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Sunday, February 23, 2014
February 23, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:08 PM :: 3746 Views

For Supporting Mufi: Up to 1/3 of Democrats Could be Expelled

Can We Best Help the Poor by Making Their Lives Complicated?

Anti-GMO Industry Responsible for Death on Maui

SA: A Maui woman died, two people needed liver transplants and 41 others in Hawaii suffered acute liver failure last year after taking OxyELITE Pro, a weight-loss supplement.  (BTW: The Natural Supplements industry is a key source of funding for anti-GMO activism.  But I digress.)

Yet in late January, when Senate Bill 2067, which would regulate dietary supplements, was before the state Senate Health Committee, doctors from the Queen's Medical Center's Liver Center, who had first identified the public health emergency, were among the few to show up to testify in favor of the bill. There was much more public interest on a bill that would require the labeling of genetically modified foods, which have troubled some consumers but have not been shown to cause health problems.

The contrast at the hearing that day provides an interesting example of how the public evaluates health risks and a lesson in how some consumer issues can be written off as unfortunate anomalies while others turn into political causes.

Unlike the mobilization against GMOs, there has been no march to the state Capitol over dietary supplements, no demonizing the corporations behind OxyELITE Pro, and no warnings to lawmakers that they will be voted out of office if they fail to respond to dangerous weight-loss cures....

The FDA said the retail value of the weight-loss supplement taken off the market was about $22 million.

Sonnette Marras, a 48-year-old Makawao laborer and driver, died in October after taking OxyELITE Pro for weight loss after a pregnancy. Two others needed liver transplants.

The Department of Health is investigating 52 reports of people who have taken dietary supplements and developed acute hepatitis, including the 44 cases linked to OxyELITE Pro.

Under federal law, the manufacturers of dietary supplements generally do not have to register or obtain FDA approval before going to market. The products must contain truthful label information and follow federal good manufacturing practices.

Prescription drug makers, by contrast, generally have to show the FDA that drugs are safe and effective before commercial sale.

Dr. Naoky Tsai, medical director at the Queen's Liver Center, said that it is unfortunate that dietary supplements do not have to follow the federal standards applied to drugs.

"They can put out a product without having to prove to any authority that they are effective or they are safe, as long as they can claim that their ingredients all come from a food source," he said. "So they are food. So if it is food you don't have to prove anything."

As a first step, Tsai said, the state could require manufacturers to publicly report whether new dietary supplements — after three or six months on the market — have been linked to any health issues.

"Our point is that if the law doesn't change, these things would happen again," he said.

(In summation: The anti-GMO funders of the natural supplements industry are multi-billion dollar profiteers who are responsible for death and destruction.  On the other hand, GMOs have never been shown to have harmed a single human being anywhere, ever.)

read ... About the Evil Corporations Behind the Anti-GMO Movement

Big Cable Will Soak Ratepayers for $1.5B

MN: "Whether or not this is in the public interest really depends on what the cost of the cable is so that we can compare the cost and the benefits," Sakuda said. "So right now we have estimates, and because the cable right now is in the conceptual stage, the range of cost estimates is really large. We don't know really what the cable might cost."

Sakuda said that cost estimates he's seen to build the undersea cable range from $700 million to $1.5 billion.

That cost likely would be financed either by Maui and Oahu ratepayers over the course of 30 years or possibly with federal funding as is done for transportation projects like highways or rail systems, Sakuda said.

Quick IQ Test: HECO says this project will result in lower electric rates.  Do you believe them?

IM: Complexities of the Inter-Island Cable

read ... $1.5B Rate Hike

Creation of the Hawaii Electricity Reliability Administrator

IM: Hawaii energy regulation is about to undergo a fundamental shift.

In the near term the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will sign a contract with a new entity, the Hawaii Electricity Reliability Administrator (HERA) which will probably be a subsidiary or affiliate of a national entity.

In 2012 the Hawaii State Legislature reinforced actions taken by the PUC over the past several years. Act 166 (2012) authorizes the PUC to develop, adopt, and enforce electric reliability standards and interconnection requirements and to contract with an outside identity to be known as the Hawaii Electricity Reliability Administrator (HERA).

The current process started back in 2008 when the PUC opened a proceeding to investigate the implementation of feed-in tariffs (similar to net metering except that ratepayer electricity is sold to the utility at the wholesale rate and bought at the retail rate).

As an outgrowth of that docket, in 2011 the PUC established the Reliability Standards Working Group (RSWG) consisting of some 24 energy lawyers, engineers and policy wonks....

read ... Creation of the Hawaii Electricity Reliability Administrator

Lessons of past losses could help Hannemann

Borreca: That first winnowing of candidates in a primary has been Hannemann's curse; his popularity in a general election was almost always more than his support in a primary.

It is interesting that Hannemann's biggest primary election win was his first, back in 1986.

Then, Hannemann first tangled with Neil Abercrombie in a race for the U.S. House seat left open when Cec Heftel resigned to run for governor.

Hannemann won the primary election by just 1,162 votes. At the same time there was a special election to fill the remaining three months of Heftel's term. Abercrombie won that race, Republican Pat Saiki came in second and Hannemann trailed in third place.

In the regular race, Hannemann won the primary but lost to Saiki in the general election. So there was certainly no Mufi bandwagon back then.

read ... Lessons of past losses could help Hannemann

Renewed rivalries and rants are like watch, wince, repeat

Shapiro: Mufi Hannemann, beaten badly by Abercrombie in 2010, said he may run again as an independent. He thinks voters deserve another chance to decide whom they hate least.

Abercrombie trumpeted his experience over opponents and declared: "I was never a spectator." That's true. He was always more of a spectacle.

read ... Volcanic Ash

Minimum Wage: Clayton Hee Preparing to Screw it up -- Again

SA: Proposals to raise the minimum hourly wage for workers in this state ran aground last legislative session on the issue of the tip credit. It's a significant matter in a service economy like Hawaii's, where so many people at the lower end of the income scale work at hospitality and restaurant jobs in which the tip is an important chunk of the pay packet.

But that issue, while a legitimate one, should not be allowed to sink legislation to raise the minimum wage, a move that is long overdue. A compromise making some accommodation to employers is crucial to ensure that workers get a pay boost, helping them cover basic living expenses.

State Sen. Clayton Hee is proposing that the minimum be raised from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour and that the tip credit be eliminated entirely. He and several citizen groups are urging a public hearing for the proposal, Senate Bill 2609 before the Ways and Means Committee, which is chaired by state Sen. David Ige.

The bill should be given a hearing, because both sides deserve a chance to either defend the tip credit or argue for its repeal.

But ultimately it seems unlikely that the case for eliminating the credit will prevail. There is already a 25-cent tip credit allowed by law, so zeroing that out would eliminate a relief valve for the employers. And that would simply inflame the lobby against the raise, making another standoff all but certain.

As Explained: Flawed Minimum Wage Hike Advocacy Will Cost Hawaii's Poorest Workers $7M this Year

read ... Clayton Hee Ready to Screw it up Again

Health Connector to be funded by $15M Tax on Insurance Policies?

SA:  The cost to run the agency in 2015 has been estimated at $15 million, said Steven Tam, director of advocacy for AARP Hawaii, one of the public interest groups involved in discussions about the exchange from the start.

"It appears also and no one has disputed it that they don't have a plan; the revenue to cover it is insufficient," Tam said.....

Earlier this session McKelvey heard the assertions by Matsuda and state attorneys that a sudden conversion from private entity to state agency could disrupt federal grants in progress (see chart, page E5). But while Belatti has joined McKelvey on staking out a middle path, she's not entirely convinced it was necessary.

"I don't think it's quite as onerous as some of them are making it out to be," she said. "Because really, the only amounts of money that they have is federal grants. And my understanding is that our federal partners have been made aware of the legislation moving."

That middle path described in the House bill would allow the state to "take a proactive oversight role to monitor the Connector and review its financial and operational plans," while it remains legally a nonprofit.

It was adapted from the approach taken in Colorado, McKelvey said, and would create a legislative oversight panel of 12 members appointed from House and Senate Health, Consumer Protection and Finance committees.The panel would review the sustainability plan for the Connector and determine what kind of fee it could charge.

By contrast, Senate Bill 2471 would simply authorize the levy of a fee on all health and dental insurance plans issued in the state, whether or not it was issued through the Connector.

On one point in particular, the House and Senate are in agreement: The governing board of the Connector would no longer include voting members from the health or dental insurance industry....

read ... Dueling diagnoses

Briefing will address fixes for Connector

» House Bill 2529, House Draft 2, would reduce the Connector board of directors in size and composition, including moving representatives of the industry to advisory, nonvoting status. Among other changes, it would create a legislative oversight committee to review the financial and operational plans of the Connector for which a sustainability fee could be assessed.

» Senate Bill 2470, Senate Draft 1, also proposes to whittle the size of the board and remove members representing insurers and dental benefit providers. Provisions include allowing the governor to appoint one person to represent the state as a voting board member.

» HB 2525, HD 2, would make individual health insurance plans and small group plans establish rates based on a uniform "community rating." It also would create a temporary premium subsidy program to offset certain rate increases for qualified plans purchased through the Hawaii Health Connector.

read ... 3 p.m. Wednesday in Room 325.

Kakaako Development Opposed by Global Warmers

MW: Kakaakoans who accept the science of global warming also take pause. They argue that much of HCDA’s planned “vibrant, mixed-density neighborhood” will be under a foot of water before the end of the 21st century.  (Uh-huh.)

read ... Whither Kakaako, Whither The HCDA?

Current UH regent skipped as gov appoints 4 to board

SA: University of Hawaii Board of Regents Vice Chairman James Lee has been passed up by Gov. Neil Abercrombie for another term on the board.

Lee's term ends June 30 and the attorney and real estate development executive had been named as a finalist for his seat along with three others by the Candidate Advisory Council, which submitted 13 names to the governor to fill four upcoming vacancies on the 15-member board.

Abercrombie has selected retired UH administrator Lee Putnam to fill Lee's Ho­nolulu seat.

The governor also named engineer Stanford Yuen and attorney Jeffrey Portnoy to Honolulu seats. UH-Manoa graduate student Michelle Tagorda was chosen as the student regent on the board.

read ... Current UH regent skipped as gov appoints 4 to board

Give judges and probation officers tools needed to help juvenile offenders

SA: Unjustifiably high recidivism rates for youth exiting the facility plague the system: 75 percent are re-adjudicated or reconvicted within three years of release. And at a cost of $190,000 per bed per year, HYCF is a substantial drain on taxpayer investments....

The working group recently concluded a four-month effort to craft policy recommendations for a more effective system. Focused on equipping judges and probation officers with the tools needed to tackle youth delinquency, these recommendations will help ensure our juvenile justice system places the right youth into the right rehabilitative options at the right time.

For example, a wealth of research confirms what we know from experience: that secure facilities like HYCF play a vital role in maintaining public safety, but must be targeted toward serious juvenile offenders who pose a real threat to public safety. Then, we can refocus our state's investments and attention to developing a range of effective interventions.

Several recommendations relate to the dire need for increased access to mental health and substance abuse treatments. Right now, only one juvenile residential substance abuse facility exists for the entire state, even though need far outpaces existing resources. Effective treatment and interventions at an earlier stage can help youth pivot from a delinquent lifestyle toward a productive, law-abiding future.

We must also ensure that neighbor island youth have the same opportunities to turn their lives around as do Oahu youths. In the last year, 46 percent of commitments to HYCF came from the neighbor islands, even though only 30 percent of our youth population resides on those islands. Family Court judges on neighbor islands need access to the full range of assessments, proven practices and effective alternatives.

The working group also sought to strengthen probation by creating a graduated sanctions system to hold youth accountable for their behavior, collaborating with and including families in their child's progress, and using evidence-based practices to reduce reoffending and get them back on the right track as quickly as possible....

These recommendations, and others, are on the agenda for this 2014 Legislature in House Bills 2489 and 2490....

read ... Offenders

Teachers protest new program

KGI: Several teachers at Kilauea Elementary School are feeling such pressure to implement a new pilot program called the Educator Effectiveness System, they’ve sent a letter protesting the measure to the Hawaii Board of Education and the Hawaii Department of Education.

Calling it a “disaster,” the teachers said the new program is having a negative impact on teachers, students and schools.

“It’s taking the fun out of education and taking time away from students,” said Michael Kline, a special education teacher at Kilauea Elementary. “They’ve passed out hundreds of pages about the program giving us no time to read them. The amount of work is overwhelming. The teachers are exhausted. I’ve never seen morale lower than it is now and I’ve been through a lot in the past, including a strike.”

Kline sent the letter in early February after having it signed by three other Kilauea Elementary teachers....

read ... Protest 

Pono Madness & Condom Festivals

MW: After state Rep. Bob Mc-Dermott released his report critical of Pono Choice, a proposed state Department of Education sex-education program, I thought the public discussion of sex education was over.

Then I received a bulletin from UH-Manoa’s Health Promotion Office that it would be hosting its annual Valentine’s Day Condom Fair, which includes games and prizes.

I couldn’t believe it. Educational activities include a condom race and games like “Pin the Condom on Jack.” How creative, eh? Of course, I went to school in the ’60s, so it’s not surprising that I’m surprised. The most exciting thing we had at UH back then was the Ka Palapala beauty contest at Hemenway Hall. No one mentioned the relation of sex to beauty.

read ... A Whole Lot Of Pono Madness

Inspections begin soon for new restaurant ratings

KHON: Starting on Monday, the Department of Health will begin its inspections for its new food safety rating program. Inspectors will be visiting all food establishments across the state including lunch wagons, convenience stores, fast-food stops, and even resort kitchens.

“We’ve made a commitment to industry that we’ll visit all of their establishments prior to rolling out these rules to make sure that everybody’s on the same page,” said Peter Oshiro of the Department of Health.

read ... Starting Monday

Star-Adv Flies Reporter to Puna to Chart Course for Defeating Hanohano

SA: Eric Cockcroft, a Pahoa charter school teacher, said he doesn't condone the actions that have put Hanohano in hot water, but said he and others in the community can understand the background behind it.

"She's probably a little bit racist, but I'm going to say that I support her," said Cockcroft, 50, as he stood in line for coffee at Sirius Coffee Connection.

"She has resentment about whites, obviously," Cockcroft said.

SUMMARY: Star-Adv flies Gordon Chang to Puna to help Joy San Buenaventura figure out how to win the HD4 Dem primary.  But so many are piling into the HD4 Primary that they will likely split the "ABH" vote thus guaranteeing Hanohano a primary win.  Thus it may be up to the GOP candidate to liberate Puna from Hanohanoismo.  The lesson from the interviews in this article is that Hanohano's political insiders are still mostly supporting her -- but outsiders who were interviewed (one so far outside that he's not even registered to vote) are against Hanohano.   

read ... Puna Residents Divided

Kenoi: Assessments Will Go Up, But not Tax Rates

WHT: Increases in property values coupled with an improving economy should provide enough revenue to balance the county budget without having to raise property taxes this year, despite across-the-board salary hikes for county employees covered by collective bargaining agreements.

“There will be no tax increase,” Mayor Billy Kenoi said in an interview Friday with West Hawaii Today. “We’re looking forward to submitting a balanced budget while meeting our collective bargaining agreements and maintaining level funding for county departments.”

The union raises, negotiated at the state level, add about $15 million to the county budget this year.

Following weeks of staff meetings and number-crunching, the budget is not quite complete, the mayor emphasized. The county is working under an estimate of property values similar to last year’s, because the new numbers haven’t yet been finalized.

read ... Re-Assess

Obama Wasting Troops’ Sacrifice

MW: Even now, al-Qaida is resurgent in Fallujah and all of Anbar Province in Iraq, and Karzai is negotiating with the Taliban for a power-sharing agreement in Afghanistan, in both cases, all because of our premature withdrawals from both countries.

We have a commander-in-chief who seems to have no stomach for victory, who puts immediate political expedience above the longer-term strategy of consolidating our victories, and he has no apparent qualms about leaving the Iraqis and the Afghans to the wolves of al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Or as Secretary Gates puts it, after working closely with the president for several years, there is an “absence of conviction of the importance of victory.”

And without victory, it is all a waste. Thank you, Mr. President.

read ... Obama Wasting Troops’ Sacrifice

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