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PACOM Commander Confirms North Korea’s Threat to Hawaii

In a House Armed Services Committee hearing today, Admiral Harry Harris, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), confirmed the threat of North Korea to Hawaiʻi and detailed potential vulnerabilities that exist within current U.S. missile defense capabilities that could put Hawaiʻi at risk.

Admiral Harry Harris

Asked by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard about the threat of North Korea to Hawaiʻi specifically, Admiral Harris stated, “Kim Jong-un is clearly in a position to threaten Hawai’i today…Our ballistic missile architecture is sufficient to protect Hawaiʻi today, but it can be overwhelmed. If Kim Jong-un or someone else launched ballistic missiles—ICBMs—against the United States, we would have to make the decision on which ones to take out or not.”

Following the hearing Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said:
“Hawaiʻi is home to the largest concentration of U.S. military strategic assets for well over 3,000 miles, making it a prime target for North Korea’s aggression. As I travelled across Hawai’i during my recent state-wide town hall tour, I heard from my constituents on every island their concern about the threat posed by North Korea’s increased nuclear and ballistic missile activity and capabilities that place Hawaiʻi squarely within North Korea’s crosshairs. It is the people of Hawaiʻi and our way of life that are at risk if North Korea’s missiles turn towards our shores. Admiral Harris’ testimony today affirmed the seriousness of this threat, and highlighted the need to strengthen our current missile defense infrastructure to ensure the defense of Hawai’i. I’m continuing this urgent push to strengthen the protection of Hawaiʻi against the threat that exists today, and the complex threat we know will emerge in the future. I urge my colleagues to take this threat seriously and provide the resources and tools necessary to defend Hawaiʻi against this threat.”

Background: Missile defense has been one of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s top priorities throughout her time in Congress. Last year, she passed two amendments in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)—one to provide funding to begin the process of bringing an MRDR to Hawaiʻi, and the other to require the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to brief Congress on their short-term plan to enhance missile defense capabilities in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific—and also questioned then SECDEF Carter and Chairman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the need to increase Hawaiʻi’s missile defense. She has had ongoing conversations and meetings with the Missile Defense Agency Director, Vice Admiral James Syring, to discuss possible options for the defense of Hawaiʻi, to deal with short term and long term needs. This includes quickly deployable options that are available to further strengthen the existing defensive assets within the state.

Hokulea and Hikianalia Return to Taputapuatea for Ancient Voyaging Ritual and Ceremony

Traditional Polynesian voyaging canoes Hokulea and Hikianalia were welcomed by local dignitaries, spiritual elders and community members at Taputapuatea. The marae, or the focal meeting ground, is located on the southeastern coast of Raiatea in French Polynesia. The purpose of the stop was to honor the ancient tradition of Hawaii’s Polynesian ancestors who would go to Taputapuatea, the spiritual center for voyagers of the Pacific, to ceremonially launch and close their voyages of discovery. After sailing about 100 miles from Papeete, Tahiti, the canoes arrived at Taputapuatea yesterday morning following the historic protocol of entering via the sacred pass of Teava Moa.

The ceremony began with pwo navigator Nainoa Thompson and captain Billy Richards returning two sacred stones to the marae that were given to the crew when the canoes last visited Taputapuatea in 2014 to launch the Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage. The return of the two stones signified that the Hokulea and Hikianalia crews fulfilled their responsibility to sail around the world and deepened the connection between Hawaii and its navigational roots in Taputapuatea.

“These stones carried the spirits of all of our ancestors and the direct descendants of all of our families as we sailed around the world,” said Thompson. “Today we brought the stones home to Taputapuatea and were granted permission from by our ancestral family to return home. It’s the last permission based on the fulfillment of many promises we made,” he added.

In addition to the spiritual elders of Taputapuatea, the crew was greeted by French Polynesia president Edouard Fritch, the Taputapuatea mayor Thomas Moutame, and the country’s minister of culture Heremoana Maamaatuaiahutapu. The day-long ceremony featured the ancient rituals conducted to ceremonially complete a voyage, traditional chants and dance by the Taputapuatea community and students from Kamehameha Schools and Milolii Charter School.

In honor of this ceremonial milestone, crewmembers from Hokulea’s first voyage to French Polynesia in 1976 joined this leg from Tahiti to Raiatea, including Gordon Piianaia, Billy Richards, Snake Ah Hee, Kainoa Lee and John Kruse. Zane Aikau, nephew of 1978 crewmember Eddie Aikau, also participated on the leg on behalf of the Aikau family and 1976 crewmember Buffalo Keaulana who was unable to join the sail.  Special guests who also participated on the overnight sail included Hawaiian Airlines CEO Mark Dunkerley, University of Hawaii president David Lassner, and Hawaii State Department of Education superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.

Once considered the religious and cultural center of Polynesia, Taputapuatea is the location of an ancient marae that was once considered the central temple and religious center of Eastern Polynesia. Established around 1000 AD, the marae was a place of learning where priests and navigators from all over the Pacific would gather to offer sacrifices to the gods and share their knowledge of the genealogical origins of the universe, and of deep ocean navigation.

Most significantly, a truce known as the Faatau Aroha was established with the surrounding islands to form an alliance that lasted for many years and perpetuated the growth of voyaging and exploration leading to the discovery and colonization of all the islands of Eastern Polynesia, including Hawaii, Rapa Nui and Aotearoa (New Zealand).  New marae were established on each of these islands with a rock being taken from Taputapuatea so that Raiatea served as a spiritual link. However, the Faatau Aroha was broken due to a conflict between two leaders of the alliance that resulted to open warfare and an end to large-scale interisland voyaging.

The archaeological remains of Marae Taputapuatea were restored in 1994 and efforts to preserve the site continues. Association Na Papa E Vau Raiatea is working towards having Marae Taputapuatea designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site and continuing work to revive connections between communities of the Polynesian triangle and throughout the Pacific region.

Hokulea and Hikianalia are scheduled to depart Taputapuatea today and will return to Papeete, Tahiti where the crews will prepare the canoes for the voyage back to Hawaii. The canoes will depart French Polynesia in mid-May and will arrive at Magic Island on Oahu for a homecoming celebration on Saturday, June 17.

Community Based Palliative Care Program Hosts Free Talk

Kupu Care, a Community Based Palliative Care program offered exclusively in East Hawai‘i by Hospice of Hilo, is inviting the public to join them in their free community talk titled, “Why Does Everyone Need an Advance Health Care Directive” on Wednesday May 3rd , from 5:00pm-6:00pm at the organization’s Community Building located at 1011 Waiānuenue Avenue, Hilo.

Kupu Care Patient, Robert Gomes with Wife Phoebe, receiving a health check from Kupu Care Nurse, Julia Lindbergh.

The session will be presented by Kupu Care’s Clinical Relations Manager, Lani Weigert.  “This program focuses on bringing relief from symptoms caused by treatments for those suffering from serious illness.  Kupu Care currently focuses on providing support and relief to both the patient and their caregivers who are dealing with Advanced Congestive Heart Failure or Cancer,” explains Weigert.

This month’s talk will focus on Advance Health Care Directives.  Developed as a result of widespread concerns over patients undergoing medical treatments and procedures in an effort to preserve life at any cost, from a practical standpoint, medical directives and living wills facilitate a person’s medical care and decision making in situations when they are temporarily or permanently unable make decisions or verbalize their decisions. By having previously documented personal wishes and preferences, the family’s and physicians’ immense decision-making burden is lightened. At the same time, patient autonomy and dignity are preserved by tailoring medical care based on one’s own choices regardless of mental or physical capacity.

“Medical technology makes it possible for patients with little or no hope of recovery to be kept alive for months or even years. This makes it important to discuss what kind of care you want before serious illness occurs.” Said Weigert.  “For those who don’t have an Advance Health Care Directive, we will discuss how that process is done, and why it’s so important to have one.  We will explore ideas and beliefs that affect our end of life decisions, who should be involved and the type of medical care you do or don’t want.”

Those interested in attending the talk are asked to RSVP no later than Tuesday, May 2nd by contacting Lani Weigert at (808) 934-2913 or online at www.kupucare.org (events).

Nissan $10,000 Rebate on New LEAF Sedan Extended for Hawaiian Electric Companies’ Customers

Nissan North America’s offer of a $10,000 rebate on the all-electric LEAF® sedan has been extended through June 30, 2017 for Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light Companies’ customers.

Customers should take their electric utility bill and the promotional flyer available at hawaiianelectric.com/nissanleaf to any participating Nissan dealer on Oahu, Maui or Hawaii Island to receive $10,000 off the sticker price of a new 2017 LEAF S, SV, or SL, while supplies last. With potential federal tax incentives, savings could total $17,500.

The Hawaiian Electric Companies are leaders in the effort to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles in Hawaii to help customers save money, to put abundant and less-expensive solar resources to work and to move the state toward its clean energy goals.

The rebate is funded by Nissan, not the utilities. To find a participating Hawaii Nissan dealer, go to nissanusa.com/nissandealers/location/hawaii. The 107-mile range 2017 LEAF, which needs no gasoline, no oil changes and very little maintenance, has a starting price of $30,680.

Japan Tsunami Gift Fund Supported Removal and Detection – How Was Hawaii’s $250,000 Spent?

After the devastating tsunami generated by the 9.0 earthquake that struck the coastal areas of Japan’s Tōhoku Region on March 11, 2011, the Japanese Ministry of the Environment estimated that 1.5 million tons of floating debris had been swept into the ocean. This unprecedented single pulse of marine debris drifted offshore and was eventually swept out to sea by oceanic currents to enter circulation in the North Pacific Ocean. This debris impacted western shores of the continental U.S., Canada, as well as Hawaii.

In 2013, the State of Hawaii received a portion of a $5 million diplomatic monetary gift offered to the United States by the Government of Japan. The gift was intended to help the affected U.S. states address Japan tsunami marine debris or “JTMD”. An initial distribution of $250,000 was made to each of the affected states: Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaii. In Hawaii, the Department of Health (DOH) represented the State in a Memorandum of Agreement with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which had been designated as administrator of the JTMD Gift Fund. The Department of Land and Natural Resources was designated as the expending agency, so in November 2013 the funds were transferred from DOH to DLNR and subsequently used to support projects in three general areas:  removal, aquatic invasive species monitoring, and detection.

REMOVAL PROJECTS:  $91,712.66

DLNR staff routinely removes and disposes of marine debris.  When an item exceeds in-house capabilities, contracted services by qualified commercial entities are procured.

  • Contract for services: Removal & disposal of the side of a shipping container on Kauai  $3,875.51
  • Landfill fee for disposal of damaged JTMD vessel on Oahu $219.90
  • Contract for services: Removal of damaged JTMD vessel on Kauai $8,000.00
  • Contract for services: Removal & disposal of 20-ft diameter mooring buoy on Hawaii Island  $28,500.00
  • Purchase of a utility task vehicle for transporting heavy items out of areas inaccessible to larger vehicles and that would otherwise require access on foot    $12,321.79
  • Small equipment for removal of a JTMD boat by sea from a Maui beach site inaccessible to truck and trailer required for street transport  $1,438.22
  • Marine Debris Cleanup Project for a beach at Kanapou, Kahoolawe that included transporting staff and volunteers by boat, camping for four days, transporting the collected marine debris by helicopter to Maui for final disposal at the landfill, and bringing communications staff to Maui to document the activity  $24,716.12
  • Reimbursement for staff time for various JTMD removal activities during 2013-2015   $12,641.12

 AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES MONITORING PROJECTS:  $44,902.05

Marine debris can carry alien species hitchhikers attached to the debris and travel great distances via oceanic currents and wind. If successful at colonizing in new locations, some species have the potential to become invasive and disrupt local marine ecosystems. Researchers have identified over 70 non-native species associated with JTMD landing on Hawai‘i shorelines.  In response to the concern of establishment of non-native species via JTMD, monitoring was conducted to investigate JTMD biofouling species in 2015.  The first deployed a small team of biologists to do visual in-water surveys of nine landing sites on Kauai that were previously known to have been exposed to JTMD-transported alien species. The second project utilized advanced techniques in collaboration with other scientists monitoring JTMD landing sites in California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

  • AIS Monitoring Project on Kauai        $3,345.87
  • AIS Monitoring Project on Oahu         $41,556.18

DETECTION PROJECTS:  $69,165.46

DLNR conducted the first state-wide shoreline marine debris survey to census the number and type of marine debris and identify debris accumulation sites.  Aerial survey techniques and analysis were used to estimate the number and type of marine debris distributed throughout the main Hawaiian Islands In early 2015 DLNR biologists applied for a grant to conduct aerial surveys, and received partial funding ($65,000) from a collaborative international group of researchers, the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (“PICES”).  The JTMD Gift Fund was used to supplement the PICES grant, enabling complete coverage of all shorelines of the main Hawaiian Islands. In the fall of 2015, the high resolution aerial images were successfully collected, the first such effort in the State of Hawai‘i. Analysis of the images followed through a contract with the University of Hawai‘i.

  • Contract for Aerial Survey of Main Hawaiian Islands $37,994.76
  • Aerial Survey Post-Image Processing Contract         $31,170.70

MARINE DEBRIS COORDINATOR:  $44,219.83

Since marine debris response activities are conducted by various DLNR staff with many other duties, a dedicated marine debris coordinator position was created through a seven month contract with the University of Hawaii.  This position contributed support for all of the project areas as well as database management and outreach activities related to JTMD.

After the initial distribution of $250K to each of the five Pacific states, the remainder of the $5 million gift fund was held in reserve for specific subsequent requests. This diplomatic monetary gift was unprecedented in U.S. history. Managing it at national and state levels required adapting existing protocols for accounting and expenditures, and sometimes processing could be a bit challenging. In the end, however, the diplomatic gift helped fill a gap for the previously unfunded liability of marine debris and through the projects it supported, bring more public awareness to this international problem.