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Sunday, August 22, 2021
August 22, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:47 PM :: 3420 Views

Trustee: Criminal Al Hee Rakes in $15M While on Parole

Have We Unwittingly Put the Brakes on HART?

"One step forward, two steps back"

COVID Spying: Saiki, Green Want 'Health Pass' to Enter Stores

Feds: Navatek COVID Fraud case is first of many investigations in Hawaii

SA: … It will be many years before government officials know the extent of federal pandemic aid improperly obtained by businesses in Hawaii ….

(Hint: Buy Hunter Biden original artwork as a hedge against future prosecution.)

So far, only one local pandemic business aid enforcement action has come to light — a case publicized by federal law enforcement officials nearly a year ago involving Martin Kao, the owner and then-chief executive of the defense industry research and development firm long known as Navatek.

Yet many more are expected across the country and possibly in Hawaii.

Earlier this year, the SBA’s independent integrity regulator reported identifying nearly 55,000 PPP loans totaling roughly $7 billion made to potentially ineligible businesses.

Hannibal “Mike” Ware, head of the Office of Inspector General, told Congress … combating such fraud will be a priority for “many years” with thousands of expected investigations stemming in part from over 150,000 hotline complaints.

To date, Kao’s case has been among the biggest of about 85 cases publicized by the U.S. Department of Justice….

Over two PPP rounds last year and this year, about 45,000 loans totaling $3.8 billion were made to Hawaii businesses….

Hawaii’s four largest banks shared varying degrees of information about PPP loans they made.

Central Pacific Bank said 70% of its PPP loans to date have been forgiven, 1% have been audited by SBA and less than 1% were denied forgiveness. CPB, which made the only local loan to Navatek, also said its loan volume involving uncovered borrower abuse amounted to 0.008%.

Bank of Hawaii said none of its PPP borrowers have been deemed ineligible, though it made one loan that SBA canceled due to the borrower applying elsewhere. The bank was not involved in any Navatek loans.

First Hawaiian Bank … & American Savings Bank declined to share any information on PPP loan status….

(Translation: Central Pacific is the place to go for free money!)

Improper loans could involve fraud as well as loan recipients being deemed ineligible after they applied under “interim” rules that were superseded by numerous SBA guidance updates.

Companies with publicly traded stock and nonprofit social clubs that benefit private members are in the latter category that still appears muddled.

For instance, Maui Land & Pineapple Co. last year returned a $246,500 PPP loan after federal officials provided guidance that the program wasn’t intended to benefit businesses that can raise capital in the stock market.

Yet another Hawaii publicly traded firm, Cyanotech Corp., received a $1.4 million PPP loan that was forgiven in December.

Two of the biggest Hawaii PPP loans were made to affiliates of giant companies based in Japan with publicly traded stock.

Resorttrust Hawaii LLC, which owns The Kahala Hotel & Resort, received an $8.4 million loan. The company is a subsidiary of Resorttrust Inc., which is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and operates 49 hotels along with membership-based golf courses and medical diagnostic and treatment centers.

Resorttrust Hawaii would not comment on the government’s guidance.

A Hawaii affiliate of another Japan-based public company, Reins International (USA) Co., received an $8.8 million PPP loan. The operator of six local Gyu-Kaku restaurants is part of Japan’s largest yakiniku, or grilled meat, restaurant chain owned by COLOWIDE Co. Ltd., which is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange….

SBA data show that a forgiveness determination hasn’t yet been made for the Resorttrust or Reins loans.

In the area of private social clubs, PPP rules exclude such 501(c)(7) nonprofits from eligibility. Still, lenders approved PPP loans for at least three such clubs locally: Hilo Yacht Club, Lahaina Yacht Club and Mid-Pacific Country Club.

Mid-Pac returned a $830,000 loan it received, according to SBA data.

Lahaina Yacht Club had its roughly $171,000 loan forgiven in April.

Hilo Yacht Club received a $253,283 loan…club officials acknowledge the club wasn’t eligible for PPP but believe there isn’t much of a downside to pursuing forgiveness….

PPP was the biggest SBA pandemic aid program, though two others also gave businesses up to $10 million.

One, a $28 billion grant program called the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, distributed $414 million to 1,145 Hawaii restaurants….

The other targeted industry initiative is the $16 billion Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program that is still awarding grants to independent entertainment industry businesses….

SBA’s plan includes auditing every $10 million grant, which would include one for the Polynesian Cultural Center and one for local concert production firm Dream Weekend LLP….

“This is not like free money where you’re running off”, Mack said.  Recently, Mack was in Miami trying to arrange (insert excuse here) ....

(Hint: Brazil--no extradition treaty. $10M will go far there.)

read … Hawaii paycheck protection fraud case is a glimpse of widespread abuse

Speaker Saiki Will Run for Reelection, not Lt Gov

Borreca: …The Chamber reports support from Lt. Gov Josh Green, county mayors and House Speaker Scott Saiki — but is asking for a unified, consistent message from Ige.

In an interview last week, Saiki said that “the governor gets it and we need to avoid another statewide shutdown.”

The two-term Democratic speaker said he has decided to not run for lieutenant governor as had been speculated, and will run for reelection. As for Ige, Saiki said the public is looking for the governor to be “decisive and firm.”

“I think the governor understands the issues, he understands the underlying data; he just needs to make a decision,” Saiki said.

Adding to that, Saiki said Ige is hampered by poor support. Although Ige is now closing out a second four-year term, he suffers from a lack of a capable staff, saying “the team needs to improve.”

“The governor can’t do everything,” Saiki said. “His team needs to arm the governor with the information and analysis he needs to be able to make decisions, that is absolute.”

When asked if the problem is with Ige not demanding more from a staff failing to provide relevant information, Saiki summed up the dilemma: “When the Governor’s Office is constantly searching for an answer, you know there is a disconnect.”…

read … On Politics: Gov. David Ige’s handling of COVID-19 hobbled by indecision, inadequate staffers

10 Lessons We Should Have Learned From The Pandemic

Cataluna: … There is no cure for stupid. People who cling to bad information, nonsensical explanations, conspiracy theories and a gleeful disdain for science cannot be taught, convinced, cajoled or enlightened. Step aside and keep moving forward. They’re on their own….

(Clue: Antivaxxers are an argument for COVID spying health passes.  Hence the focus on antivaxxers.)

read … Cataluna: 10 Lessons We Should Have Learned From The Pandemic

Mask, vaccine conflicts descend into anti-Semitism, violence and harassment

AP: … The Hawaii lieutenant governor watched in horror as protesters showed up outside his condo, yelled at him through bullhorns and beamed strobe lights into the building to harass him over vaccine requirements….

Since Hawaii announced a mandate earlier this month that state and county workers would have to show proof of vaccination or face weekly tests, 50 to 100 unmasked vaccine opponents have gathered almost nightly outside the downtown Honolulu condominium building where Lt. Gov. Josh Green lives with his wife and two children, ages 14 and 10.

Some yell into bullhorns and shine strobe lights into apartment units, Green said. Flyers with his photo and the words “Jew” and “fraud” have been plastered around the neighborhood. Green, who is Jewish, has been tearing them down and turning them over to the state attorney general’s office.

He understands the right to protest, but not why demonstrators subject bystanders to such rage.

“They should protest me at my place of work, where I’m the lieutenant governor,” Green said. “But it’s different than flashing a strobe light into a 90-year-old woman’s apartment or a strobe light into a family’s apartment, where they have two kids under age 4.”

Ironically, Green wasn’t home during a recent intense weekend of protests. He was on the Big Island working on his other job as an emergency room doctor and treating mostly COVID-19 patients during a record surge in coronavirus hospitalizations in the state.

“I will personally be taking care of these individuals in the hospital as their doctor when they get sick from refusing to wear masks and refusing to be vaccinated,” he said….

read … Mask, vaccine conflicts descend into violence and harassment

New rules await approval: Big Island Mayor seeks OK for more stringent COVID-19 restrictions

HTH: … The strain on the island’s hospitals is the impetus for the new or reinstated restrictions outlined in Emergency Rule 17. The measure has been sent to Gov. David Ige for approval, which Roth expects to come this week….

Among other provisions, the new order would close county parks and recreational facilities, including beach and shoreline parks.

The rule, however, still permits people to traverse the county’s beach parks on foot between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily to access the ocean for exercise, fishing or food gathering, and to use restroom and shower facilities….

read … New rules await approval: Mayor seeks OK for more stringent COVID-19 restrictions

Hawaii hotel occupancy 82.4% -- nears Pre-Pandemic Record

SA: … Occupancy at Hawaii hotels in July came close to peak 2019 levels, while other leading indicators rose well above July 2019 results.

Travel demand from domestic markets in July exceeded pre-pandemic levels; however, it did not completely offset the loss of international and group business for the hotel properties that depend on those markets.

Tennessee-based STR reported Wednesday that statewide July occupancy hit 82.4%. The results were 2.8 percentage points below June 2019 when the pre-­pandemic occupancy was 85.2%….

Sean Dee, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for Outrigger Hospitality Group, said the overall visitor trend in July was consistent with the expectation of strong demand from the U.S. mainland driven by increases in flights and seats from the majority of airlines that service the islands, including many new routes.

“This was positive news for the neighbor islands, but Oahu is still hampered by the complete lack of international visitors, which usually comprise nearly 50% of traffic and over 50% of tourism revenue generated for this island economy,” Dee said. “This resulted in lower occupancy and RevPAR for Waikiki hotels than 2019.”…

Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association, said fear of traveling during the latest surge also could adversely affect Hawaii tourism.

“We are headed toward some kind of a slowdown. The 85% occupancy rate probably won’t hold into September and October,” he said.

Dee said travel sentiment is declining week over week as the delta variant surges across the mainland. That coupled with kids going back to school has Outrigger forecasting a softer third quarter than in 2019….

read … Strong July gains at Hawaii hotels won’t keep if COVID-19 spread continues

Hu Honua: Potential Impacts Hidden From Big Island Residents

IM: … HELCO signed a Power Purchase Agreement with Hu Honua and submitted it to the Public Utilities Commission in 2012.

"Hu Honua has developed a confidential Fuel Report dated February 2012, presented in Exhibit 5 under protective cover, which describes Hu Honua's plan to acquire and sustain its estimated biomass fuel requirement.

"Hu Honua considers the Fuel Report to be confidential because it identifies the specific biomass fuel sites, estimated annual yields, potential contract terms, and preliminary cost estimates.

"Hu Honua plans to contract with multiple biomass fuel suppliers to achieve competitive pricing, diversity, and reliability of fuel supply with multiple sources."

Life of the Land filed a motion to intervene on September 7, 2012.

“We have a right to ask about fuel sources. The utility has an obligation to disclose the fuel source information. In the meantime, we are left with confusing accounts of what might be used, but not where it will come from.”

Fast forward nine years.

Hu Honua will acquire the wood from sister company CN Renewable Resources.

Hu Honua gave a copy of the latest fuel report to Life of the Land under a confidentiality shield on July 26, 2021.

Life of the Land now knows where the wood is coming from, but can`t speak to on-the-ground experts who might know about local conditions at the sites: endangered and threatened birds, bats, plants, cultural sites, burial sites, etc., because the sites are confidential.

Hu Honua will not disclose the sites publicly because (insert excuses here) ….

read … Potential Impacts Hidden From Big Island Residents

Honolulu police shooting case should point way to more openness

Shapiro:  …  after being endorsed by the police union last election, Alm will almost surely face a SHOPO-backed challenger if he runs for reelection. ….

It was actually refreshing to see all of the evidence presented in a public courtroom so everybody could see what happened and make up their own minds whether it was right….

Until Alm set a policy of the prosecutor’s office conducting its own investigations of shootings involving police, they were done by the police themselves in almost complete secrecy.

Honolulu has a weak Police Commission that historically shuns looking into these cases.

For three years Gov. David Ige refused to fund the Law Enforcement Standards Board created by the Legislature to assure police are trained in best practices when they face difficult situations like the Sykap standoff.

It’s not healthy when the only options for looking into these life-and-death cases is either to shroud them in secrecy or have a criminal prosecution, with no avenue for transparent review in between.

Alm will have a chance to begin closure in the case when he holds a news conference tomorrow to answer questions about his actions….

(CLUE: The public supports police shootings because they have no reasonable hope that criminals will be otherwise stopped.  Soft on crime policies lead to police shootings..) 

read … Honolulu police shooting case should point way to more openness

Hawaii’s terminally ill challenged by limited access, lack of participating doctors while seeking medical aid in dying

SA: … Two years after Hawaii’s medical-aid-­in-dying law went into effect, it’s still a challenge for many terminally ill patients to find physicians willing to help, according to health officials, and a significant number don’t survive the mandatory 20-day waiting period, the longest of any state with similar laws.

Thirty-seven patients received aid-in-dying prescriptions in Hawaii during the 2020 calendar year, seven more than in 2019, when the Our Care, Our Choice Act became law, according to the state Department of Health.

Twenty-five of those patients self-administered the prescribed lethal medication, while eight others who qualified for prescriptions died from other causes, according to the department’s latest annual report to the Legislature on OCOCA. The status of four other patients was unknown….

(Translation: They admit losing track of 11% of suicide patients)

The report also notes that only 14 attending physicians statewide participated in such cases last year, including just one on Hawaii island, two on Maui and none on Kauai.

(They must have a lot of time on their hands.  Send them to work in a COVID ward.)

read … Hawaii’s terminally ill challenged by limited access, lack of participating doctors while seeking medical aid in dying

Hawaiian Airlines activated by Pentagon to assist with Afghanistan evacuation mission

SA: … Two Hawaiian Airlines aircraft are among 18 being activated by the Defense Department as part of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet to help with evacuations from Kabul airport in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced today.

Civil Reserve activation provides the U.S. military “access to commercial air mobility resources to augment our support to the Department of State in the evacuation of U.S. citizens and personnel, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan,” the Defense Department said in a release.

The activation is for 18 aircraft: three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Airlines; and four from United Airlines….

read … Hawaiian Airlines activated by Pentagon to assist with Afghanistan evacuation mission

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