Thursday, December 23, 2010

Interesting Week


This past week, in Washington D.C., "Don't Ask Don't Tell" was finally repealed and War Reparations for Chamorros was once again defeated.

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Message from President Obama

Friend --

Moments ago, the Senate voted to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

When that bill reaches my desk, I will sign it, and this discriminatory law will be repealed.

Gay and lesbian service members -- brave Americans who enable our freedoms -- will no longer have to hide who they are.

The fight for civil rights, a struggle that continues, will no longer include this one.

This victory belongs to you. Without your commitment, the promise I made as a candidate would have remained just that.

Instead, you helped prove again that no one should underestimate this movement. Every phone call to a senator on the fence, every letter to the editor in a local paper, and every message in a congressional inbox makes it clear to those who would stand in the way of justice: We will not quit.

This victory also belongs to Senator Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and our many allies in Congress who refused to let politics get in the way of what was right.

Like you, they never gave up, and I want them to know how grateful we are for that commitment.

Will you join me in thanking them by adding your name to Organizing for America's letter?

I will make sure these messages are delivered -- you can also add a comment about what the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" means to you.

As Commander in Chief, I fought to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" because it weakens our national security and military readiness. It violates the fundamental American principles of equality and fairness.

But this victory is also personal.

I will never know what it feels like to be discriminated against because of my sexual orientation.

But I know my story would not be possible without the sacrifice and struggle of those who came before me -- many I will never meet, and can never thank.

I know this repeal is a crucial step for civil rights, and that it strengthens our military and national security. I know it is the right thing to do.

But the rightness of our cause does not guarantee success, and today, celebration of this historic step forward is tempered by the defeat of another -- the DREAM Act. I am incredibly disappointed that a minority of senators refused to move forward on this important, commonsense reform that most Americans understand is the right thing for our country. On this issue, our work must continue.

Today, I'm proud that we took these fights on.

Please join me in thanking those in Congress who helped make "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal possible:

http://my.barackobama.com/Repealed

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

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War reparations removed: Senate takes out measure for war survivors

By Erin Thompson
Pacific Daily News
December 23, 2010

Just 24 hours after being told she and other survivors of the Japanese occupation of Guam may finally receive war reparations, Rita Santos Cruz had to be informed that the war reparations provision had been rejected by U.S. senators.

"To be honest with you, then if that is the case, then no buildup. Forget it," said the 73-year-old war survivor. "You know, the leaders of Guam better wake up, because we, the manamko', are not kidding them."

Language in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, passed by the House of Representatives last week, provided $100 million for Guam war reparations. The reparations plan provided $10,000 to $25,000 for victims of the occupation or the living relatives of those killed during the war, who could submit claims until 2016.

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo had expressed optimism that the provision finally would be accepted when the Senate worked on a compromise defense authorization bill. But yesterday, Michigan Sen. Carl Levin announced that the language providing for the claims had been rejected by the Senate, according to Bordallo's office.

"I am extremely disappointed in the decision by Senate leaders to remove Guam War Claims from the compromise defense authorization bill," Bordallo said in a statement. "I will be meeting with House and Senate leaders tomorrow to discuss the way forward for this important legislation."

The Senate is currently considering an amended version of the defense authorization bill passed by the House of Representatives.

According to Bordallo's office, the Senate can pass the defense authorization bill only by unanimous consent. Because Senate leaders knew that several senators continued to object to the war claims language in the defense authorization bill, they made the decision to amend the bill and pass it without war claims.

As of yesterday afternoon, the bill had not been passed by unanimous consent in the Senate.

For advocates of war reparations on Guam, the decision is a blow to a decades-long fight to receive recognition and compensation for the suffering of those who survived the Japanese occupation.

"How many times do we have to go through this? How many more years? What is it going to take?" asked Sen. Frank Blas Jr. yesterday. "Are our people worth it?

The president of the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation, Blas has been pushing for the reparations through a traveling exhibit sharing the stories of survivors, as well as through a newly launched website, http://guamwarsurvivorstory.com.

"Obviously I'm disappointed," Blas said. "Greatly disappointed in the decision to remove what was supposed to be a compromise."

He said he was disappointed with the Democratic leadership in Washington, as well as with Bordallo's efforts.

He said even if Guam received funding from the federal government to support the buildup, it wouldn't compensate for the lack of funds for war survivors.

"In lieu of this, Guam is going to be receiving so many billions of dollars in construction money? Tell that to an 85-year-old war survivor who's not going to be around," said Blas.

Cruz, who was just 7 years old when the first bombs fell, said she watched Japanese soldiers brutally beat her pregnant mother during the occupation. Even though she was a little girl, the soldiers forced her to work.

She said that after years of pushing for reparations from the U.S. government, she was so frustrated she would even consider legal action to get reparations for the island's aging survivors.

"I'm getting pissed off already, because they are treating us like toys," she said.

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