Big Island Police Investigating South Point Drowning

Big Island police are investigating a possible drowning at South Point on Tuesday afternoon (December 20).

The victim has been identified as 49-year-old Gordon Kimo Lopes of Ocean View.

Kaʻū patrol officers responded to the reported drowning at 7:15 p.m. A 47-year-old Ocean View man reported that he had been on shore while his friend was scuba diving for fish fronting the lighthouse at South Point. The scuba diver entered the water around 6:45 p.m. About a half-hour later, his friend heard him yelling for help and called 911.

When police and firefighters arrived, they were unable to locate the victim. Because of rough seas, firefighters could not enter the water. A rescue boat from Keauhou arrived around 11 p.m. and firefighters used it to locate and retrieve the victim’s body. Lopes was was taken to Kona Community Hospital, where he was officially pronounced dead at 2:59 a.m. Wednesday (December 21).

Police are investigating this case as a public accident.

JetLev Now Available for Rent in Hawaii – Water Propelled Jetpacks

The Jetlev has made it’s Hawaii appearance and is now available for rentals!

The Jetlev is a patented watersports vessel that allows you to safely and easily fly up to 30 feet in the air, harnessing the power of controlled water pressure. The Jetlev pod unit pumps water from the ocean, pushes it up the 33 foot hose into the backpack, where it is directed downward from the control nozzles, propelling the pilot smoothly up into the air.

You can check out their website at: Jet Lev Hawaii

Volcano Man Convicted of Attempting to Defraud the United States, Commit Wire Fraud & Blackmail, Plus Witness Tampering

A federal jury in San Jose on Tuesday convicted a Hawaiian businessman of fraud in a tax return scam that involved a South Bay office, federal authorities said Wednesday.

Eric Aaron Lighter, 61, was found guilty of 17 total counts, including conspiracies to defraud the United States, commit wire fraud and blackmail, plus witness tampering.

Lighter’s National Trust Services in Volcano, Hawaii, marketed and sold “abusive trust packages” and understated his clients’ federal income tax liabilities starting in the 1990s before he was indicted in March 2009, federal prosecutors said.

His co-conspirator, Samuel Fung, was a return preparer who maintained an office in San Jose and referred clients, including some in the Bay Area, to Lighter…

More Here: South Bay Jury Convicts Hawaiian in Tax Scam

Hawaiian Telcom to Implement New Union Employment Terms Beginning Jan. 1; Union Legal Challenge Anticipated

Hawaiian Telcom Holdco, Inc. (NASDAQ: HCOM) has notified employees and IBEW Local Union 1357 leadership that with negotiations having reached an impasse, beginning on January 1, 2012, the Company will implement modified terms of employment consistent with the offers previously proposed to the Union.  The Company must implement the changes at this time in order for modified benefit provisions to apply throughout the 2012 calendar year.  Union leadership has advised the Company to anticipate a legal challenge of the Company’s bargaining process.

Since the results of the Union’s recent vote rejecting the Company’s updated collective bargaining agreement (CBA) offer were announced on Dec. 13, discussions continued and a pact to refrain from any strike or lockout through Jan. 6 was reached.  With mutual agreement and ratification of new CBA terms not achievable at this time, both sides recognize a need to move forward and work responsibly, while “agreeing to disagree” on certain collective bargaining issues and seeking to resolve differences through other means.

While most of the Company’s modified employment terms are scheduled to be in effect as of Jan. 1, the 1% wage increase is being applied as of Dec. 18 and changes to union retirement benefits (i.e., pension plan freeze and enhanced 401(k) match) will occur on March 1, 2012 for legal compliance and administrative reasons.  As there was no ratification, the ratification bonus that had been offered will not be paid.  Union employees will begin paying 5% of the premiums for their chosen healthcare coverage in 2012.

Hawaiian Telcom has informed employees that while ratification would have been preferred over implementation as described above, the Company must proceed forward with implementation of the new terms in order to achieve success into the future.

Forward-Looking Statements
In addition to historical information, this release includes certain statements and predictions that constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. In particular, any statement, projection or estimate that includes or references the words “believes”, “anticipates”, “intends”, “expects”, or any similar expression falls within the safe harbor of forward-looking statements contained in the Reform Act. Actual results or outcomes may differ materially from those indicated or suggested by any such forward-looking statement for a variety of reasons. More information on potential risks and uncertainties is available in recent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including Hawaiian Telcom’s 2010 Annual Report on Form 10-K and its Form 10-Q filed November 14, 2011. The information contained in this release is as of December 21, 2011. It is anticipated that subsequent events and developments may cause estimates to change.

The Hawaii County Redistricting Process… Was There Gerrymandering? The Minutes From the Last Commission Meeting

Gerrymandering:

In the process of setting electoral districts, gerrymandering is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create partisan, incumbent-protected districts. The resulting district is known as a gerrymander (play /ˈɛriˌmændər/); however, that word can also refer to the process.

Gerrymandering may be used to achieve desired electoral results for a particular party, or may be used to help or hinder a particular demographic, such as a political, racial, linguistic, religious or class group.

When used to allege that a given party is gaining disproportionate power, the term gerrymandering has negative connotations. However, a gerrymander may also be used for purposes that some perceive as positive, such as in US federal voting district boundaries that produce a majority of constituents representative of African-American or other racial minorities (these are thus called “minority-majority districts“).

Many folks have been wondering if there was any gerrymandering going on during the Hawaii County Redistricting process.  On Wednesday, December 16th a special meeting was called to order to address this situation.

The following is the minutes from the meeting:

2011

HAWAI‘I COUNTY

REDISTRICTING COMMISSION

13th Session

Wednesday, December 16, 2011

County Council Chambers

25 Aupuni Street

Hilo, Hawai‘i 96720

 CALL TO ORDER:

CHR. SIRACUSA:  It is 1:35 p.m., so I am going to call this meeting to order.  This is the 13th session of the Hawai‘i County Redistricting Commission,and this is a Special Meeting.  Do we have anyone in Kona or Waimea; or are we all here?  We are all here.

ATTENDANCE:

Present:  Mr. Joseph Carvalho, Commissioner, Mr. Patrick Kahawaiola’a, Commissioner, Mr. Craig “Bo” Kahui, Commissioner, Mr. Dru Mamo Kanuha, Commissioner, Mr. Jeffrey Melrose, Commissioner, Mr. Mike Middlesworth, Commissioner, Ms. René Siracusa, Chair, Ms. Valerie Poindexter, Commissioner, Ms. Linda Ugalde, Commissioner

Also Present:  Michael Udovic, Deputy Corporation Counsel, Joseph Kamelamela, Deputy Corporation Counseln Charmaine Shigimura, Executive Assistant to Mayor Kenoi, Jamae K. K. Kawauchi, County Clerk, Steve “Kawena” Lopez, Deputy County Clerk, Cori Saiki, Elections Staff, Shyla Ayau, Elections Staff, Nora Avenue, Committees Section Staff, Maile David, Legislative Specialist, Manu Hanano, Council Aide in Waimea, Barbara Lively, Legislative Assistant, Pahoa, Leslie “Lali” Robinson, Deputy Executive Assistant in Kona, Karen Eoff, Secretary

CHR. SIRACUSA:  Okay, we are all present and accounted for.  We have no guests, is that correct?

MR. KANUHA:  Madam Chair, before we continue, I would like to make a motion to go into Executive Session to talk about what we are actually here for, with our attorney.

Mr. Kanuha moved to go into Executive Session to discuss with Corporation Counsel, the purpose of the Special Meeting. Seconded by Ms. Poindexter.

CHR. SIRACUSA:  Is there any discussion?  I believe we need a two-thirds vote.

MR. MELROSE:  I just want to suggest, that we really don’t know why; and I think that more for the community’s perspective, I want to get into a conversation that we understand where it’s going.  The reason why we are here is not all that clear to me from a special purpose perspective.  So, I think it’s a good idea to have a conversation, because we haven’t had a chance to—What is the authority for calling it, and all of those kinds of questions.  It would be helpful, useful to me, before we get to the Order of Business.

MS. POINDEXTER:  I agree; I totally agree.  We are just blindsided here.  I feel blindsided by this.

CHR. SIRACUSA:  I think we definitely need to have a conversation.  But I am wondering if it would be a good idea to have it in Executive Session; as opposed to everything else we have done so far has been totally out in the open.  And I think the minute we start going into Executive Session, people are going to start getting suspicious.

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Navy Missile Destroyer Captures Pirates of South Yemen

Guided-missile destroyer USS Pinckney (DDG 91), assigned to Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, disrupted a group of suspected pirates close to the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC), south of Yemen, Dec. 19.

GULF OF ADEN (Dec. 19, 2011) A visit, board, search and seizure team from the guided missile destroyer USS Pinckney (DDG 91) approaches a suspected pirate vessel after the Motor Vessel Nordic Apollo reported being under attack and fired upon by pirates. Pinckney is assigned to Combined Task Force 151, a multinational, mission-based task force working under Combined Maritime Forces to conduct counter-piracy operations in the Southern Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Somali Basin, Arabian Sea, and Indian Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The Merchant Shipping Industry Best Management Practices, Version 4 (BMPv4) encourages merchant vessels to register with the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organization (UKMTO) while transiting areas known to be high risk for piracy.

At approximately 8:40 a.m., the Motor Vessel (M/V) Nordic Apollo reported to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organization (UKMTO) they were under attack and been fired upon by pirates from a skiff.

Having registered their route with UKMTO in accordance with BMPv4, Nordic Apollo’s position was relayed to counter-piracy forces operating in the region.

At approximately 11:00 a.m., the M/V Heather, operating 30 nautical miles from Nordic Apollo, reported suspicious activity by a skiff.

Pakistan Navy Rear Adm. Kaleem Shaukat, CTF 151′s commander, authorized Pinckney to investigate.

Nordic Apollo confirmed the pirate attack, but stated they no longer had sight of the skiff. In response to the distress call, Pinckney made best speed to the area, issued a radio warning to other vessels in the vicinity, and launched its MH-60R helicopter.

The helicopter crew successfully tracked and located the skiff, observing nine suspected pirates and pirate paraphernalia on board, including several ladders, weapons and fuel containers. The suspected pirates were seen attempting to cover their weapons with blankets and throwing the ladders overboard as Pinckney closed their position.

Intercepted by the helicopter and Pinckney, the skiff stopped and the suspected pirates threw their weapons, identified as five AK-47 rifles, one rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launcher and three RPG rounds, overboard.

Pinckney was given authorization to conduct a boarding using their visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team and once aboard, the VBSS team confirmed there were nine suspected pirates, one grappling hook, 36 barrels of fuel, and 75 and 45 horsepower outboard engines. The VBSS team scuttled one outboard motor and left the skiff with enough fuel and water to return back to shore.

Cmdr. Matthew M. McGonigle, Pinckney’s commanding officer, praised the crew for their efforts.

“My crew responded in an exceptional reaction time and with complete professionalism. With the helicopter in the air, acting in conjunction with the ship, we were able to have full coverage of the situation and stop them carrying out any further illegal activities.

“The operation was carried out in accordance with our pre-rehearsed responses to such an event, and I am very proud of the Pinckney’s crew and all those involved.”

Piracy is a threat to the security of all nations and requires an international solution. The presence of coalition navy vessels in the region demonstrates a commitment to regional security and stability. To continue to counter and deter piracy successfully, coalition efforts must be complimented by proactive measures by commercial shippers, regional governments, and the international community.

Pinckney, homeported in San Diego, is assigned to Combined Task Force 151, a multi-national, mission-based task force working under Combined Maritime Forces, to conduct counter-piracy operations in the Southern Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Somali Basin, Arabian Sea, and Indian Ocean.

Wordless Wednesday – “K” Bay and The Hilton Waikoloa Resort

On Tuesday of last week, my old friend from high school visited the Big Island with his girlfriend and we rented a boat from Kona Boat Rentals.

We then rode down the Kona Coastline to Kealakekua Bay where we kicked back and talked story for a while.

I showed my friends the Captain Cook Monument and one of them went snorkeling for a short bit of time.

After our half day boat rental… I then checked into the Hilton Waikoloa Resort for a couple of days of rest and relaxation!

I had a great room in the Lagoon Tower overlooking the main pool and the Dolphin lagoon.

It was a very relaxing few days and I spent much of the time soaking my body in the hot tubs!

I guess in a sense… this was my Christmas present to myself from a few of my sponsors!

The weather at the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort is almost always gorgeous despite what might be happening on other parts of the Big Island and it was good to come over for a few days and thaw out!