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Tuesday, November 17, 2015
November 17, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:33 PM :: 3114 Views

Ige: Hawaii Will Welcome ‘Screened’ Syrian Refugees

Hawaii Needs to Take Care of Homeless, not Syrian Muslims

So Far: Syrian Refugees in U.S. Include 2,098 Muslims, 53 Christians

A-1 A-Lectrician Case: Secret Email Group Connects Hawaii AG to Soros-Funded Lawyers

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted November 16, 2015

Federal Intervention in Schools Looks to Remain in Force Through Possible No Child Left Behind Deal

How High are Cell Phone Taxes in Your State?

Engineers: DAGS Hands Off CIP

DLNR Slaps Down Anti-Aquarium Nuts (again)

DoT Inspector General Investigating HART

KHON: Want the next quarter-billion-dollars in federal money for rail? Tack five more years onto the rail tax first.

That’s the message, now in writing from the Federal Transit Administration to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

But that’s not the only obstacle for the project. From a federal audit to a string of financial do-overs, the pressure is on.

The U.S. Inspector General for the federal Department of Transportation started auditing the Federal Transit Administration’s oversight of Honolulu’s rail project earlier this year.

Then the FTA doubled-down on HART, demanding a slew of cost and schedule do-overs as the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s cost overruns and delays mounted. It all culminated in a final-straw letter to the mayor, received Monday.

Always Investigating has documents showing mounting frustrations at the federal level over Honolulu’s rail project go back many months.

The U.S. DOT Office of the Inspector General launched an audit back in August over whether the FTA is giving proper oversight to major capital projects in the western region, including Honolulu’s rail.

(Translation: The IG wants to know if the FTA failed to rein in HART’s fraud, waste, self-dealing and corruption.)

“When they come to town, they’re looking at our project, but they’re actually looking at the Federal Transit Administration,” explained Mike Formby, director of the city Department of Transportation Services, and also a HART board member. “Indirectly, it’s a comment on HART, but directly, it’s a comment upon the FTA and not us.” ….

(Translation: It they failed to stop us from stealing, that’s on them.)

DN: Dillingham power lines are and were a known obstacle that Rail would have to deal with

read … Audit

Caldwell: Ernie Martin is ‘Lolo’—Demands Blank Check for Rail

CB: Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is ramping up the pressure on the Honolulu City Council, and particularly Chairman Ernie Martin, to pass a five-year extension of a 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge and to do it quickly.

Failure to do so would put $1.5 billion in federal funding at risk for the Honolulu rail project and make the city seem “lolo” — crazy — Caldwell said Monday.

“We want to be taken serious, and this is absolutely serious what we’re dealing with now,” Caldwell said….

Martin responded Monday afternoon with his own statement, saying the City Council supports the rail project but does not want to issue a “blank check” in exchange for $1.5 billion in federal money.

A potential challenger to Caldwell in the 2016 mayoral election, Martin has said the city should consider breaking its contract with the FTA to retain more local control over the project. He said if the city weren’t bound by the FTA parameters there could be more discussion about shortening the route or cutting the number of stations to save money.

Martin has also floated a proposal to extend the GET surcharge for rail while placing a $910 million cap on the revenues that could be used on the project. Rail officials say that cap would not provide the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation with enough money to cover the current estimated deficit….

The City Council Budget Committee is scheduled to vote on the GET surcharge extension Wednesday morning. If it passes there are still several key votes that need to take place before it can be signed by Caldwell.

read … Name Calling

Now That Rail is Being Built, Honolulu Finally Getting Around to Installing Adaptive Traffic Signals

HNN:  …poorly-time traffic signals are also costly, and they can actually make traffic worse.

That’s why the city is launching a pilot program to install new “adaptive signal control technology” in at least three traffic corridors.

The new traffic signals are designed to “adapt” to traffic flow, getting more cars through green lights and distributing green lights more “equitably.”

City officials say they’re still working to determine which corridors would get the new signals. The cost for installing the new signals: $25,000 to $40,000, per intersection.

The city doesn’t yet have a timeline for installation, but officials have already started talking to community members about the project.

Benefits of adaptive signals include “improved traffic flow, fewer delays, reduced wait times, out-of-cycle signal time, and gas/time savings for individual motorists,” said city Department of Transportation Services Director Mike Formby….

SA: Improve driving on Waianae Coast

read … No Longer Necessary to create Artificial Traffic Jams

Telescope Protesters to gather on Mountain Tonight

SA: …Gov. David Ige said today the return of crews to repair equipment at the Thirty Meter Telescope site on Mauna Kea does not signal the start of construction.

“The maintenance and equipment repair work TMT plans to undertake will protect the environment and enhance public safety as we head into the winter season. This is not the start of construction of the telescope,” Ige said in a statement….

Protest leaders are calling for supporters to gather at the mountain tonight in anticipation of TMT work crews on Wednesday morning traveling to the summit work site on Mauna Kea’s northern plateau.

Asked to confirm the Wednesday work schedule, a TMT spokesman issued the following statement: “Given past events, we’ve decided not to announce details in advance to ensure the safety and security of our workers and any involved law enforcement personnel.”….

In his statement this morning, the governor said TMT’s plan is simply “to repair equipment already on Mauna Kea and re-secure the site this month.” No date was offered.

“If this work is stopped, it is not a victory. It will harm the environment. If there is violence, as some have suggested, that is not a victory. We are one community and we must continue to search for a resolution that will keep this community together,” Ige said….

Reality: Telescope: For OHA, it’s all About the Rent Money

read … Telescope

HMSA We Can’t Afford to Continue Pace Set by Obamacare

SA: …The state’s largest health insurer blamed the loss in part to increasing medical and prescription drug costs and higher-than-expected claims for individuals covered under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

“We can’t afford to continue at this pace,” Gina Marting, HMSA’s senior vice president of accounting and finance, said in a news release due to be released today. “This isn’t the first time HMSA has faced challenges. We understand challenges and know what needs to be done.”

HMSA collected $748.8 million in premiums in the quarter ended Sept. 30, and spent $687.7 million to pay doctors, hospitals and other health care providers. That compares with $712.6 million in revenue collected a year earlier and $658 million in benefit expenses.

Administrative expenses in the quarter totaled $64.9 million, up from $56.8 million in the year-earlier quarter, while Affordable Care Act fees and taxes totaled $5.1 million, down from $6.3 million….

(Remember how Obamacare was supposed to reduce admin expenses?  You didn’t fall for that did you?)

read … Thanks, Obama

Private insurers win big from Hawaii Medicaid expansion

BP: …A new report by Strategy&, a division of consulting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers, finds that the federally-funded expansion of Medicaid that many states embraced under PPACA boosted enrollment in private insurance plans by 7.8 million.

That means that 51 million people, or 70 percent of all Medicaid beneficiaries, are enrolled in a private insurance Medicaid plan, up from 66 percent in 2014….

In some states, all or almost all Medicaid services come through private insurers. Surprisingly, whether a state relies heavily on the private sector does not appear linked to its politics. All Medicaid enrollees in Hawaii, a strong Democratic state, get their care through private plans, as do beneficiaries in Tennessee, a Republican stronghold….  

read … Cashing In

Waianae Homeless Camp: Children Beg for Money after Parents Spend Every Penny on Meth 

CB: …Children in the camp learn that little plastic baggies are used for drugs. Even the youngest know several nicknames for meth.

More than one child has had to beg outside of a grocery store for cash after their mother spent all her money on drugs, says Twinkle Borge, the longtime leader of the homeless encampment. (This is child abuse.) 

Kids learn which neighbors will feed them when they run out of food at home….

read … They’re all Tweekers

Meet the Lawyers and Social Workers Trying to Force Transgender Locker rooms on DoE Schools 

CB: …attorney Rebecca Copeland, who is the mother of a transgender teen, says that although Hawaii law does consider separate facilities for males and females, such as restrooms and dressing rooms, it has provisions in place to protect a person’s privacy. So it might be possible to exclude a person from a restroom if another person’s right to privacy is violated.

Copeland says she is unaware of any Hawaii law currently on the books to specifically protect a person’s right to use a restroom based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. She takes the position that any Hawaii law that protects against sex discrimination would also apply to individuals who are transgender.

Federal law seems to be clearer on the restroom and locker room issue, at least when it comes to schools and training facilities. Title IX, the federal statute that prevents discrimination in schools receiving federal funding, firmly states that equal accommodation in all school facilities and activities applies to everyone, including transgender and non-gender-conforming students.

Donalyn Dela Cruz, director of communications for the state Department of Education, says the DOE has been gathering information on what to do about restroom and locker room issues for the past couple of years.

“But this year there is a stronger stance to create guidelines that we can bring to the Board of Education for consideration,” she says.

Dela Cruz says there’s there is more urgency now because school principals across the state are seeking advice as more students are coming forward as transgender.

Dela Cruz says, “We have to provide bathrooms in which every one of our students can feel safe.”

She says while waiting for specific guidelines, schools are handling restroom needs on a case-by-case basis. Transgender students have been mainly accommodated by allowing them to use the school staff’s gender-neutral, single-stall restrooms.

Dela Crux says the DOE is moving carefully to make sure all students and parents understand and are comfortable with the guidelines that are created, and that they hold up legally and do not promote reverse discrimination.

“It is uncharted territory, “ she says.

James Bott, a DOE social worker, is helping the department develop its statewide policy.

Bott understands better than others what it is like for a child to feel different from his peers and how important it is for Hawaii’s schools to make all children — no matter how they identify their sexuality — feel welcome and safe.

Bott has an 8-year-old adopted son who since a very early age has considered himself to be female rather than male. Shortly after the adoption, his then 6-year-old asked, “Can I get a vagina?”

Bott says he joked back to his son, “Not today. Maybe in the future.”

He says his child dresses like a girl when he is at home but the child decided to go to school as a boy, dress in boy’s clothes and use the boy’s restroom after he was teased by an older student….

Hawaii state Rep. Cindy Evans says she will reintroduce a bill next year that she wrote in 2014 to require the state to fund a one-year pilot project to designate three restrooms in the State Capitol gender neutral.

The bill never got a hearing when it was introduced, but Evans thinks it may get more traction now that the gender-neutral bathroom issue has become mainstream.

Evans says she was inspired to author the bill because she had a transgender legislative clerk….

read … Social Engineering Project

Dengue Hypocrisy: Anti-Pesticide Activists Suddenly Want to be Sprayed

KE: I was interested to read a piece in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. Sen. Josh Green, one of those who has been so outspoken in opposition to biotech crops and ag pesticides, was all pissed off because the Department of Health wasn't doing enough — as in spraying and medical check-ups — to stave off dengue.

And why? Because it would be so bad for tourism if dengue gets established.

Interesting, how people change their tune about pesticide use when they've got something at stake. I haven't heard Hawaii Center for Food Safety screaming about the DOH spraying pesticides to control mosquitoes in residential communities on the Big Island.

I wonder how Green and CFS would feel about using transgenic mosquitoes, developed by Oxitech, to help eradicate dengue. When the transgenic males mate with wild females, their so-called self-limiting gene is passed on to their offspring, and the larvae die before they can transmit disease.

When I was at the Transgenic Animal Conference in Tahoe last summer — yes, mosquitoes are animals — I interviewed a Brazilian researcher who had experienced excellent results in field trials done there to control dengue.

While residents in the test areas were initially concerned, the researchers did extensive outreach, and addressed people's worries and fears. And when folks saw the positive results, they started asking for more releases, because they had experienced a direct benefit: people weren't getting sick..

The Oxitech mosquitoes were more effective at controlling dengue than pesticide applications alone — tests in Brazil and the Cayman Islands reported an 80 percent suppression rate of dengue.

Meanwhile, Jan TenBruggencate has an interesting piece in Civil Beat about the stinkiness of stinkweed, which can cause people to experience headaches, nausea, clamminess and other ill effects. His piece is aptly titled “The Malodorous Shrub That Launched Kauai’s Pesticide Wars.” As Jan points out:

“In November 2006, students and staff at Waimea Canyon Middle School complained of a bad smell that made them nauseous and left them with throat irritation, watery eyes and dizziness. Many attributed it to agricultural spraying on a field next to the school.

“The incident continues to be attributed by opponents of Hawaii’s seed industry to pesticide spraying, even though the initial field investigations by police, fire and independent botanical experts said it was stinkweed, a finding that was confirmed by a University of Hawaii study….”

KITV: Physicians turned lawmakers want state to do more about dengue

read … Hypocrisy Exposed

Fantasy sports gambling on state Legislature radar as Illegal Gambling Dens Lose Business

Borreca: To Honolulu City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, the issue is almost binary — it’s either is legal or it’s illegal.

Regarding the question of the burgeoning fantasy sports entertainment sites DraftKings and FanDuel, Kaneshiro says they are obviously illegal gambling….

Kaneshiro’s thinking matches that of state Rep. Karl Rhoads, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Rhoads researched a copy of Hawaii’s existing state laws on gambling and said there is no way the pay-to-play fantasy sports sites would be an exception.

“I think we are covered,” Rhoads said in an interview. “I believe it is already illegal in Hawaii to do what FanDuel and DraftKings are doing.”

“It looks like it is already illegal and it would be up to normal enforcement agencies to follow up,” Rhoads said.

Hawaii’s attorney general, Douglas Chin, is reviewing the issue.

“The Department of the Attorney General is currently consulting with the attorneys general in other states and actively looking into whether Internet fantasy gaming sites violate Hawaii’s current gambling laws,” said Joshua Wisch, special assistant to Hawaii’s attorney general.

Maui Democrat, Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran, chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee, pointed out that Hawaii does have an exception to its gambling rules that is called “social gambling,” which allows gambling if no money goes to a group that coordinates the activity.

“I would guess that since FanDuel and DraftKings charge a fee to players, that fantasy leagues online would not be treated as social gambling,” Keith-Agaran said in an interview….

(These online sites are undermining the locally-owned illegal gambling rooms.  That’s what this is all about.)

read … Fantasy

Electrical bills set to shrink as price of oil keeps falling—‘Clean’ Energy Crowd Terrified

SA: Hawaiian Electric Co. customers’ electrical bills in November will be the lowest in more than five years,as oil prices continue to pull down rates across the isles.

Oahu customers’ bills will decline $4.63, to $132.32,for a typical household using 500 kilowatt-hours.That is 3.4 percent lower than the typical bill of$136.95 in October. The decrease is largely due to lower fuel prices, according to HECO, the state’s largest utility provider with service to Oahu, Maui,Molokai, Lanai and Hawaii island.

“Lower oil prices are helping our customers right now, but we know our state needs to stay committed to long-term solutions, which means developing a diverse portfolio of low-cost renewable energy resources,” HECO spokesman Darren Pai said. “It’s critical that we keep working toward our state’s goal of a 100 percent renewable portfolio standard.”

The price per kilowatt-hour on Oahu decreased to 24.4 cents this month from 25.3 cents in October,HECO said. The last time Oahu customers saw a lower bill was in June 2010, when a typical household paid $132.21.

read … Cheaper

Hawaiian Electric to finalize LNG contract by early 2016

PBN: Hawaiian Electric Co. plans to finalize an agreement to ship in liquefied natural gas by the bulk for fuel supply by the first quarter of 2016, the parent company of the state’s largest utility said in a public filing on Monday.

The Honolulu-based utility, the state and others are examining the possibility of using LNG as a cleaner and lower cost fuel as transition fuel for some generation as the utility moves from oil to renewable energy….

Hawaiian Electric plans to begin shipping in this type of fuel by 2019.

Hawaii Gas, the state’s only regulated gas utility, has separate plans to ship in bulk amounts of LNG, which also would arrive in the Islands by 2019.

read … LNG

Preparing for next Firing and Payout: UH names advisory panel to assist in search for football coach

NR: University of Hawaiāi at Mānoa Athletics Director David Matlin has announced an eight-person advisory group in the school’s search for its next football head coach who will then be fired and paid off big time….

read … Next Golden Parachute

As Legislature Prepares for Next Session, DOE Stages Annual ‘We’re Broke” Show

HNN: While operational funding for public schools in Hawaii has remained virtually flat over the last seven years, the cost for nearly everything, including school supplies, has gone up. That’s resulted in schools and teachers asking donors in crowdfunding sites for basic supplies such as pencils, paper and staples.

"Our essential base budget, our general fund budget, has essentially been static since 2008," said schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.

While the consumer price index has risen 20 percent since 2008, the state’s operating budget for the Department of Education has risen just nine percent, and most of that money went to cover pay raises for unionized workers in labor contracts, DOE officials said. That leaves less and less money for the basics.

read … Annual Spectacle

Health Department says 56 confirmed cases of dengue fever on Hawaii Island

HNN: Health officials have confirmed seven new cases of dengue fever on Hawaii Island, bringing the total to 56.

The cases include 15 children….

Health officials say the outbreak started Sept. 11. Ten of those who got sick were visitors….

(Most of these cases are in areas saturated with anti-pesticide activism.  Now they beg for sprayers to come.  Hypocrites.)

read … Dengue

In 'smelly' problem, city says personnel shortage slowing trash pick-up

HNN: The city's schedule shows trash bins on Kalaniiki Street near Kalani High School are supposed to be emptied on Saturday.

But Monday morning, the gray bins were still sitting curbside -- full.

"It's a garbage issue that's smelly," said resident Steven Maratta.

Up and down Kalaniiki, bins were stuffed. Some lids couldn't close. Maratta said the issue isn't new to the neighborhood.

"It's been the last six to eight months that there's been a real problem in that it's hit or miss whether they pick it up or not," he said.

The city's Environmental Services department blames a manpower shortage that's thrown off collection schedules from Red Hill to Hawaii Kai.

The city needs to hire 13 refuse collection equipment operators, six alone for Honolulu routes that include Kalaniiki. The city expects to be adequately staffed in January….

read … Nobody Wants to be a UPW Member

Atheists Use Threat of Muslims to Remove ‘Crusader’ from Ft Shafter

AT: A sign outside an Army training center at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, that featured a knight with crosses on his breastplate and shield was taken down Monday afternoon, hours after the head of a religious-freedom atheist advocacy group called for the image’s removal.

The image represented the “Fighting Knights” of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 8th Special Troops Battalion. Members of the unit recently transformed an unused motor pool area into a warrior training center, 8th Theater Sustainment Command spokeswoman Sgt. 1st Class Mary Ferguson told Army Times. A news release detailing the offerings of the center went out Friday at Army.mil and other locations and included an image of the sign.

The knight with red crosses is “not an approved logo,” Ferguson said. She said she wasn't sure how long the sign had been up or who approved the design, noting that the center had opened recently. A photo of the sign hosted by the U.S. Pacific Command website is dated Oct. 23….

read … Atheist Trick

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