, “Republican leaders knew Russia was undermining our democracy during the election and they chose to ignore it.”

There’s no shortage of issues that can and should be the subject of partisan disputes. A foreign adversary helping elect an American presidential candidate shouldn’t be one of them.

For its part, Trump’s transition team issued a statement on Friday night that read, in its entirety, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”

Note, in this three-sentence statement, Team Trump (1) attacked the U.S. intelligence community in order to defend Russia; (2) flagrantly lied about the 2016 election results; and (3) and made no effort to deny the accuracy of the revelations, saying instead that we should “move on,” rather than acknowledge Russian intervention in the American election, which Republicans chose to overlook, apparently to advance their own interests.

Looking ahead, there are a variety of angles to keep an eye on as this historic scandal continues to unfold:

* Trump’s incredulity: In a Fox News interview that aired yesterday, Trump characterized the intelligence community’s findings as “ridiculous.” He did not explain, however, what incentive the agencies would have to lie. Sometime soon, the president-elect will likely face a question he may struggle to answer: “What did Donald Trump know about Russia’s efforts to get him elected, and when did he know it?”

* The RNC: The New York Times reported that Russia also hacked the Republican National Committee, but Putin’s government chose to keep its findings under wraps. The RNC insists this reporting is inaccurate, but if the RNC isn’t telling the truth, it’s a damning detail. It also raises the question of what, if anything, Russia may have on the RNC that the foreign foe is choosing to hold onto.

* Congressional investigation: Democrats want a thorough investigation into these allegations, and a handful of Republican senators agree. But much of the GOP is still holding back, with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) denouncing Russian interference without any mention of the need for a formal probe.

This story may very well point to the Crime of the Century. It will not go away anytime soon.

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Despite Being Taken as Fact, 'Case Against Russia' Rests on Insufficient Proof
by Deirdre Fulton

The case that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer network and interfered with the 2016 U.S. elections—such as that laid out Tuesday by the New York Times—is plausible, but the American people deserve hard proof that has yet to be provided, The Intercept's Sam Biddle wrote Wednesday.

While calls for declassification of the evidence have thus far gone unanswered, "the refrain of Russian attribution has been repeated so regularly and so emphatically that it's become easy to forget that no one has ever truly proven the claim," according to Biddle, whose colleagues Jeremy Scahill and Jon Schwarz demanded such proof this week. (The Times's headline: "The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S.")

Biddle argued:
The gist of the Case Against Russia goes like this: The person or people who infiltrated the DNC's email system and the account of John Podesta left behind clues of varying technical specificity indicating they have some connection to Russia, or at least speak Russian. Guccifer 2.0, the entity that originally distributed hacked materials from the Democratic party, is a deeply suspicious figure who has made statements and decisions that indicate some Russian connection. The website DCLeaks, which began publishing a great number of DNC emails, has some apparent ties to Guccifer and possibly Russia. And then there's WikiLeaks, which after a long, sad slide into paranoia, conspiracy theorizing, and general internet toxicity, has made no attempt to mask its affection for Vladimir Putin and its crazed contempt for Hillary Clinton. (Julian Assange has been stuck indoors for a very, very long time.) If you look at all of this and sort of squint, it looks quite strong indeed, an insurmountable heap of circumstantial evidence too great in volume to dismiss as just circumstantial or mere coincidence.
But look more closely at the above and you can't help but notice all of the qualifying words: Possibly, appears, connects, indicates. It's impossible (or at least dishonest) to present the evidence for Russian responsibility for hacking the Democrats without using language like this. The question, then, is this: Do we want to make major foreign policy decisions with a belligerent nuclear power based on suggestions alone, no matter how strong?
He went on to pick apart some of the "evidence" and assumptions put forth by the U.S. intelligence community and parroted by lawmakers and corporate media alike.

For instance, Biddle wondered of the so-called Russian intelligence units behind the DNC hack, codenamed APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) 28/Fancy Bear and APT 29/Cozy Bear: "[H]ow do we even know these oddly named groups are Russian?"

He wrote:
[Private security firm] CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch himself describes APT 28 as a "Russian-based threat actor" whose modus operandi "closely mirrors the strategic interests of the Russian government" and "may indicate affiliation [Russia's] Main Intelligence Department or GRU, Russia's premier military intelligence service." Security firm SecureWorks issued a report blaming Russia with "moderate confidence." What constitutes moderate confidence? SecureWorks said it adopted the "grading system published by the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence to indicate confidence in their assessments. … Moderate confidence generally means that the information is credibly sourced and plausible but not of sufficient quality or corroborated sufficiently to warrant a higher level of confidence." All of this amounts to a very educated guess, at best.
What's more, Biddle noted, "one can't be reminded enough that all of this evidence comes from private companies with a direct financial interest in making the internet seem as scary as possible, just as Lysol depends on making you believe your kitchen is crawling with E. Coli."

And considering the stakes, this "proof" just isn't enough, Biddle said.

"What we're looking at now is the distinct possibility that the United States will consider military retaliation (digital or otherwise) against Russia, based on nothing but private sector consultants and secret intelligence agency notes," he wrote. "If you care about the country enough to be angry at the prospect of election-meddling, you should be terrified of the prospect of military tensions with Russia based on hidden evidence. You need not look too far back in recent history to find an example of when wrongly blaming a foreign government for sponsoring an attack on the U.S. has tremendously backfired."

As Scahill and Schwarz said Tuesday: "Let's have the proof."

Meanwhile, Reuters reported Tuesday that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) "has not endorsed" the CIA's claim of Russian hacking to benefit Trump "because of a lack of conclusive evidence." 

Edited to clarify the nature of the ODNI's non-endorsement. 

*****************


U.S. intelligence officials now believe with "a high level of confidence" that Russian President Vladimir Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.

Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, the officials said.
Putin's objectives were multifaceted, a high-level intelligence source told NBC News. What began as a "vendetta" against Hillary Clinton morphed into an effort to show corruption in American politics and to "split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn't depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore," the official said.

Ultimately, the CIA has assessed, the Russian government wanted to elect Donald Trump. The FBI and other agencies don't fully endorse that view, but few officials would dispute that the Russian operation was intended to harm Clinton's candidacy by leaking embarrassing emails about Democrats.

The latest intelligence said to show Putin's involvement goes much further than the information the U.S. was relying on in October, when all 17 intelligence agencies signed onto a statement attributing the Democratic National Committee hack to Russia.

The statement said officials believed that "only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities." That was an intelligence judgment based on an understanding of the Russian system of government, which Putin controls with absolute authority.

Now the U.S has solid information tying Putin to the operation, the intelligence officials say. Their use of the term "high confidence" implies that the intelligence is nearly incontrovertible.

"It is most certainly consistent with the Putin that I have watched and used to work with when I was an ambassador and in the government," said Michael McFaul, who was ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014.

"He has had a vendetta against Hillary Clinton, that has been known for a long time because of what she said about his elections back in the parliamentary elections of 2011. He wants to discredit American democracy and make us weaker in terms of leading the liberal democratic order. And most certainly he likes President-elect Trump's views on Russia," McFaul added. Clinton cast doubt on the integrity of Russia's elections.

As part of contingency planning for potential retaliation against Russia, according to officials, U.S. intelligence agencies have stepped up their probing into his personal financial empire.
American officials have concluded that Putin's network controls some $85 billion worth of assets, officials told NBC News.

Neither the CIA nor the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would comment.

A former CIA official who worked on Russia told NBC News that it's not clear the U.S. can embarrass Putin, given that many Russians are already familiar with allegations he has grown rich through corruption and has ordered the killings of political adversaries.

But a currently serving U.S. intelligence official said that there are things Putin is sensitive about, including anything that makes him seem weak.

The former CIA official said the Obama administration may feel compelled to respond before it leaves office.

"This whole thing has heated up so much," he said. "I can very easily see them saying, `We can't just say wow, this was terrible and there's nothing we can do.'"

*******************************

Obama Urges Trump to Take Russian Hacking Seriously
Associated Press
December 16, 2016

U.S. President Barack Obama suggested on Friday that Russia's Vladimir Putin knew about the email hackings that roiled the U.S. presidential race, and he urged his successor, Republican Donald Trump, to back a bipartisan investigation into the matter.

"Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin," Obama said at his last year-end news conference.

The president said he had warned Putin there would be serious consequences it he did not "cut it out," though Obama did not specify the extent or timing of any U.S. retaliation for the hacking, which many Democrats believe contributed to Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton.

Obama also expressed bewilderment over Republican lawmakers and voters alike who now say they approve of Putin, declaring, "Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave."

The comments come the same day the FBI confirmed that Russia interfered in the presidential election with the goal of supporting the president-elect.

Trump has dismissed recent talk about hacking and the election as "ridiculous."
 
Media Obsession 
 Clinton has even more directly cited Russian interference with the U.S. election. She said Thursday night, "Vladimir Putin himself directed the covert cyberattacks against our electoral system, against our democracy, apparently because he has a personal beef against me."

Obama did not publicly support that theory Friday. He did, however, chide the media for what he called an "obsession" with the flood of hacked Democratic emails that were made public during the election's final stretch.

U.S. intelligence assessments that Russia interfered in the election to benefit Trump have heightened the already tense relationship between Washington and Moscow.
 
Obama on Trump, "He has Listened"
 The president is ending his eighth year in office with his own popularity on the rise, though Trump's election is expected to unwind many of Obama's policies. He's leaving his successor a stronger economy than he inherited, but also the intractable conflict in Syria and troubling issue of whether Russia was meddling in the U.S. election to back Trump.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded with "high confidence" that Russia interfered in the election on Trump's behalf. The president-elect has disputed that conclusion, setting up a potential confrontation with lawmakers in both parties.

The president rejected any notion that the dispute over the origin of the hacking was disrupting efforts to smoothly transfer power to Trump. Despite fiercely criticizing each other during the election, Obama and Trump have spoken multiple times since the campaign ended.

"He has listened," Obama said of Trump. "I can't say he will end up implementing. But the conversations themselves have been cordial."

The president did weigh in on Trump's decision to speak with the leader of Taiwan, a phone call that broke decades of U.S. diplomatic protocol. Obama advised Trump to "think it through" before making changes the "one-China" policy.
 
 Trump has openly questioned why the U.S. upholds that policy, particularly given that Washington has other contacts with Taiwan. Offering his own take, Obama noted that Taiwan is of utmost importance to the Chinese and Beijing could have a significant response to any change in U.S. policy. 
 
Democratic Party woes
 Trump's election has upended the Democratic Party, which expected to not only win the White House but also carry the Senate. Instead, the party finds itself out of power on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
In a moment of self-reflection, Obama acknowledged that he had not been able to transfer his own popularity and electoral success to others in his party.

"It is not something that I've been able to transfer to candidates in midterms or build a sustaining organization around," Obama said. "That's something I would have liked to have done more of, but it's kind of hard to do when you're dealing with a whole bunch of issues here in the White House."

As he leaves office, the president has said the shaping the future of the Democratic Party now falls to others. He all but endorsed his Labour Secretary Tom Perez to head the Democratic National Committee, lavishing praise on his cabinet aide.

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