Senators Schatz, Whitehouse, Warren and Markey Call Out Climate Denial Materials Sent to Teachers In Hawaii and Across the Country

U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) wrote to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos yesterday to highlight misleading science materials sent by the Heartland Institute, a group with a long record of climate denial, to more than 300,000 public school science teachers in Hawai‘i and across the country.

Heartland’s 11-minute DVD and 135-page book, which are made to look like typical curriculum materials for science teachers, are explicitly designed to call into question the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change. Among other claims, they push teachers to “consider the possibility” that climate science is not settled and “students would be better served by letting them know a vibrant debate is taking place among scientists.”

“The Heartland Institute has disseminated ‘alternative facts’ and fake science at the behest of its industry funders for decades,” the senators wrote. “In the 1990s, it teamed up with Phillip Morris to challenge facts about the health risks of tobacco. The tobacco industry’s conduct was found to be fraudulent. Using the same strategies, with funding from the Koch family foundations, ExxonMobil, and other fossil fuel interests, the Heartland Institute now seeks to undermine the scientific consensus about climate change.”

The senators ask whether DeVos and her staff have had any contact with the Heartland Institute on science education. They also inquire whether the Department is working with Heartland in any capacity. DeVos has a history of donating to industry-funded front groups and just last week applauded President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“It is our sincere hope that neither White House staff nor Department of Education officials have turned to the Heartland Institute on the issues of climate change and climate science, or had any roll in this mailing to educators,” wrote the senators. “At your nomination hearing, you were asked whether you would stand on the side of students or with the political entities trying to force junk science into schools. You responded that you ‘support the teaching of great science and especially science that allows students to exercise critical thinking and to really discover and examine in new ways.’ We agree that ‘great science’ and critical thinking are cornerstones of a high-quality education, but that is not achieved with Heartland’s industry-funded and possibly fraudulent materials.”

Click to read full letter

Hokulea Sights the Hawaiian Islands

At 12:30 p.m. this afternoon, the crew of Hokulea sited the sacred mountain of Haleakala, signifying that the legendary canoe is officially back home after sailing for 37 months, 40,000 nautical miles and visiting more than 150 ports in 19 countries around the world. After spending 400 days at sea and 700 days on foreign soil, Hokulea will be bringing home wisdom, lessons and ideas as gifts to share with Hawaii’s children from this voyage of rich learning.

This tremendous voyaging accomplishment was a fitting way for the crew to celebrate World Oceans Day. One year ago today, Hokulea was in New York at the United Nations to participate in World Oceans Day dialogue about the importance of protecting Island Earth – especially the seas Hokulea has sailed throughout the world these past three years.

“We want thank this crew of Hokulea for sailing with such a high level of excellence and commitment to honoring the tradition of voyaging and ancestral navigation,” said Nainoa Thompson president the Polynesian Voyaging Society. “All of us in the voyaging community are extremely proud of them.”

“I also want to express our gratitude to the crews of the 30 other legs and the thousands of people in Hawaii, the Pacific and around the world for allowing this voyage to happen. We are grateful for all that they have given to the success of the voyage,” Thompson added.

Although Hokulea and Hikianalia are in home waters, the canoes are still under kapu until the arrival ceremony at Magic Island on June 17.

“We will be spending the next week slowly making our way towards Oahu,” said Thompson. “We appreciate the aloha and support of friends and families eager to greet our canoes and crew, and we ask for your patience and understanding as we direct all those interested in greeting Hokulea, Hikianalia and our crew to our June 17 arrival at Kalia (Magic Island), Oahu,” he added.

After returning to Oahu, Hokolea and Hikianalia will begin the most important leg of the voyage, which will be an eight-month sail to 30 ports throughout the Hawaiian islands.

“When we sail throughout the Hawaiian Islands, we will go to as many as 70 communities and 100 schools to thank Hawaii’s people and share what we have learned with their children. We are also looking forward to hearing Hawaii stories of Malama Honua,” said Thompson. “Kalia (Magic Island) is the first stop of a year-long homecoming,” he added.

Hawaii Mumps Outbreak Continues – Total Cases Nears 100

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed seven (7) additional cases this week of Oahu residents with the mumps, bringing the total number of cases this year to 96.

One (1) case was confirmed on Tuesday, June 6 and involved an adult who did not require hospitalization and is recovering. The additional six (6) cases confirmed today involve four (4) adults and two (2) children, none of whom required hospitalization.

The DOH expects to see more cases of mumps as the highly-contagious viral disease continues to circulate on Oahu.The classic mumps symptom of parotitis often results in a tender, swollen jaw. While some people with mumps have very mild or no symptoms, others suffer from fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite.

The disease is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The disease can also be spread by sharing items, such as cups or eating utensils,  or by touching contaminated objects or surfaces and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth.

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella, and prevents most cases of mumps. Two doses of the vaccine are 88 percent effective at protecting against mumps and one dose is 78 percent effective. Being fully vaccinated can help protect loved ones, family members, friends, classmates and coworkers.

State epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park reminds those who are sick to stay home and that the MMR vaccine provides the best protection against the disease.

“All adults born in or after 1957 without evidence of immunity to mumps and those with no documented MMR doses, should get vaccinated now,” she said. “Individuals with only one documented MMR dose are strongly encouraged to consider receiving a second dose.”

Self-reported doses of the MMR vaccine without written documentation should not be accepted as valid. Although not ideal, receiving extra doses of the vaccine poses no medical problems. The MMR vaccine is available at local pharmacies across the state. To locate a vaccinating pharmacy in your community, visit http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/vaccines-immunizations/vaccine-locators/ or call the Aloha United Way information and referral line at 2-1-1.

Additional information about mumps and the ongoing investigation can be found on the DOH website at:  http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/department-of-health-investigating-mumps-cases/.

Hawaiian Electric Companies’ EV Fast Charger Program Extended

The Hawaiian Electric Companies have gained approval to continue the DC Fast Charger program designed to encourage ownership of plug-in electric vehicles (EV) in Hawaii. The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved the companies’ request to extend two EV pilot charging rates for five more years.

Over 5,000 electric vehicles are registered in the state and auto makers continue to add new models. The Hawaiian Electric Companies now have a dozen EV Fast Chargers in operation across their service territories to support EV drivers and make it easier for private companies to host a public fast charger that can bring a conventional EV battery from “empty” to an 80 percent charge in about 30 minutes.

The commission extended the rates and asked Hawaiian Electric to calculate new cost schedules for:

  • Commercial Public Electric Vehicle Charging Service (EV-U) that allows the Hawaiian Electric Companies to operate up to 25 publicly accessible DC fast charge facilities across Oahu, Maui County and Hawaii Island.
  • Commercial Public Electric Vehicle Charging Facility Service (EV-F) that makes it more attractive financially for businesses to install public fast chargers metered separately from other uses.

In approving the extension, the commission said the fast charger program aligns with clear state objectives to support EV adoption and reduce fossil fuel use in transportation and that EVs can be a tool for expanded energy efficiency and load control programs to help manage grid operations and distributed resources such as private rooftop solar.

Information on electric vehicle ownership is available at hawaiianelectric.com/goev or by calling 808-543-GOEV (4638). For information from the State Energy Office’s EV program, visit electricvehicle.hawaii.gov.

Hakalau: Woman Falls to Her Death

Hawaiʻi Island police are investigating an unattended death after receiving a report of a 41-year-old falling to her death and whose body was found at the base of a cliff Thursday morning (June 8) in Hakalau. Her name is being withheld pending notification of her family.
At 10:41 a.m. , the Hawaiʻi Fire Department received a report that the woman fell from a cliff near the old Hakalau Mill, and in an area frequented by fishermen.

The victim was airlifted out of the area by helicopter, then transported by vehicle to the Hilo Medical Center where she was pronounced dead shortly after 1:30 p.m.

An autopsy has been scheduled for Friday morning (June 9) to determine the cause of her death.

Detectives with the Area I Criminal Investigations Section are continuing the investigation. There was someone in the area who reportedly assisted after the fact by seeking help for the victim. Detectives would like to identify and interview this individual.

Police ask anyone who may have information about this incident to contact the police department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311, or Detective Jesse Kerr of the Area I Criminal Investigation Section at (808) 961-2377 or Jesse.Kerr@hawaiicountygov.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the island-wide Crime Stoppers number at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.00. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers does not record calls or subscribe to any Caller ID service. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

No Criminal Charges Regarding Dog Fatality Incident at Honolulu Airport

Attorney General Doug Chin announced today that criminal charges have been declined for now against a Securitas officer involved in the shooting death of a dog at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu on March 28, 2017.

Attorney General Doug Chin

Today’s conclusion was reached after an independent review of the evidence by the Attorney General’s office and evaluation of relevant criminal laws and legal defenses available in the state of Hawaii.  Attorney General Chin said, “At this time, the evidence is insufficient to prove criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The investigation was conducted by the Department of the Attorney General and evaluated by both a deputy attorney general from the criminal justice division and by Attorney General Chin.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Statement on 30-Day Stay for Kailua-Kona Farmer, Andres Magana Ortiz

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) released the statement below after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) granted Kailua-Kona famer, Andres Magana Ortiz, a 30-day stay of deportation:

“This morning, Mr. Ortiz faced the possibility of immediate deportation, leaving his wife and three children behind. While today’s 30-day reprieve is a positive step, it does not resolve the underlying issues. I’ll continue to push legislative and other avenues to assist Mr. Ortiz and his family in their efforts to remain in the Kona community he has called home for nearly three decades,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Background: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced a private bill earlier this week to halt the deportation of Mr. Ortiz and make him eligible for legal, permanent residence in the United States. A similar bill was introduced by U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka to assist Chef Chai Chaowasaree in 2001. She also joined the Hawaiʻi Congressional Delegation in writing to DHS Secretary Kelly earlier this week requesting that the Department reverse its decision to deport Mr. Ortiz.

Immigration reform has been one of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s top priorities throughout her time in Congress. She also co-sponsored two measures to protect families and children, including the DREAMer Information Protection Act (H.R. 532) which prohibits DHS’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) from being used for immigration enforcement proceedings and the BRIDGE Act (H.R.496) which codifies the DACA program.

Wildfire Causes Closure of Forest Lands Near Mokule`ia

A north shore wildfire burning uphill today toward the state Mokule‘ia Forest Reserve and Pahole Natural Area Reserve may put significant natural resources and endangered species at risk.  A crew of 14 DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW)  firefighters with two water tank trucks and helicopter dip tanks has responded to a fire in the Mokule‘ia area, located east of the Mokuleia Forest Reserve access road and west of Kaala road. The Honolulu Fire Department and Honolulu Police Department personnel are is on scene with two helicopters doing water drops. DOFAW has contracted two type 3 helicopters and a type 1 helicopter for water drops.

Photo posted last night by Trina Melinda

Fire size estimate is not available at this time.

DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers are on scene turning away hikers and bikers wanting to use the Mokule‘ia Forest Reserve access road to Peacock Flat campground. These mountain areas, including the Peacock Flats Campground, will remain closed until the fire is contained. Access via the Kaena Point Satellite Tracking station road is also closed until further notice.

”We recognize the access road is popular with hikers and bikers. We appreciate their cooperation with this closure for safety reasons,” said Marigold Zoll, DOFAW O‘ahu branch manager.

The Pahole Natural Area Reserve encompasses a complex valley system in the northern Wai‘anae Mountains. The area is known for its natural diversity and extends from the summit ridge down to the dry lowlands of Mokule‘ia. The reserve contains a rare dry forest, a rare mesic forest, critically endangered kahuli, or Hawaiian tree snails, lowland mesic forests, dry shrublands.