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Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin Voices Opposition to Two Presidential Nominations

Attorney General Doug Chin has joined five other state Attorneys General opposing the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for United States Attorney General and has joined eight other state Attorneys General opposing the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to become Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Click to read full letter

The letter opposing Senator Sessions’ nomination to lead the United States Department of Justice notes, “The Justice Department seal reads ‘Qui Pro Domina Justitia Sequitur’: ‘Who prosecutes on behalf of justice.’ As state attorneys general—the chief law officers of our respective states—we regularly work with the U.S. Department of Justice. Senator Sessions has stood for policies antithetical to this core mission of the Justice Department. For these reasons, we believe him to be unqualified for the role of United States Attorney General. We join the thousands of individuals and organizations that have voiced their opposition to Senator Sessions’ appointment and respectfully urge you to reject his nomination.”

The letter cites Senator Sessions’ refusal to protect racial minorities and vulnerable populations and his rejection of bipartisan criminal justice reforms.

The letter opposing Attorney General Pruitt’s nomination to head the EPA says in part, “As the Attorney General of Oklahoma, Mr. Pruitt made it a priority to attack the rules—promulgated by EPA to implement Congressional mandates—that EPA is charged with enforcing. This is not just a matter of policy difference; Mr. Pruitt has sought to tear apart the very notion of cooperative federalism that forms the foundation of our federal environmental laws. That cooperation makes it possible for states and the federal government, working together, to protect the health of the American people and the resources on which we depend.”

The letter cites Attorney General Pruitt’s multiple lawsuits seeking to block the EPA from fulfilling its mandates under the Clean Air Act as well as his continued questioning of human impacts on climate change.

The letter opposing Senator Sessions was also signed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine. The letter opposing Attorney General Pruitt’s nomination was also signed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Delaware Attorney General Matthew Denn, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, and Vermont Attorney General Thomas Donovan, Jr.

The letter opposing Senator Sessions’ nomination was sent to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein. The letter opposing Attorney General Pruitt’s nomination was sent to Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso and Ranking Member Tom Carper.

AG Multistate Letter to Senate Judiciary re Sessions

AG Multistate Letter to Senate Judiciary re Pruitt

Hawaii Representative Urges Community-Based Measures to Protect Coral Reefs

Napili Bay project to study oxybenzone-pollution prevention

State Representative Angus McKelvey reinforced his commitment to protecting Hawaii’s coral reefs by endorsing the Napili Bay and Beach Foundation’s upcoming study on strategies to manage oxybenzone pollution.

Oxybenzone is a chemical found in many sunscreens, and presents a serious threat to coastal coral reefs. Coral reefs are not just ecologically important; they are also highly valued by the tourism industry and residential communities. Evaluating the feasibility and effectiveness of community-based management strategies is therefore important to a variety of stakeholders.

“I am especially happy that the Napili Bay foundation has been selected to conduct this study. This shows that businesses, community groups, and others share in the concern for our coral reefs,” said McKelvey. “Currently, no reliable data regarding oxybenzone-pollution management strategies exists.

Thanks to the Napili Bay and Beach Foundation’s proactive efforts, this critical information will be available to make informed decisions about protecting not only Napili Bay’s coral reefs, but also elsewhere across the globe.”

The study will determine the effectiveness of a multi-pronged public relations campaign to promote alternatives to using sunscreens that contain oxybenzone. It will encompass an environmental and demographic assessment pre- and post-campaign launch. Toxicity assays will be measured against two control sites, where no campaign will occur.

“As one who burns early and often, and is a skin cancer survivor, I know how important it is to protect yourself from the sun,” McKelvey said, “but there are many products that, along with sensible sun habits, can protect your skin and our reefs.”

Hokulea Re-Enters the Pacific Ocean, Sailing Towards the Galapagos Islands

Iconic polynesian voyaging replica Hokulea yesterday departed Balboa, Panama and began her sail to the Galapagos Islands. After making a momentous crossing of the Panama Canal, crews spent several days engaging in a cross-cultural engagement with indigenous groups and sharing the meaning of the Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage sponsored by Hawaiian Airlines. Hokulea’s voyage to the Galapagos will take approximately 10 days.

“Hokulea is back in Pacific waters after nearly two years and the Galapagos will be the first Pacific islands we will visit on this journey home,” said Nainoa Thompson, president of Polynesian Voyaging Society.  “The Galapagos Islands will be an important mission stop where we will celebrate their sustainability efforts, identify parallels with Hawaii and bring attention to science, evolution and protecting the earth’s most fragile natural resources,” added Thompson.

A contingent of students and teachers from Castle High School, Kamehameha Schools and Halau Ku Mana will be traveling to the Galapagos to work with the crew of Hokulea. Students will join the crewmembers on their engagements and take part on an unparalleled educational journey in this UNESCO World Heritage Marine site.

Hokulea will stay approximately in the Galapagos for approximately one week before setting sail for Rapa Nui.

Hawaii Governor Calls for Reboot of School System

Gov. David Ige today promised to reshape the Department of Education to support dreams and aspirations of each student in remarks he made at the 3rd Annual Hawai‘i School Empowerment Conference at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.

The conference was sponsored by the Education Institute of Hawai‘i, a non-profit organization committed to improving public education in Hawai‘i. The annual conference aims to increase awareness and deepening understanding of the effort to improve public education through school empowerment and innovation in learning.

Here is the full text of Gov. Ige’s prepared remarks:

A Clear Path to Achieving Excellence in Hawaiʻi’s Public Schools 

Coding. Robotics. Digital media. International education exchanges. None of these programs were offered when I attended public schools in Pearl City, and it’s impossible to predict what fascinating opportunities await students in coming years.

What I can tell you is this: The success of today’s students in the future workplace and in our communities requires an absolute reboot of the rigid school system built over a century ago. Our school system is simply not relevant to today’s students.

That’s why I asked the members of the Board of Education, those I appointed and those who began serving prior to my taking office, to develop and implement a plan to transition from yesterday’s system to one that truly prepares students to think creatively and to be innovators. I asked board members to design a system that encourages teachers and principals to make meaningful decisions about curriculum and instruction, educational programs, and expenditure of schools funds.

The Board responded to my challenge. They worked with the community to develop a new strategic plan for the department. They courageously determined that transformation requires a fresh mindset, starting at the top. And they initiated a search for a new superintendent. I fully support this decision. We need a change agent who is committed to exploring unconventional options in the quest to prepare our students for the future.

I want students, parents, teachers and other educators to be assured that my goal is to reshape the department so that it supports the dreams and aspirations of each student. I believe those closest to the students understand best how their students should be educated. That is the type of system we are working together to achieve.

The community supports this goal as evidenced by the tremendous participation in last summer’s Education Summit and dozens of follow-up meetings in communities throughout the state. I am proud of the work my volunteer team, parents, teachers, business leaders and community members have done to create a Blueprint for Hawaiʻi’s education system. I asked them to think big, and they did. I can tell you, there is no shortage of innovative thinking in Hawaiʻi.

My passion for education isn’t new, and the solutions I am promoting now aren’t a surprise to anyone who has been recently engaged in the dialogue on education. I campaigned on this issue and education remains my top priority.

We don’t know what the next technological wave will bring. But we do know that Hawaiʻi’s public education system must be set up so teachers are able to exercise their professional judgement and employ tools that enable student success.

Students who design robots in elementary school will build the communities of the future. Students who experience what it’s like to be innovators and entrepreneurs in high school will drive the state’s new economy. Students who travel with their class will collaborate with their peers around the world to solve global challenges. It is our responsibility to provide them with a robust learning experience so they can achieve rewarding and successful lives.

UH Researcher: “Marijuana Compounds Show Promise in Treatment of Cardiac Disease”

A Nevada company is hoping to develop new medicines for heart failure using compounds in marijuana and a novel therapy identified by a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa researcher.

Dr. Alexander Stokes in his JABSOM laboratory.

Dr. Alexander Stokes, assistant research professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine, obtained a U.S. patent for his novel therapy in 2015.  The patent claims the cannabinoid receptor TRPV1 can be regulated therapeutically by plant-based cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids include psychoactive and non-psychoactive compounds derived from marijuana, both of which have medicinal properties. They exert their effects inside cells after binding to receptor proteins in the cell membranes, such as TRPV1 and the classical cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2.

Pharmaceutical development company GrowBlox Life Sciences LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of GB Sciences Inc., obtained the license for Stokes’ intellectual therapy last December from Makai Biotechnology LLC, a Hawaiʻi-based cardiovascular therapy company founded by Stokes.

“Cardiovascular disease is the leading global cause of death, accounting for more than 17.3 million deaths per year, a number that is expected to grow to more than 23.6 million by 2030,” said Dr. Stokes. In the U.S, he explained, this equates to one in three deaths, about one every 40 seconds, and costs the country approximately $316.6 billion a year.

Patients urgently need new drugs that can prevent or reverse the stages of cardiac disease and heart failure, according to Dr. Stokes. He further explained that TRPV1 is clearly a major cellular receptor involved in the progression to heart failure, and there is great potential for the new, proprietary mixtures within the GB Life Sciences portfolio to regulate the TRPV1 cannabinoid receptor.

GB Sciences said licensing the TRPV1 patent is a major step in its commitment to discovering new drugs that interact with the non-classical cannabinoid receptors, in addition to binding to the better characterized CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors.

“Our vision of novel, patentable cannabis-based formulations in the treatment of major diseases is now married with a proven drug target for modulation of adverse outcomes in cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Andrea Small-Howard, Chief Science Officer of GB Sciences.

Cannabinoids in native plant extracts exerted a more significant effect on TRPV1 receptors than purified cannabinoids in published research reports.

“GB Sciences believes its cannabis-plant-based approach may provide additional clinical benefits to patients due to the ‘entourage effect.’ In addition, the side effect profiles of cannabis-based therapies have generally been well tolerated,” said Dr. Small-Howard. The “entourage effect” refers to the theory that some cannabis compounds have greater effects on the human body when combined with other compounds than when given alone.

Said GB Sciences CEO John Poss, “This license is an important step in our company’s march to successful drug discovery.  We are very proud of Dr. Small-Howard and her team, and we expect results from this effort that will enable the company to do well by doing good for literally millions of cardiac patients around the world.”

Democratic Party Rally to Save Health Care

The Democratic Party of Hawai‘i (DPH) will host a Rally to Save Health Care on Sunday, January 15th 2017 from 11am – 2pm at the Hawai‘i Legislature Rotunda.

DPH State Party Chair Tim Vandeveer, Sen. Brian Schatz, health experts Dr. Reni Soon and Dr. Steven Kimble, and other health care professionals and elected officials will speak to the dynamics — preserving and improving health coverage and how to be involved. There will be a sign waving on Beretania Street following the Rally.

At a time when the United States remains the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all as a right, the Republicans want to throw nearly 30 million people off of health insurance, make massive cuts to Medicaid and defund Planned Parenthood. What, if anything, they would replace it with has not been articulated.

Senator Schatz explained, “The ACA is covering more Americans and saving lives. It’s working. And while we can all agree that the ACA can and should be improved, leaving millions of Americans with no coverage, and no alternative, is just irresponsible. It’s time to stand together, organize, and fight every attempt to repeal the ACA.”

DPH Chair Tim Vandeveer said, “We gather not only to stand up for health care as a fundamental human right, but also to state unequivocally, that we will not compromise our values or go back on the rights we fought so hard to achieve.” Vandeveer stated that the event will also “Be a chance to thank President Obama for fighting to make heath care accessible and affordable to all Americans, especially the most vulnerable among us.”

The Rally will begin with a remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (upon his day of birth) and a reading of his quote: “Of all forms of discrimination and inequalities, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman.”

The Democratic Party encourages attendees to bring their own signs for waving on Beretania Street after the Rally. Light snacks will be provided.

OHA Named Co-Trustee of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Gov. David Ige, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) and the U.S. Secretaries of Interior and Commerce have signed an updated Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) adding OHA as a co-trustee of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. It is the largest, contiguous, fully protected conservation area in the U.S. and encompasses 583,000 square miles of ocean waters, including ten islands and atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

With the signing of the updated MOA, co-trustee agencies are: the Commerce Department (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration); the Interior Department (Fish and Wildlife Service); the State of Hawai‘i Land and Natural Resources Department (DLNR) and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

“Honoring, respecting and perpetuating the Native Hawaiian culture and sustainability are among my administration’s top priorities. OHA has participated in the decision making process since the monument was first designated by President Bush more than ten years ago, and previously, when the area was managed as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve. The monument is world renowned for both its natural and cultural attributes and OHA’s co-trustee role will ensure the protection of Native Hawaiian cultural features and provide a critical cultural sensitivity to every decision that is made to protect this unique place,” said Gov. David Ige.

“We fully support and embrace OHA as a co-trustee of the monument. It is impossible to separate decisions about nature from cultural considerations. OHA’s elevated voice and input will inform management actions on a broad scale,” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case.

OHA has been one of seven collaborating agencies for Papahānaumokuākea, including NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and National Marine Fisheries Service; the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Ecological Services and Refuges, and the DLNR Divisions of Aquatic Resources and Forestry and Wildlife.

Papahānaumokuākea is rich in history and cultural significance. In 2010, UNESCO inscribed the area as our nation’s first mixed (natural and cultural) World Heritage Site.

“The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is of great cultural significance to the Native Hawaiian community and houses important marine ecosystems that the Department of Commerce is committed to protecting for future generations,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “Over the past 10 years, we have forged a strong partnership with the State of Hawai‘i and we look forward to collaborating with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs on our continued efforts to preserve this unique environment.”

“The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are home to one of the most diverse and threatened ecosystems on the planet and a sacred place for the Native Hawaiian community,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “By including OHA as a co-trustee for Papahānaumokuākea, we are highlighting not only the protection of natural treasures like the pristine coral reefs and deep sea marine habitats, but also the significant cultural and historic resources of the area that will be preserved for current and future generations.”

“We thank President Barack Obama and our partners and supporters for making this a reality. Since our community’s first involvement in the management of these kūpuna island more than a decade ago, the goal has been to get Native Hawaiians a seat at the decision-making table. We understand the challenges ahead and are firmly committed to fulfilling our kuleana to this place and our beneficiaries,” said OHA Chair Rowena Akana.

“This historic action rightfully places the Native Hawaiian voice at the highest levels of decision making for this culturally and spiritually significant wahi pana (sacred place) and will help advance our people’s understanding of the deep connection of our entire paeʻaina (archipelago).  We look forward to serving in our new role, in partnership with our co-trustees, to develop and implement a resource management structure that integrates the best of conventional science and traditional practices. We hope that Papahānaumokuākea will demonstrate to the world that integrating science and indigenous knowledge is the best management model to sustain our fragile global environment,” said Kamanaʻopono Crabbe, OHA’s chief executive officer.

OHA is a constitutionally established body, set as a separate state entity independent of the executive branch of the State of Hawai‘i. Its primary responsibility is representing the interests of the Native Hawaiian community, including in the monument, through the perpetuation of Hawaiian cultural resources. This includes the customary and traditional rights and practices of Native Hawaiians that are exercised for subsistence, cultural and religious purposes under the Hawai‘i Constitution.

USS Michael Murphy to Begin Western Pacific Deployment

USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) is scheduled to depart Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for a regularly-scheduled deployment with the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group to the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region on Friday, Jan. 13.

USS Michael Murphy (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeff Troutman/Released)

Michael Murphy will deploy with a crew of approximately 320 Sailors and a detachment of MH-60R helicopters from Helicopter Maritime Squadron (HSM) 37, the “Easyriders,” based out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, who trained for months to earn deployment certification.

“The crew has worked tirelessly in preparation for this deployment, said Cmdr. Robert A. Heely, Jr., commanding officer, USS Michael Murphy. “Team Murphy will be challenged with diverse mission sets within the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region. Their resiliency will be tested, but they are up to the task and are ready to perform as part of Carrier Strike Group One.”

While deployed, the Carl Vinson CSG will remain under U.S. 3rd Fleet command and control, including beyond the international dateline which previously divided operational areas of responsibility for 3rd and 7th fleets. Third Fleet operating forward offers additional options to the Pacific Fleet commander by leveraging the capabilities of 3rd and 7th Fleets. This operational concept allows both numbered fleets to complement one another and provide the foundation of stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region.

“Our forward presence contributes to freedom of navigation and lawful use of the sea, as well as furthers operational training and enabling the exchange of culture, skills and tactical knowledge,” said Rear Adm. James W. Kilby, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1.

U.S. 3rd Fleet leads naval forces in the Pacific and provides the realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy.  Third Fleet constantly coordinates with U.S. 7th Fleet to plan and execute missions based on their complementary strengths to promote ongoing peace, security and stability throughout the entire Pacific theater of operations.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, and embarked Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 1 deployed from San Diego, January 5 with Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108).

The Carl Vinson CSG deployed with approximately 7,500 Sailors and will focus on maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.  The strike group assets will conduct bilateral exercises in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to include anti-submarine warfare, maneuvering drills, gunnery exercises and visit, board, search and seizure subject matter expert exchanges.

Hokulea Completes Transit Through Panama Canal and Returns to Pacific Waters

After two days of transit through the Panama Canal, iconic voyaging canoe Hokulea reached the Panama city of Balboa today at 2:54 p.m. EST.

The canoe went through three sets of locks on the man-made waterway and returned to Pacific waters for the first time in nearly two years. Because Hokulea has no engines, and because of the turbulence and currents within the canal, the canoe was safely towed by a powerful work vessel – DWS Linda – through the canal.

Crewmembers moored the double-hulled canoe at Balboa Yacht Club and will remain docked in Balboa for about seven days. From Balboa, Hokulea will depart for the Galapagos Islands, a sail that is expected to take approximately 10 days.

While in Balboa, Hokulea’s crew will engage with several indigenous organizations and leaders of the Panamanian community. Crewmembers will also use their time in Balboa to provision the vessel for her upcoming sail to the Galapagos Islands and then Rapa Nui, ensuring she is in exceptional condition for the remainder of her voyage home to the Hawaiian Islands.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Reintroduces Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Clear Human Trafficking Victims’ Criminal Records

Bill Would Provide Post-Conviction Relief to Victims of Sex Trafficking, Labor Trafficking, and Other Forms of Human Trafficking

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) joined U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rob Portman (R-OH), and U.S. Representatives Ann Wagner (MO-02) and Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) in reintroducing the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act today. The bipartisan legislation would create a process for victims of human trafficking to request relief from non-violent federal crimes committed as a direct result of human trafficking.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard speaks with survivor leaders and advocates on the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act

Today, January 11, is recognized as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Human trafficking is a modern day form of slavery affecting millions in the United States and abroad. This crime involves either the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit a person for labor or commercial sex, or the exploitation of a minor for commercial sex. As a result of being trafficked, victims are commonly charged with crimes such as conspiracy, money laundering, drug trafficking, and related offenses that then follow them throughout the duration of their lives. These charges make it difficult for human trafficking victims to find jobs and housing, leaving them vulnerable to being exploited and trafficked again.

“Tens of thousands of men, women, and children are victims of human trafficking each year. Too often, they are charged as criminals, thrown in prison, and shackled with a criminal record the rest of their lives instead of being free to get the care and assistance they need. The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act will empower human trafficking victims to escape the chains of their past and move forward with their lives,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

“Because of the complexities of the criminal activity around trafficking, victims are put into situations where they may be forced to engage in other criminal acts due to their abuser. Even though they are victims of human trafficking, under current mandates, their “criminal history” can make it very difficult for them to recover and reintegrate back into society. The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act is an important key to opening the door of freedom, helping to erase the past, and empower life recovery and forward movement for the most marginalized and vulnerable population in our communities,” said Jessica Munoz, President and Founder of Hoʻōla Nā Pua.

“As an organization committed to implementing strategies and providing services that help rebuild the lives of human trafficking survivors, we believe the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act will support these uprooted individuals to reclaim dignified lives,” said Dr. Tin Myaing Thein, Executive Director of the Pacific Gateway Center.

Background:

The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act would allow survivors of human trafficking to provide supporting documentation in order to get their non-violent criminal records vacated. These documents can include the following:

  • Certified criminal or immigration court proceedings or law enforcement records demonstrating that the individual was a victim of trafficking at the time they were charged with the trafficking-related offense(s);
  • Testimony or sworn statement from a trained professional staff member of a victim services organization, an attorney, member of the clergy, a health care professional, a therapist, or other professional from whom the person has sought assistance in addressing the trauma associated with being a victim of trafficking; or
  • An affidavit or sworn testimony of the movant indicating that they were a victim of human trafficking at the time of their arrest and that they engaged in or were otherwise accused of engaging in criminal activities as a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking.

Hokulea Makes its Way Through First Lock of the Panama Canal

Famed voyaging canoe Hokulea has begun her journey through the Panama Canal lock system, following a one-day delay due to maintenance on the waterway.
In preparation for the next set of locks, Hokulea has been moored in Lake Gatun for the night and will continue her transit through the man-made waterway towards the Pacific Ocean tomorrow. Crews are expected to arrive in Balboa, Panama tomorrow, Jan. 11.

Hokulea will be welcomed by Panama’s indigenous organizations and community leaders after her arrival in Balboa. The crew will prepare and restock the vessel for her departure to the Galapagos Islands and then Rapa Nui, paying close attention to hull cleanliness to assure respect and care for these vibrant ecosystems.

To follow the Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage, visit http://hokulea.com/track-the-voyage

Hawaii Representative Sponsors $15 Minimum Wage Bill

State Representative Kaniela Ing (D-South Maui), is sponsoring legislation to increase Hawaii’s minimum wage to $15 by 2019 and $22 by 2022. The bill will also tie the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index and eliminates the exemption for tipped employees. Ing says the bill will be the nation’s most progressive “living wage” law, and encompasses the spirit of the grassroots Fight for $15 movement.

“Hawaii is the most expensive state in the nation. Other high cost of living states and cities like Seattle, California, and New York have already passed $15 minimum wage laws,” said Ing. “Working families are struggling, so we as legislators have a moral obligation to act. The evidence shows that raising the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour is the single most impactful policy for Hawaii’s most vulnerable.”

Ing said that jurisdictions that have already won their “Fight for $15” are seeing businesses thrive, new restaurants open, and reduced income inequality. Hawaii is late to the party, and we need the raise desperately.

“I expect various big-money special interests to oppose the bill, but my hope is that empirical facts, popular opinion, and baseline morality will in prevail in the end,” he said.

For more information please see http://Hawaiifightfor15.com or its Facebook page at http://Facebook.com/fightfor15hawaii.

Hokulea Transit Through Panama Canal Delayed

Traditional voyaging vessel Hokulea’s historic transit through the Panama Canal has been delayed due to unforeseen repairs being performed on the east lane of the Canal. The canoe was scheduled to make its legendary crossing today towards the Pacific Ocean and through the Atlantic Locks. Crewmembers have docked Hokulea in Colon, Panama and are now expected to commence her transit through the Panama Canal possibly as early as tomorrow, Jan. 10.

Crossing the Panama Canal from Colon to Balboa will take the crew approximately two days. Hokulea crewmembers will use their time in Balboa to work alongside indigenous communities and organizations to offer culturally relevant maritime activities to the Panamanian public. The canoe will also undergo necessary assessment and preparations before setting sail to the Galapagos Islands, Rapa Nui and French Polynesia.

Casting Call for National Park Service Films on the Big Island

The National Park Service is producing new Visitor Center films for the following sites on the Island of Hawaiʻi: 1) Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park; 2) Kaloko-­‐Honokōhau National Historical Park; 3) Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site; and 4) Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail.

Told from the native Hawaiian perspective, the inspirational films will tell rich stories of Hawaiiʻs past, from 300 A.D to the age of Kamehameha (1790). To bring the stories of these sacred places to life, the Park Service will recreate key historical events and lifestyle scenes.

CASTING ROLES

  • King Kamehameha I , age 30-­35
  • Keōua Kū’ahu‘ula, age 30-­35
  • 8-­12 Hawaiian Warriors, ages 18-­30
  • 3-­6 Kūpuna (men, women –ages 50+) to portray Aliʻi and High Priests
  • 2-­3 Children (ages 10-­13)
  • 2 English Sailors (approximately 30 years old)

Must be physically fit. Acting experience not required. Knowledge of Hawaiian language is a plus. Accepted applicants will receive compensation, meals, and possible dormitory accommodations.

The film shoot will occur over 6 consecutive days on location at the west side Parks and Trail in May 2017

TO APPLY –DEADLINE: FEBRUARY 15, 2017 Submit email to: gdpcasting@gmail.com.  Subject Line: NATIONAL PARKS FILMS.  Please attach 2 photos (wide body shot, face close up),  height/weight, and a short paragraph that conveys your passion for Hawaiian history and culture. If unable to email, send via USPS to: Rae Godden, Kaloko-­‐Honokōhau National Historical Park, 73-­‐4786 Kanalani St, 14, Kailua-­‐Kona, HI 96740.

You will be contacted if you are selected for further review.

QUESTIONS? Call Jackie Pualani Johnson: (808) 937-­‐6600.

Senator Schatz Elevated to Leadership Post

Senate Democratic leadership elevated U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to new roles in the caucus’s leadership team. Senators Schatz and Booker will serve as Chief Deputy Whips, leadership positions that will give them a greater role in shaping policy and communications for Senate Democrats. Schatz and Booker join U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who announced his post in December, on the Chief Deputy Whip team.

“I’m deeply honored to serve in this new leadership role,” said Senator Schatz. “We have a lot of work to do in the Senate, and this new post puts me in a better position to help shape and defend our priorities. I look forward to working with Senators Booker and Merkley and our diverse leadership team on building a stronger future for Hawai‘i and our country.”

Winning 74 percent of the vote in Hawai‘i, Senator Schatz was re-elected to the Senate in November with the largest margin of victory of any Democratic Senate candidate in 2016. Following his re-election, he was appointed to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. In addition to the new committee assignment, Senator Schatz will retain his posts on the Senate committees on Appropriations; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Indian Affairs; and Ethics.

“With President-elect Trump threatening to take affordable health coverage away from millions, preparing to turn dangerous campaign rhetoric about minorities, women, religious groups, and LGBT Americans into reality, and pursuing policies that deny economic opportunity to people who need it most, Democrats need to make sure we are standing up for the middle class, fighting for all Americans, and holding the administration accountable,” said Senator Booker. “I’m honored to be part of the Senate Democratic leadership team, and I look forward to the hard work ahead.”

After winning election to the Senate in a 2013 special election, Senator Booker was re-elected to a full six-year term in 2014. In addition to his leadership duties, in the 115th Congress, Booker will serve on the Senate committees on Foreign Relations; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Environment and Public Works; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

“I can’t think of two better leaders to join the Whip team than Senators Schatz and Booker,” said Democratic Whip Dick Durbin. “Both have proven their mettle as leading policy minds in our country, and have earned a place helping to shape policy and communications in our caucus. Our team is stronger for their experience and vision.”

Schatz and Booker, two of the youngest members of the Senate, have worked together on a number of initiatives and bills. As members of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, the two worked closely together to help address the future impact of new technology, and most recently, the two partnered on an initiative to increase diversity within the Senate.

Martin Luther King Report: Hawaii Is 2017’s Most Racially Integrated State

With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day around the corner and 46 percent of U.S. voters expecting Donald Trump’s presidential triumph to result in worse race relations, the personal-finance website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of 2017’s States with the Most Racial Progress.

Click to see full list

To measure America’s progress in harmonizing racial groups, WalletHub’s analysts measured the gaps between blacks and whites in 16 key indicators of equality and integration for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The data set ranges from “median annual income ” to “standardized test scores” to “voter turnout.”

This report examines the differences between only blacks and whites in light of the high-profile police-brutality incidents that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement and the holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who played a prominent role in the Civil Rights Movement to end segregation and discrimination against blacks.

Racial Integration* in Hawaii (1=Most Integrated, 25=Avg.)

  • 1st – Median Annual Income Gap
  • 2nd – Labor-Force Participation Rate Gap
  • 7th – Unemployment Rate Gap
  • 23rd – Homeownership Rate Gap
  • 1st – Poverty Rate Gap
  • 1st – Business Ownership Rate Gap
  • 1st – Gap in % of Residents with at Least a High School Diploma
  • 1st – Standardized-Test Scores Gap

*All of the above comparisons refer to the gaps between whites and blacks, according to the most recent available data.

For the full report, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-most-and-least-racial-progress/18428/

Apple Mapping Car Being Spotted Around the Big Island

This afternoon as I was driving in Hilo, I noticed a weird car drive by me with all these cameras on top of it.  At first I thought it was the Google Car that I had seen a few years ago on Bayfront but learned it wasn’t.
I was driving down the Mohouli extension road and the car turned on to Loko Place.  Knowing that Loko Place was a dead end street that was just recently built… I flipped a U-Turn and pulled over on the side of Loko Place and positioned myself to take a picture of the car.
It turned out it was an “Apple” car that was doing mapping for it’s “Maps” application http://maps.apple.com.

Apple Maps states:

Offering an all-new design and a host of innovative features, Maps makes finding and getting to your destination faster and easier than ever. With turn-by-turn spoken directions, interactive 3D views, proactive suggestions, and the ability to use third-party apps right inside Maps, there’s so much to explore.

Maps now predicts the places you’re most likely to go and suggests the fastest way to get there based on traffic, your current location, the time of day, and events on your schedule. So in the morning, Maps can provide a proactive suggestion for the best route to work that avoids traffic. And any upcoming meetings on your calendar are presented with suggested routes. Simply tap the suggestion to display the directions and start navigation.

It looks as though they are trying to compete with Google for customers.  The last time that I can recall the Google car being on the Island was in 2011 but I could be wrong.

The Google car in Wailoa Park

The Google Car works in connection with the Google Bike as the bike can take folks on even narrower roads and trails where the car can’t go.

Gabbard-Cook Reintroduce Bill Encouraging Employers to Hire More Veterans

Today, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Paul Cook (CA-08) introduced the HIRE Vets Act of 2017. This bipartisan bill, which was previously introduced last Congress, passed the House with unanimous support in November 2016, but did not pass the Senate before the end of the year.

The legislation would promote private sector recruiting, hiring, and retaining of men and women who served honorably in the U.S. military through a voluntary and effective program. Specifically, it would create an award program recognizing the meaningful, verifiable efforts undertaken by employers – both large and small – to hire and retain veterans. Cook and Gabbard designed the program to be self-funded.

Through the U.S. Department of Labor, the HIRE Vets Act would allow businesses to display “HIRE Vets Medallions” on products and marketing materials. These medallions would be awarded as part of a four-tiered system – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum – associated with specific hiring and retention goals each year.

The program also establishes similar tiered awards for small and mid-sized businesses with less than 500 employees. To ensure proper oversight, the Secretary of Labor would be required to provide Congress with annual reports on the success of the program with regard to veteran employment and retention results.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said, “Roughly 500 veterans return to civilian life every single day, joining the more than 2.9 million veterans that have returned home since 9/11. While we’ve taken some important steps to encourage employers to hire more veterans, more than 400,000 veterans across the country are still unemployed today. Through their service, veterans develop unique skills, experiences, and leadership training that make them especially valuable to employers. The HIRE Vets Act incentivizes employers to hire veterans, and recognizes employers that provide a supportive work environment to retain veteran employees. I encourage our colleagues to join us in passing this bill unanimously again to move this support for our veterans and employers forward.”

Rep. Paul Cook said, “The HIRE Vets Act is an opportunity for Americans to see which companies truly live up to the employment promises they make to veterans. Veterans who serve this country honorably shouldn’t struggle to find employment, and this bill creates an innovative system to encourage and recognize employers who make veterans a priority in their hiring practices.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is a twice-deployed combat veteran and member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees. She continues to serve as a Major in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard.

A member of the House Natural Resources, Armed Services, and Foreign Affairs Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

Hokulea Reaches Colon, Panama and Prepares for Historic Canal Crossing

Thirteen days since departing Key West, iconic sailing canoe Hokulea arrived yesterday in Colon, Panama, a seaport located by the Caribbean Sea near the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal. The crew will spend the next two to three days preparing for their historic crossing through the 48-mile isthmus of Panama. Upon completion of the waterway, Hokulea will arrive in Balboa to re-enter the Pacific Ocean for the first time in nearly two years.

“It’ll surely be a sight to see Hokulea travel through the Panama Canal,” said pwo navigator and Hokulea captain, Bruce Blankenfeld. “Like Hokulea, the Panama Canal brings international communities together and serves as a bridge between the Atlantic and the Pacific.”

The Panama Canal has been an international landmark for over 100 years. The unique geography of Panama has allowed for increased international trade, fortifying international relations through modern technology. The canal continues on a new purpose with the passage of Hokulea, where both the vessel and its mission to share a message of caring for Island Earth will travel through the stretch of man-made waterway.

It will take the crew about two days to make their way from Colon to Balboa through the canal. With her return to the Pacific as an ancestral homecoming, Hokulea will continue with the mission of engaging with local communities worldwide before she reaches Hawaii.  The canoe will make stops in the Galapagos Islands, Rapa Nui and French Polynesia. Hokulea will conclude her Worldwide Voyage with a historic homecoming at Magic Island on June 17, 2017.

Zika Found in Hawaii Years Before Caribbean Outbreak

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) scientists have discovered that severe birth defects related to infection with the Zika virus (ZIKV) occurred much earlier than in 2016, when the connection was first made between the virus and an increased likelihood of microcephaly during outbreaks of ZIKV infection in Brazil and Puerto Rico.

UH scientists published their findings in December in the scientific journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, adding to the potential evidence of a link between ZIKV infection and microcephaly, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development and characterized by an abnormal smallness of the head.

Patient information and blood samples were collected voluntarily from mothers in Honolulu who delivered babies between 2007 and 2013 at the Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women and Children, a Hawaiʻi Pacific Health hospital affiliated with JABSOM. The samples were collected and stored at the UH Biorepository (UHB) after obtaining written informed consent from the mothers.

“As per the information in the UHB, no mothers gave birth to babies with microcephaly in 2007 and 2008,” said Vivek R. Nerurkar, chair of the Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology. “However, from 2009 onwards, we identified six mothers who gave birth to babies with microcephaly. Of the six, ZIKV antibodies were detected in three, fifty percent, of the mothers who delivered babies with microcephaly, suggesting presence of positive Zika virus cases and associated microcephaly in the United States as early as 2009.”

Potential changes to women’s health practices

Nerurkar believes the growing evidence of an association between ZIKV infection and the devastating brain damage in infants justifies a new practice in women’s health.

“We need to be more proactive in tracking pregnant women and testing for the ZIKV ahead of time (before birth),” he said. “It may be time for health care professionals to routinely caution newly pregnant mothers (or those planning to become pregnant) about the ZIKV, and offer pre-natal tests to detect for the presence of the virus.”

Ideally, Nerurkar said, families can plan for safe pregnancies by avoiding travel to areas of known ZIKV outbreaks. In 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization have issued travel alerts about locations with confirmed, locally acquired Zika virus infections.

The UH researchers expressed their gratitude for the women who agreed to voluntarily donate blood and placenta samples to build the UH Biorepository archive. “This has been an indispensable resource in our research,” said Nerurkar.

Nerurkar leads a team of scientists at UH working to develop a vaccine for ZIKV infection as well as robust diagnostic assays to rapidly detect ZIKV and other mosquito-borne viral infections. After the award of a Zika emergency response grant this year from the National Institutes of Health, his team members are also working to understand how ZIKV infection in men makes them susceptible to transmit the virus to their sexual partners, even though the men may appear symptom-free.