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Monday, June 27, 2011
June 27, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 12:33 PM :: 8825 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party, National News, Development

Resignation call after Audit reveals “ward heeler’s slush fund” overseen by Honolulu Councilman

NYT: Obama Administration Plans Stealth Survey of hundreds of Hawaii MDs

Iran developing capability to hit US with Nukes

Abercrombie Admin signs contract to keep prisoners on Mainland for rest of his term

TEA Party to join July 4 Parades in Kailua, Makawao, Hilo, Kona

Hawaii Teachers talk Strike

Some Oahu teachers said Sunday they don't want to strike, but it is not acceptable to ask them to take less pay and require them to contribute more for their health insurance….

Victoria Mathieu Schiller, also a teacher, said there have been labor troubles with teachers on the mainland which could also happen in Hawaii.

"Hawaii's not the only state where this has been happening. You look at Wisconsin, it's possible and it's happened in the past, so it would be unfortunate. The bottom line is we're here for the kids and they're the ones that are going to be affected because of this," said Schiller.

The president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association has declared an impasse in negotiations and called for a federal mediator to step in.

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City: Four Streams must be Diverted for Rail

The city has applied to alter the stream channels for Waiawa Stream Tributary, and the Kapalama, Moanalua, and Nuuanu streams….

The Commission on Water Resource Management has put the permit application on the agenda for a meeting scheduled at the Department of Land and Natural Resources board room on Wednesday.

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Abercrombie requires a review of helicopters' environmental impact, forcing an $11 million move to Colorado

The Army is shifting at least some high-altitude helicopter training from Hawaii to Colorado — at a taxpayer cost of up to $11 million — following an additional environmental review imposed by the state.

The regulatory process has already delayed training by four months, creating a tight deadline for Wheeler Army Airfield pilots preparing for a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan in January.

Now Gov. Neil Abercrombie has informed the Army it must conduct a state environmental assessment in addition to a federal environmental assessment to use six existing landing zones high on the slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

The Army said it will comply, but is asking Abercrombie for permission as soon as possible so air crews of Wheeler's 25th Combat Aviation Brigade can train closer to home.

Brigade commander Col. Frank Tate said in an interview Friday that the latest difficulty in securing permits to conduct the high-altitude training "is going to cause a significant issue for us."

"We are putting together all of our plans for the contingency to send folks to Fort Carson, Colo. — which of course will have a significant impact on the personnel tempo (time demands) for all the soldiers," Tate said. "We'll have to go to Carson and spend significant time there to get this training completed."

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$159M bankruptcy caused by anti-Superferry Protesters, Judiciary, and Legislature

The administration took possession of the ferries in July 2009 after a bankruptcy judge ruled that the owner – Hawaii Superferry Inc. – could abandon them to lenders, owed nearly $159 million. The administration, which guaranteed the loans, moved them to Norfolk.

Capable of cruising at 35 knots, the ferries are between 320 and 340 feet long and can carry 836 passengers and 282 cars. Interested bidders should be prepared to buy both – the vessels will be sold separately only if they can be sold at the same time, according to the notice. Also required: cash or owner-procured financing, plus a $500,000 nonrefundable deposit for each ferry. Bids are due before 5 p.m. July 20.

REALITY: Why Hawaii Lost the Superferry

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UH Research spending Doubles in Decade

Of UH's $1.1 billion annual budget, approximately $560 million2 comes from the state's general fund to UH's central administration and its four-year campuses, where research and discovery traditionally take place.

The amount of research grants UH receives has grown significantly over the last 10 years, from $179 million in 2000 to $462 million in 2010. Adjusted for inflation, that's double the amount in 2000.

And even while total national funding from the National Science Foundation decreased from 2009 to 2010, Hawaii's share increased from 0.81 percent to 1.02 percent.

Finally, UH officials point with pride to an April article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that showed UH was one of six universities not in the prestigious Association of American Universities to bring in more federal research money than 19 AAU members.

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Full Text: ID Theft Suit filed against UH

HONOLULU - A state class action claims the University of Hawaii allowed hackers repeated access to personal information of more than 100,000 students and alumni by, among other things, using Social Security numbers as identifiers, despite the obvious risks. LINK TO LAWSUIT TEXT

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Hawaii last in Nation: Tax Free Health Savings Accounts reduce cost of Health Insurance

Enrollment in high-deductible health plans paired with health savings accounts continued to grow between January 2010 and January 2011, from 10 million to 11.4 million members, according to the most recent census by health insurance trade group America's Health Insurance Plans.

The continued growth in high-deductible plans, which tend to have lower premiums but limited benefits, came from both employer-sponsored enrollment and individuals, although group coverage continued to account for most of the population and grew more quickly. Between 2010 and 2011, group enrollment increased from 8 million to 9.1 million and individual enrollment from 2.1 million to 2.4 million, according to AHIP's report, which was released June 14….

Other statistics from AHIP's report:

  • Minnesota, at 14.9%, had the highest percentage of enrollment in high-deductible plans paired with an HSA of any state. The percentage covers those younger than 65 who have private insurance. Following Minnesota were Vermont, 11.4%; Colorado, 11.3%; Montana, 10.8%; and Ohio and Indiana, each at 10.6%.
  • Hawaii had the lowest percentage of enrollment in HSAs paired with a high-deductible plan -- 0.2% -- among those younger than 65 with private insurance. Following Hawaii were West Virginia, 2.1%; Mississippi, 2.4%; New Mexico, 2.6%; and Massachusetts, 2.7%.

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The Special Case for COFA Migrants

Responsibility is not solely with the federal government. Responsibility also lies with the state of Hawaii. It is important that the state recognizes the mutually beneficial relationship between COFA migrants and Hawaii. Unfortunately, the significance of COFA migrants in Hawaii has been underappreciated and undervalued. Media reports portray COFA migrants as a burdensome group with headlines that read, “Micronesians: the Invisible Malihini,” and “Micronesian Bill Too long Overdue; The Issue: The Federal Government Owes Hawaii Nearly $100 Million For Services Provided to Immigrants from Micronesia.”

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GAO: Minimum Wage kills Jobs in Am Samoa, NMI

A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office says employment in American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands has suffered because of minimum wage increases that began in 2007.

The 142-page report released Thursday says the decrease in employment was a result of losing a tuna cannery in American Samoa and the departure of the garment industry from the U.S. commonwealth.

In the report, American Samoa employers say layoffs, work hour reductions and hiring freezes were due to the minimum wage increase.

A copy of the 142-page June 23 report is available on the GAO website at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11427.pdf

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Officials, Lawyers make excuses for deadbeat criminals

The advocates say that too many in the system have a "can't do" attitude based on the notion that one "can't squeeze blood from a stone."

"You can't tell me there's any offender who can't pay $2,000 over five years (of probation)," said Dennis Dunn, director of Victim Witness Kokua Services of the city prosecutor's office.

Pamela Ferguson-Brey, executive director of the Crime Victim Compensation Commission, said the system should be "more victim-driven."

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Do Hawaii's Strict Gun Laws Fuel a Black Market?

But “recent incidents suggest that there are more [illegal] firearms circulating again,” Lowe said.

Included in Hawaii’s thick cobweb of gun regulations are a ban on all “assault pistols,” a mandatory permit (the application for which requires proof of safety training) and the required registration of all firearms with the Honolulu Police.

The laws are meant to keep guns out of dangerous hands and curtail violent crime. Yet they didn’t prevent the 28-year-old Toby Stangel from opening fire on five random individuals earlier this month.

According to HPD officials, Stangel was using an unregistered semiautomatic handgun. And he had already been charged in 2004 with carrying a firearm without a permit.

Illegal firearms, according to Lowe, are smuggled on planes, transported in shipping containers or sent via FedEx. Still, “Hawaii is unique because we’re surrounded by water,” says Lowe, making it more difficult to bring in firearms as contraband.

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Atomic Monkey: “Hatcheted By Huff”

Ok, maybe Daryl was really trying to put an honest cap on the old story after all. I looked up the link to the old story to review where it had left off.

Here’s the KITV story from 2008. (Ryan’s theatrical denial at 1:40 is especially entertaining)

You will also notice that the one pressing question on the lips of reporter Catherine Cruz, directed to me, had nothing to do with the facts before them:

“have you ever been involved in any smear tactics in any previous campaign?”

I remember thinking WTF? How about focusing on what’s really going on here?

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Feds, Longliners Get Pass for Giving Dolphin Deaths Low Priority 

A pair of federal agencies and the Hawaii Longline Association do not have to face claims over their response to incidental catches of a dwindling species of dolphins known as false killer whales, the 9th Circuit ruled Wednesday.

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Oregon lawmakers to save $100s of Millions by ending Green Energy Tax Credits

Oregon's practice of channeling ever higher sums of taxpayer dollars into big wind farms and other green energy projects appears to be coming to an end in favor of thriftier and more targeted conservation incentives, says the Oregonian.

  • A bill introduced recently in the Oregon Legislature would eliminate the controversial, free-spending Business Energy Tax Credit and replace it with a series of smaller and far more limited tax breaks.
  • If adopted in its current form the bill could save the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • It also could signal a broader cultural shift at the Legislature, which has struggled in recent years to trim even the smallest tax breaks.

As written, the bill would stop the practice of subsidizing half the construction cost of wind and solar energy developers, who receive tens of millions of dollars' worth of tax credits. It also would stop the long-running policy of giving state tax rebates to consumers who buy energy efficient appliances and hybrid cars, and to businesses that replace old lights with modern energy efficient ones.

The bill would not eliminate tax credits for wind, solar, wave and other alternative energy projects that already qualified under the current rules. As a result, the state is still on the hook for between $100 million and $150 million a year well into the future as those projects are built and the companies use their credits.

In broad terms, the bill allows the Business Energy Tax Credit to expire, but creates three new categories of conservation programs that qualify for tax breaks and puts a lid on how much the state can spend on them.

  • Spending on energy generation would be capped at $1.5 million a year, vastly lower than the millions currently spent.
  • The other two, conservation and transportation, would be capped at $20 million a year and $10 million a year, respectively.

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VIDEO: N Korean children begging, army starving

In the footage, a party official is demanding a stallholder make a donation of rice to the army.

"My business is not good," complains the stallholder.

"Shut up," replies the official. "Don't offer excuses."

It is clear that the all-powerful army - once quarantined from food shortages and famine - is starting to go hungry.

"Everybody is weak," says one young North Korean soldier. "Within my troop of 100 comrades, half of them are malnourished," he said.

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