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Hokulea Arrives in Miami, Completing Journey Along US East Coast

Traditional voyaging canoe Hokulea yesterday made her safe arrival into Miami, Florida, and the final stop on the 25th leg of the Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage sponsored by Hawaiian Airlines.

miamiCrewmembers moored the vessel at the city’s Shake-A-Leg Marina on Saturday afternoon where the canoe will remain for about three weeks for re-provisioning and preparations for the next leg of the voyage. The crew also will be engaging with the Miami community to share the message of Malama Honua (to care for Island Earth).

miami2The marina hosting Hokulea and her crew is home to Shake-A-Leg Miami, a non-profit organization providing opportunities for children, youth and adults with physical, developmental and economic challenges to experience watersports and Miami’s marine environment by teaching environmental lessons, therapeutic sailing and other water sport activities.  The children and adults participating in Shake-A-Leg Miami’s programs will be able to meet the crew and learn the inspiring stories about Hokulea while she is moored there.

miami3While in Miami, the crew also will conduct a series of free canoe tours and plans to connect with cultural and community leaders for educational opportunities that extend the mission of the Worldwide Voyage. The crew plans to reconnect with several Florida schools and representatives of the Miccosukee and Seminole Nation tribes, who welcomed Hokulea when she first arrived in Florida at Everglades National Park in March of this year before spending the next nine months sailing up the East Coast.

miami4“With every person our crew engages with, we get one step closer to growing a global movement of people who share a common passion of malama aina,” said Kalepa Baybayan, pwo navigator and captain for Hokulea’s sail throughout Florida. “Miami will be a critical break for our team as we create and engage in conversations with people who nurture and inspire stewardship for our Mother Earth.”

Miami is the final stop for Leg 25 of the Voyage, which began in Virginia following Hokulea’s drydock for maintenance and repairs.  A new crew will be arriving for Leg 26, which will sail the canoe to Hokulea will then prepare to cross the 48-mile Panama Canal before returning to the South Pacific Ocean to make her momentous journey home to the Hawaiian Islands.

Kona International Airport to Resume International Flights

Gov. David Y. Ige and the United States Customs and Border Protection announced the re-establishment of a Federal Inspection Service (FIS) facility at the Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA). The inaugural international flight from Kona to Tokyo, Japan is scheduled to depart on Dec. 20, 2016. The flight from Tokyo to Kona is scheduled to arrive at the Kona International Airport on Dec. 21, 2016.

ige-announcement“The resumption of international flights to Kona will have a wide-ranging positive impact on Hawai‘i Island and the state as a whole by boosting tourism spending, creating jobs and generating millions of dollars for our economy,” said Gov. David Y. Ige. “I especially thank our partners at U.S. Customs and Border Protection for working with us to achieve this goal. This was a top priority for my administration and I am pleased that we were able to make the Federal Inspection Service facility in Kona a reality.”

“In fulfilling our important role protecting the border and fostering lawful travel, CBP relies on strong partnerships with stakeholders. This is why we are especially grateful for the commitment of Governor Ige and the people of Hawai‘i to providing adequate airport inspection facilities,” said Brian Humphrey, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, director, field operations. “In equal good faith, CBP is committed to providing a welcoming experience to passengers in Kona while we simultaneously protect America.”

The new FIS will benefit Hawai‘i in several ways. The Hawai‘i Department of Transportation estimates new international flights to Kona will result in more than $7 million in annual projected tax benefits. International visitors will also spend tens of millions of dollars at local businesses and attractions, further boosting the economy and generating jobs. Hawai‘i has seen the numbers of international travelers increase by more than one million passengers, or nearly 60 percent, since the economic downturn in 2009. The trend in international passenger arrivals in Hawai‘i is expected to continue to grow, enhancing the need for a second airport to accept flights from international destinations.

The secondary international point of entry in Kona will ease congestion at the Honolulu International Airport, especially during daily peak hours and busy travel seasons. The FIS will improve health and safety by increasing resiliency in an emergency. Should an unforeseen incident occur in Honolulu, international flights would still be able to land safely in Kona. Currently, Honolulu is the only landing option in the state for international flights.

The United States Department of Transportation approved Hawaiian Airlines’ request to fly non-stop international flights between Kona and Haneda International Airport in Tokyo beginning in December.

“We look forward to welcoming our Tokyo guests with our authentic Hawaiian hospitality as they enjoy the convenience of our direct flights to the spectacular Kona coast,” said Peter Ingram, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for Hawaiian Airlines. “We are pleased to return international flights to the Big Island and thankful to all of our government, business and community partners for their support of our newest route.”

Several improvements are being made to the international arrivals section at KOA, including the installation of security cameras and motion sensors, an upgraded access control system, 10 Automated Passport Control kiosks to process incoming international passengers quickly and efficiently, and refurbished restrooms.

“After multiple meetings and on-site visits, we finally made it across the finish line,” said Sen. Brian Schatz. “I thank CBP and the Obama Administration for recognizing the potential of our visitor industry and for working with the State of Hawaii, the people of Kona, and many others in state government and the hospitality industry to finally get this done.”

“After six years of working closely with federal and state officials, and community partners to reestablish direct international flights to Kona International Airport, today’s announcement is good news for Hawai‘i’s tourism industry and the Hawai‘i Island economy. In particular, I want to acknowledge the efforts of Customs and Border Protection to work with the state on the Federal Inspection Service facility that made this a reality,” said Sen. Mazie K. Hirono.

“Today’s announcement not only positively impacts our tourism-based economy, it addresses a critical safety and security need for our state by providing a secondary international port in case of emergency,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02). “This project has been a priority of mine, and became a reality through many years of hard work by community leaders, local businesses, and county, state, and Federal government.  I especially want to thank HDOT and CBP for their leadership and upholding their commitment to reopening international travel to Kona.”

Regularly scheduled international flights to Kona began in 1996 and were discontinued in October 2010.

VIDEO: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Urges President to Immediately Halt Dakota Access Pipeline

In a speech on the House floor Thursday, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard called on President Obama to immediately halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and announced plans to join thousands of veterans from across the country to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota this weekend.

tulsi-dakota“Growing up in Hawaii, I learned the value of caring for our home, caring for our planet, and the basic principle that we are all connected in a great chain of cause and effect.

“The Dakota Access Pipeline is a threat to this great balance of life. Despite strong opposition from the Standing Rock Sioux and serious concerns raised by the EPA, the Department of Interior, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and other Federal agencies, the Army Corps of Engineers approved permits to construct the Dakota Access Pipeline without adequately consulting the tribes, and without fully evaluating the potential impacts to neighboring tribal lands, sacred sites, and their water supply. Just one spill near the tribe’s reservation could release thousands of barrels of crude oil, contaminating the tribe’s drinking water.

“The impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline is clear. Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the Dakota Pipeline, has a history of serious pipeline explosions, which have caused injury, death, and significant property damage in the past decade. The future operator of the planned pipeline, Sunoco Logistics, has had over 200 environmentally damaging oil spills in the last 6 years alone—more than any of its competitors.

“Protecting our water is not a partisan political issue—it is an issue that is important to all people and all living beings everywhere. Water is life. We cannot survive without it. Once we allow an aquifer to be polluted, there is very little that can be done about it. This is why it is essential that we prevent water resources from being polluted in the first place.

“Our Founding Fathers took great inspiration from Native American forms of governance, and the democratic principles that they were founded on. Their unique form of governance was built on an agreement called the Great Law of Peace, which states that before beginning their deliberations, the council shall be obliged, and I quote, “to express their gratitude to their cousins and greet them, and they shall make an address and offer thanks to the earth where men dwell, to the streams of water, the pools, the springs and the lakes, to the maize and the fruits, to the medicinal herbs and trees, to the forest trees for their usefulness, and to the Great Creator who dwells in the heavens above, who gives all the things useful to men, and who is the source and the ruler of health and life.”

“This recognition of our debt to the Creator and our responsibility to be responsible members of this great web of life was there from the beginning of Western democracy.

“Freedom is not a buzzword. The freedom of our Founding Fathers was not the freedom to bulldoze wherever you like.

“Our freedom is a freedom of mind, a freedom of heart, freedom to worship as we see fit, freedom from tyranny and freedom from terror. That’s the freedom this country was founded on, the freedom cultivated by America’s Native people, and the freedom the Standing Rock Sioux are now exercising.

“This weekend I’m joining thousands of veterans from across the country at Standing Rock to stand in solidarity with our Native American brothers and sisters. Together we call on President Obama to immediately halt the construction of this pipeline, respect the sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, and respect their right to clean water. The truth is, whether it’s the threat to essential water sources in this region, the lead contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, or the threat posed to a major Hawaiʻi aquifer by the Red Hill fuel leak, each example underscores the vital importance of protecting our water resources.

“We can’t undo history, but we must learn lessons from the past and carry them forward—to encourage cooperation among free people, to protect the sacred, to care for the Earth and for our children, and our children’s children. What’s at stake is our shared heritage of freedom and democracy and our shared future on this Great Turtle Island, our great United States of America.”

Background: In September, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and 18 House Democrats wrote to President Barack Obama calling on the United States Army Corps of Engineers to fulfill their responsibility of holding meaningful consultation and collaboration with the Standing Rock Sioux over the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Full text of the letter is available here.

Congresswoman Gabbard Op-Ed: Giving Voice to Millions of Americans – End U.S. Wars of Intervention

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s op-ed on ending U.S. wars of intervention published in The Nation today:
tulsi-bannerI recently met with President-elect Donald Trump to give voice to the millions of Americans, including my fellow veterans, who desperately want to end our country’s illegal, counterproductive war to overthrow the Syrian government. We had an hour-long, meaningful, back-and-forth discussion about the problems with current U.S. policy in Syria and where to go from here.

I felt it critical to meet with him now, before warmongering neocons convince him to escalate this war that has already taken more than 400,000 lives and left millions of Syrians homeless and in search of safety for themselves and their families.

I conveyed to the President-elect how the post-9/11 neocon agenda of interventionism and regime-change has left U.S. foreign policy absurdly disconnected from our actual security interests. Our actions to overthrow secular dictators in Iraq and Libya, and attempts now to do the same in Syria, have resulted in tremendous loss of life, failed nations, and even worse humanitarian crises while strengthening the very terrorist organizations that have declared war on America.

Since 2011, the United States—working with Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Turkey—has been providing support to “rebel groups” fighting to overthrow the government and take over Syria. A recent New York Times article reported that these “rebel groups” supported by the U.S. “have entered into battlefield alliances with the affiliate of al-Qaeda in Syria, formerly known as al-Nusra.”  How the United States can work hand-in-hand with the very terrorist organization that is responsible for the killing of 3,000 Americans on 9/11 boggles my mind and curdles my blood.

This absurd alliance has allowed terrorist groups like al-Qaeda to establish strongholds throughout Syria, including in Aleppo, where they are now using the civilian population as human shields and their deaths as propaganda tools.

Additionally, escalating this regime-change war by implementing a “no fly/safe zone” in Syria would not only be ineffective, it would put the U.S. in direct military confrontation with nuclear-power Russia, require tens of thousands of ground troops and a massive U.S. air presence, and commit us to yet another endless war in the Middle East that does not serve American or Syrian interests.

In short, even if the U.S.-Saudi alliance were successful in overthrowing the Syrian government, we would be saddled with the responsibility of building a new nation in Syria. Trillions of U.S. taxpayer dollars, and who knows how many American lives, will be lost, and there will be little to show for it. As was true in Iraq and Libya, the U.S. has no credible government or leader able to bring order, security, and freedom to the people of Syria if Assad is overthrown. To maintain order after Assad’s fall would require at least 500,000 troops in a never-ending occupation.

The most likely outcome of this regime-change war is that it will open the door for ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups who are the most powerful fighting forces on the ground, to take over all of Syria, amass powerful weapons (many of which will have been provided to them by the U.S.), and pose a far worse threat to the Syrian people, religious minorities, and to the world.

The crux of my advice to President-elect Trump was this: we must end this ill-conceived, counterproductive regime-change war immediately. We must focus our precious resources on investing in and rebuilding our own country and on defeating al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist groups that pose a threat to the American people.

Tulsi Gabbard

Gabbard-Stewart Bill to Expand Veterans’ Healthcare Passes House

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard released the statement below after the House unanimously passed the Veterans TRICARE Choice Act (H.R.5458). The congresswoman introduced the legislation with Rep. Chris Stewart (UT-02) in 2015. The bill expands veterans’ healthcare options by allowing veterans to temporarily pause their TRICARE benefits to participate in an employer’s Health Savings Account (HSA) program if they so choose. Under current federal law, it is illegal for a TRICARE-eligible veteran to participate in an HSA program.

gabbard-health-bill“As a soldier and a veteran, I have seen firsthand the tremendous sacrifice our veterans and their families make in service to our country. That service should never limit their access to quality healthcare, and the ability to make decisions about their own health,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “The Veterans TRICARE Choice Act gives our veterans the ability to choose the best healthcare options for themselves and their families.”

“Our veterans deserve our most profound gratitude,” said Rep. Chris Stewart. “Nothing about their military service should prevent them from accessing the same benefits as their non-veteran co-workers. The very least we can do is ensure they receive the benefits we’ve promised them, and that the process goes as smoothly as possible.  We still have a lot of work to do on that front, but the passage of this bill is a great step in the right direction.”

Background: Health Savings Accounts have proven to be an effective way to pay for medical costs and proactively save for future medical expenses. Employees invest and save tax-free money in HSAs, which are then used to pay for qualified medical expenses. These have become increasingly popular healthcare plans in the private sector.

Under current federal law, it is illegal for a TRICARE-eligible veterans to participate in an HSA program. The Veterans TRICARE Choice Act simply gives veterans the choice to voluntarily pause their TRICARE benefits in order to participate in an HSA program.

The Veterans TRICARE Choice Act is supported by the Association of the United States Navy (AUSN) and the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS).

House Passes Gabbard-Cook Bill Encouraging Employers to Hire More Veterans

The HIRE Vets Act (H.R.3286), introduced by Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Paul Cook (CA-08), unanimously passed the House today. This bipartisan bill 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 a medallion program recognizing the meaningful, verifiable efforts undertaken by employers – both large and small – to hire and retain veterans. This bill will now move to the Senate.

gabbard-vet-bill-passRoughly 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,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “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.”

Background: The bipartisan HIRE Vets Act would promote private sector recruiting, hiring, and retaining of men and women who served honorably in the U.S. military through a voluntary and efficient program. Specifically, it would create an awards 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.

State Civil Rights Commission Calls on Hawaii to Oppose National Trend of Discriminatory Harassment

The Hawaiʻi Civil Rights Commission (HCRC) today announced that Chair Linda Hamilton Krieger called on the people of Hawaiʻi to stand against the reported rise in the incidence of discriminatory harassment and intimidation.

hawaii-civil-rights-commission“National reports of a spike in anti-immigrant, anti-Black, anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, and anti-woman harassment in the wake of the Presidential election raise serious concerns,” said Krieger. “But our values are different here in Hawaiʻi, and we must be vigilant in protecting them. In our diversity, we must continue to embrace the value of human dignity expressed in the Native Hawaiian saying, ʻaloha aku, aloha maiʻ – to respect and to receive respect. When things get tough, we must resist the temptation to turn on the most vulnerable among us and instead live the value, ʻmālama kekahi i kekahiʻ – to care for one another.”

“In these trying times, minorities face attacks not seen since post-9/11 attacks on Muslims and Arab Americans.” added HCRC Executive Director William Hoshijo. “Those who share a commitment to civil rights must stand up for those who cannot stand alone.”

“It is offensive that proponents of a ‘Muslim registration’ system cite the World War II internment of Japanese Americans as precedent to justify government targeting of an unpopular minority, in this case based on religion rather than race or ancestry,” said HCRC Commissioner Liann Ebesugawa. “Our Constitution guarantees equal protection of the laws to all. Never again should we make exceptions on the basis of race, national origin, or religion.”

The Hawaiʻi Civil Rights Commission is responsible for enforcing, and will enforce, state civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and state-funded services. The HCRC stands in opposition to discriminatory harassment, whether in schools, workplaces, places of business, or in our communities.

If you feel you have been subjected to discrimination or harassment because of your race, ancestry, sexual orientation, religion, sex, including gender identity, or other prohibited bases, contact the HCRC at:  telephone (808) 586-8636, or email DLIR.HCRC.INFOR@hawaii.gov.

For more information, go to the HCRC webpage at:  http://labor.hawaii.gov/hcrc/.

Equal Opportunity Employer/Program Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities.  TDD/TTY Dial 711 then ask for (808) 586-8866

Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, Don Young Introduce Bipartisan Resolution on #GivingTuesday

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Congressman Don Young (AK-AL) introduced a bipartisan resolution today recognizing #GivingTuesday, a global day of charitable giving and volunteerism. #GivingTuesday, the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, begins the holiday season in the spirit of service, following widely-recognized shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The resolution recognizes that philanthropy and charitable giving transcend party divides and unite people across boundaries.

“Too often, we focus on the issues that divide us, rather than those that unite us. #GivingTuesday highlights the principles of service, volunteerism, giving back to our communities, and helping those in need,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “Every single day, each of us can choose to be of service, whether it’s helping a friend or family member, caring for our community and our planet, having a positive impact on those around us, or giving our time to a cause we care about. #GivingTuesday recognizes our opportunity to put service before self and to be a force for positive change in the world.”

“As we kick off the holiday season, it’s extremely important to recognize the hard work and dedication of our many service organizations and non-profits,” said Congressman Don Young. “Because of your tremendous support and generous donations, these organizations are able to assist countless families and communities across the nation. Alaskans are often recognized for our hospitality and goodwill, and I encourage everyone back home to take part in this special day and share what you can with your local charity or non-profit.”

Click to read the full resolution

Click to read the full resolution

Background: #GivingTuesday was launched by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation in 2012, and has since become a worldwide movement, harnessing the power of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change. In its first year, #GivingTuesday brought together more than 2,500 organizations in all 50 States, and it has continued to gain momentum every year since, with more than 35,000 partners in the United States and around the world.

Senate Sends Thune-Schatz Legislation Protecting Consumer Reviews to President

Bipartisan Proposal Put Forward by Thune, Schatz, and Moran Outlaws Abusive “Gag Clauses”

yelp-advisorThe U.S. Senate today, by unanimous consent, sent bicameral legislation to the White House for the President’s signature that will outlaw the use of “gag clauses” in non-negotiable form contracts. Some businesses have attracted national scrutiny for using gag clauses to punish or silence honest criticism of products and services. The sponsors of the Senate version released the following statements:

“Reviews on where to shop, eat, or stay on websites like Yelp or TripAdvisor help consumers make informed choices about where to spend their money. Every consumer has the right to share their honest experiences and opinions of any business without the fear of legal retaliation, and the passage of our bill brings us one step closer to protecting that right,” said Internet Subcommittee Ranking Member Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i).

“By ending gag clauses, this legislation supports consumer rights and the integrity of critical feedback about products and services sold online. I appreciate the bipartisan efforts of my Senate and House colleagues to get this legislation over the finish line,” said Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.).

“Just as word of mouth is used by family and friends to share experiences with particular brands or businesses, online reviews have significant benefits to consumers in their purchasing decisions. I’m pleased this legislation will now be sent to the president’s desk. It will help make certain consumers in Kansas and across the country are able to make their voices heard without fear of lawsuits or financial repercussions for honest feedback,” said Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).

The Commerce Committee held a hearing on gag clauses on November 4, 2015, featuring testimony from Ms. Jen Palmer, a plaintiff in Palmer v. KlearGear, where a company demanded the removal of a negative online review or payment of $3,500 in fines because the online merchant’s terms of service included a non-disparagement clause. When the review was not taken down, the company reported the unpaid $3,500 to a credit reporting agency as an outstanding debt, which negatively impacted the Palmers’ credit.

Thune, Schatz, and Moran introduced S. 2044, the Consumer Review Freedom Act, in September 2015, and the Senate passed the measure unanimously last year. The Senate today approved the companion House version, H.R. 5111, introduced by Rep. Lance Leonard (R-N.J.) and Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-Mass.) earlier this year. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) also sponsored an earlier House companion version of the legislation, H.R. 2110, to outlaw gag clauses.

Hirono, Gabbard Announce House Vote on Filipino Veterans Congressional Gold Medal Bill

Senator Mazie Hirono and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard announced today the House will vote on legislation to award WWII Filipino Veterans the Congressional Gold Medal. The bill unanimously passed the Senate in July, and is scheduled for a vote in the House on Wednesday, November 30. Should the bill pass the House, it will be sent to the President to be signed in to law.

filipino-veterans“This week, Congress will take the next step to recognize the brave and courageous service of Filipino World War II veterans like Domingo Los Banos from Kauaʻi,” said Senator Mazie Hirono. “This Veterans Day, I joined Domingo aboard the USS Missouri to recount how these veterans were instrumental to our victory in the Pacific, but had to fight for decades to receive the benefits they earned. The unanimous support this bill earned in the Senate and the overwhelming backing it has in the House honors the sacrifice so many of these veterans made for our country.”

“This week, the House will take a historic vote to honor our Filipino World War II veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal—our highest civilian honor. These loyal and courageous soldiers suffered, fought, and gave up their lives alongside their American counterparts throughout the war, and have waited decades for their service to be recognized. They cannot afford to wait any longer,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “It has been an honor to personally get to know some of these veterans and their families, and to hear them humbly tell their courageous stories of service. I urge my colleagues to join me in voting to pass this timely legislation, and to honor our veterans with this long-overdue recognition.”

Background: Senator Mazie Hirono and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Filipino Veterans of WWII Congressional Gold Medal Act in 2015, and have worked together toward the bill’s final passage. The legislation acknowledges the more than 200,000 Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers who responded to President Roosevelt’s call-to-duty and fought under the American flag against the Imperial Forces of Japan during World War II. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor bestowed by the U.S Congress.

Senator Inouye Graduates from the Legislative Energy Horizon Institute

Senator Lorraine R. Inouye (Dist. 4 – Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, Kona) has completed the Legislative Energy Horizon Institute’s (LEHI) course in energy policy.

Sen. Lorraine Inouye (Marc Chopin, Dean and Professor of Economics, University of Idaho and Sen. Lorraine R. Inouye)

Marc Chopin, Dean and Professor of Economics, University of Idaho and Sen. Lorraine R. Inouye

The institute is a 60-hour energy immersion executive course with the University of Idaho.  The course is designed to increase the knowledge of the energy infrastructure and delivery system to equip legislators with the latest research and data as they make future energy policy decisions.

With the 2016 class, over 200 policymakers have completed the LEHI program. Those who complete the 60-hour executive course receive a certificate from the University of Idaho in Energy Policy Planning.

Sen. Inouye is the first Hawai‘i state Senator to complete the LEHI course.

“It was an intense course, but definitely time well spent learning in-depth about our complex energy system. It’s even clearer to me now how we are all connected in ensuring our energy resources are used efficiently. It is also important that our decisions on energy are well thought out, not only for us today, but for generations to come,” said Sen. Inouye.

“It is critical that citizen legislators get this basic knowledge of how our energy systems operate. I am impressed that Sen. Inouye took over a week of her personal time this year to better equip herself to make energy policy decisions,” said Rep. Jeff Morris of Washington State, Institute Director.

The Pacific North West Economic Region (PNWER) partnered with the University of Idaho and the U.S. Department of Energy to found the Institute in 2009. In 2012, the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) and the federal government of Canada joined the effort to make the program nationwide and also include Canadian legislators.

Hawaii First CEO Receives National Honor for Community Development

Laura Aguirre, president and CEO of Hawaii First Federal Credit Union, received the 2016 Annie Vamper Helping Hands Award during the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions’ Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas. This award is the highest honor given by the Federation to community development credit union staff and volunteers.

Laura Aguirre, president and CEO of Hawaii First Federal Credit Union, received the 2016 Annie Vamper Helping Hands Award.

Laura Aguirre, president and CEO of Hawaii First Federal Credit Union, received the 2016 Annie Vamper Helping Hands Award.

Under Aguirre’s Leadership, Hawaii First has received five Community Development Financial Institution awards totaling $3.3 million. These federal dollars allow Hawaii First to provide financial services in low-income communities and to those who lack access to financing.

The credit union also operates two Hawaii First Community Resource Centers and has provided 3,600 East and West Hawaii residents with financial counseling, career resources, tax preparation and more.

“Laura is one of the most caring people dedicated to helping the underserved that I know. It has been an honor to be a part of her team,” said Diane Guidry, Hawaii First board chairperson. “We are always looking for better ways to help our community. Laura shares with her staff so that they all can make a difference, one person at a time, to be the best they can be and achieve their dreams.”

Today, Hawaii First has assets of $42 million. From 2012 to 2016, the credit union’s assets and loans have grown 21% and 23%, respectively, and provided more than $60 million in loans to members.

The Federation is a certified CDFI intermediary representing community development credit unions. The Helping Hands Award was created in 1993 in honor of Annie Vamper, a national advocate for consumer education and cooperation among low-income people until her death in 1990.

Hawaii First’s previous honors with the Federation include the 2009 Dora Maxwell Award for Social Responsibility, the Circle of Honor Leadership Award from the Opportunity Finance Network in 2014, and the 2016 National Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action.

Rep. McKelvey Questions Gabbard’s Lack of Support in Condemning Trumps Appointment

Maui lawmaker says Congresswoman should stand with Democrats against racism

Rep. Angus McKelvey last week sent a letter to Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard asking why she has not joined in solidarity with many other Democrats in opposition to President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Stephen Brannon as chief strategist to the White House.

Letter attached below

Letter attached below

Brannon is known as a racist xenophobe with support from white nationalist hate groups.

In light of recent national reports that the Congresswoman has met with Trump, McKelvey said Hawaii’s residents have a right to know if Gabbard stands in opposition to Brannon.

McKelvey is perplexed as to why Gabbard would not join our congressional delegation, and other House Democrats, in opposing this disturbing appointment.

“Your refusal to stand with other Democrats in solidarity infers that you not only support Trump’s appointment, but are shifting your political views to fall in line with the incoming administration,” said McKelvey in his Nov. 17 letter.

Click to read the whole letter: Letter from Rep. McKelvey

Hawaii Congresswoman Gabbard Meets With President-Elect Trump

U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard today released the following statement on her meeting with President-elect Donald Trump regarding Syria:

hayden-and-tulsi-kneeling“President-elect Trump asked me to meet with him about our current policies regarding Syria, our fight against terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS, as well as other foreign policy challenges we face. I felt it important to take the opportunity to meet with the President-elect now before the drumbeats of war that neocons have been beating drag us into an escalation of the war to overthrow the Syrian government—a war which has already cost hundreds of thousands of lives and forced millions of refugees to flee their homes in search of safety for themselves and their families.

“While the rules of political expediency would say I should have refused to meet with President-elect Trump, I never have and never will play politics with American and Syrian lives.

“Serving the people of Hawaiʻi and our nation is an honor and responsibility that I do not take lightly.  Representing the aloha spirit and diversity of the people of Hawaiʻi, I will continue to seek common ground to deliver results that best serve all Americans, as I have tried to do during my time in Congress.

“Where I disagree with President-elect Trump on issues, I will not hesitate to express that disagreement.  However, I believe we can disagree, even strongly, but still come together on issues that matter to the American people and affect their daily lives. We cannot allow continued divisiveness to destroy our country.

“President-elect Trump and I had a frank and positive conversation in which we discussed a variety of foreign policy issues in depth. I shared with him my grave concerns that escalating the war in Syria by implementing a so-called no fly/safe zone would be disastrous for the Syrian people, our country, and the world. It would lead to more death and suffering, exacerbate the refugee crisis, strengthen ISIS and al-Qaeda, and bring us into a direct conflict with Russia which could result in a nuclear war. We discussed my bill to end our country’s illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government, and the need to focus our precious resources on rebuilding our own country, and on defeating al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist groups who pose a threat to the American people.

“For years, the issue of ending interventionist, regime change warfare has been one of my top priorities. This was the major reason I ran for Congress—I saw firsthand the cost of war, and the lives lost due to the interventionist warmongering policies our country has pursued for far too long.

“Let me be clear, I will never allow partisanship to undermine our national security when the lives of countless people lay in the balance.”

Hawaii Resident Awarded the Prestigious Carnegie Medal

On behalf of the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, Gov. David Ige presented Haleiwa resident Keoni Bowthorpe with the prestigious Carnegie Medal at a ceremony at the State Capitol on Friday. Bowthorpe was recognized for rescuing a shark attack victim on O‘ahu’s North Shore in October of last year.

Keoni Bowthorpe awarded the Carnegie Medal today at the Hawaii State Capital

Keoni Bowthorpe awarded the Carnegie Medal today at the Hawaii State Capital

Bowthorpe is credited with fighting off an aggressive shark and taking severely injured Colin Cook on his back while paddling to shore on his paddle board. Cook lost part of his left leg and part of a finger in the attack. Bowthorpe escaped unharmed.

Bowthorpe is one of 25 Carnegie Medal recipients recognized for outstanding civilian heroism. The medal is given in the United States and Canada to those who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.

The Carnegie Hero Fund will award each recipient or their survivors with a financial grant. The fund was established by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and has awarded $38.5 million in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits and continuing assistance since it was established in 1904. Since then, 9,893 heroes have been honored by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.

Big Island Police Donate 136 Boxes of Christmas Gifts for Kids Around the World

Employees from the Hawaiʻi Police Department donated 136 boxes of Christmas gifts destined for children in need around the world.

Chief Harry Kubojiri presents 136 shoeboxes full of Christmas presents donated by Police Department personnel to Nell Quay, Operation Christmas Child area coordinator of East Hawaii. To the chief's left is Steve Meek, the island's collections coordinator for the charity project.

Chief Harry Kubojiri presents 136 shoeboxes full of Christmas presents donated by Police Department personnel to Nell Quay, Operation Christmas Child area coordinator of East Hawaii. To the chief’s left is Steve Meek, the island’s collections coordinator for the charity project.

The boxes were presented to representatives of Operation Christmas Child on Thursday (November 17) at the South Hilo police station.

Operation Christmas Child is a yearly community project that reaches out to children in need who have never experienced the kindness of receiving a gift. Shoebox gifts are collected around the state in this international effort to assist those in war torn countries or suffering from famine, sickness and poverty.

Nell Quay, Operation Christmas Child’s area coordinator for East Hawaiʻi, said a shipping container carrying the gift boxes will be picked up on Tuesday to sail out of Hilo for processing in California before the presents reach their final destination. Quay said she had the privilege of going to Colombia last year to help distribute Christmas boxes at a public school in the South American nation.

Steve Meek, Operations Christmas Child’s collections coordinator, said donations on Hawaiʻi Island are being accepted through Monday, November 21. Shoeboxes full of gifts may be dropped off at Big Island Toyota from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Monday or from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. They also may be dropped off at Hilo Missionary Church from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Monday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and from 1 p.m., to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Last year Hawaiʻi Island collected more than 8,300 shoe boxes to combine with a total of more than 42,000 across the state. Internationally, 11.2 million boxes were sent to 110 countries.

PISCES Partners with UH Hilo and NASA for Simulated Human Mars Mission on Hawaii Island

The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) is partnering with the University of Hawaii at Hilo and NASA this month in a ground breaking research project to prepare for an eventual manned mission to Mars.

mars-simulationThe project, called BASALT (Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains), is focused on developing operation protocols for a joint human-robotic exploration of Mars in the search for extraterrestrial life. BASALT scientists and crew members are conducting simulated missions in two locations which closely resemble the Martian landscape at different areas: Mauna Ulu at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the Eastern Snake River Plain in Idaho.

Currently, the BASALT team is investigating Mauna Ulu by traversing the rugged lava terrain to collect rock samples for both biologic and geologic analysis.

“We add a twist to our scientific fieldwork by conducting it under simulated Mars mission constraints,” said Dr. Darlene Lim, geobiologist and principal investigator for the BASALT research project. “By doing so, we can evaluate operational concepts and a variety of supporting capabilities that range from software to hardware components with respect to their anticipated value for the human exploration of Mars.”

One of their constraints is a communication time delay to simulate the latency of transmissions experienced between planets. Dr. Lim and her team are hoping to develop a tricorder-like device, as envisioned in Star Trek, to be able to identify rock samples using a hand-held instrument.

The researchers hope to better understand the habitability of Mars by studying Mauna Ulu, which is a high-fidelity analog for the landscape of early Mars when volcanism and water were common.

“No one has really worked this out yet,” said John Hamilton, PISCES test logistics and education/public outreach manager. “We want to work out the kinks during these exercises so we have it together on a real mission. By the time they go to Mars, they’ll have a rock-solid plan.”

The BASALT team consists of scientists, engineers, mission operators and active astronauts. Roughly a dozen students from the University of Hawaii at Hilo are also assisting with the project. Hamilton, who is also a faculty member with the University of Hawaii at Hilo, Department of Physics and Astronomy, is serving on the BASALT Science Team, overseeing data collection, logistics, and student assignments. The research project is central to NASA’s Journey to Mars program.

“PISCES is honored to be working together with the University of Hawaii at Hilo and NASA Ames on this project,” said Rodrigo Romo, PISCES program manager. “Collaborative work with Ames has been in the frontline of applied research for PISCES recently. The fact that university students get the opportunity to participate in events like the BASALT project will help them meet the demands of a very competitive industry.”

PISCES was selected last year by NASA’s highly competitive PSTAR (Planetary Science and Technology Through Analog Research) program to participate in the four-year, $4.2 million BASALT project, which is being administered by the University of Hawaii at Hilo. The BASALT research team will be conducting their research on Hawaii Island until Nov. 18.

For more information visit PISCES’ website at www.pacificspacecenter.com.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Encourages Opportunities for Veterans in Technology

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Future Caucus and of the Diversifying Tech Caucus, delivered opening remarks at the congressional briefing Veteran Readiness in Technology: Preparing Veterans for the 21st Century Economy, hosted by the Millennial Action Project, Engine, TwinLogic Strategies, and Amazon.

tulsi-technology1The congresswoman spoke about how veterans are largely underrepresented in the rapidly growing technology industry, and about the importance of empowering veterans as they transition to civilian life. Following opening remarks, expert panelists discussed the current challenges transitioning service members and veterans face during their path towards a career in technology, and opportunities for veterans and service members in the 21st century tech economy.

tulsi-technology2“Roughly 500 veterans return to civilian life every day, bringing with them unique experiences and skills from their military service. Our veterans are natural leaders, trained to make decisions under pressure, work together as a team, and accomplish the mission at hand,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “Veterans have been largely underrepresented in the tech community, making up just 2% the sector that drives much of our economic innovation across the country. Ensuring our veterans have access to training and opportunities that set them up for success in the 21st century tech economy is good for our economy, good for our tech industry, good for our country, and good for our veterans.”

Background: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has introduced legislation like the Veterans’ Entry to Apprenticeship Act, to enable veterans to use their GI Bill benefits for apprenticeship programs in the skilled-trade industry, as well as the HIRE Vets Act to incentivize employers to hire and retain veterans.

Hokulea Departs Virginia and Sets Sail for Miami, Florida

Crewmembers aboard legendary voyaging canoe Hokulea are setting their sights for Miami, Florida as the team departed Hampton, Virginia yesterday morning.

hokulea-vermont1For three weeks, the vessel was dry docked at the nationally-acclaimed Mariners’ Museum to perform necessary restoration work, including structural repairs, service to electrical and mechanical systems and a new exterior paint job. After the completion of maintenance, Hokulea was returned to the water and readied for the next leg of the Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage.

hokulea-vermont2“Virginia welcomed our crew with genuine warmth and aloha and we are thankful for the opportunity to work with so many dedicated volunteers throughout the period of our dry dock,” said captain Bruce Blankenfeld. “With the dedication of our skilled dry-dock team as well as the hands and hearts of the community, Hokulea is in great shape for her journey home.”

hokulea-vermont3

This leg of the Voyage takes Hokulea and her crew 950 nautical miles to Miami, Florida. The canoe will make approximately 16 stops in various ports along the way and is expected to arrive in Miami by early December.

hokulea-vermont4Miami is one of the Florida’s most famous travel destinations and in addition to having the most populous areas in the state, the southern coast is home to some of the greatest biologically diverse marine ecosystems.  During her first touch to Florida in March, Hokulea and her crew engaged with local community groups to learn about the environmental and cultural legacy of the region. In Miami, crewmembers will once again engage with local community members to share the mission of the Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage before continuing the 11,000 miles home.

Hawaiian Telcom Unleashes 1 Gig Internet on Hawaii Island

Today Hawaiian Telcom announced that it has expanded availability of its ultra-fast 1 gigabit per second High-Speed Internet service to homes in Hawai‘i Island’s Puʻu Lani Ranch subdivision and the surrounding Puʻuanahulu area, using Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) technology. Hawaiian Telcom has been extending its broadband infrastructure on Hawaiʻi Island, an effort partially supported by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Connect America Fund (CAF).

Initially launched in 2015, Hawaiian Telcom’s Fiber 1 Gig service is the fastest in Hawaiʻi and among the fastest in the nation. Today more than 125,000 homes and 5,600 businesses statewide are enabled for 1 gigabit per second service and Hawaiian Telcom continues to expand availability to new locations every month.

“As Hawaiʻi’s Technology Leader and our state’s only local service provider, Hawaiian Telcom is committed to increasing speeds and expanding broadband access statewide,” said Scott Barber, President and CEO. “Puʻu Lani Ranch is our first 1 gigabit per second deployment using CAF Phase II support and we’re excited about the increased educational and economic opportunities that are now open to this community with Hawaiʻi’s fastest internet.”

One gigabit per second, which is equal to 1,000 megabits per second, enables multiple connected devices to run bandwidth-intense applications like streaming video and online gaming simultaneously over a shared connection without sacrificing quality.

“Studies have shown that there are at least eight Internet-connected devices in the average U.S. household today and that number is continuing to rise,” said Jason Fujita, Vice President – Consumer Sales and Marketing. “All of these bandwidth-hungry devices are pulling on the same broadband connection. With Hawaiian Telcom’s Fiber 1 Gig, you can operate all of your connected devices simultaneously without interruption.”

Last year Hawaiian Telcom announced that it was awarded approximately $26 million in CAF Phase II support to deploy a minimum of 10 megabits per second downstream and 1 megabits per second upstream by the year 2020 to more than 11,000 unserved and underserved locations.

Click to check available services in your area.

Click to check available services in your area.

Since 2015, with CAF Phase I support of approximately $1.4 million, Hawaiian Telcom successfully deployed High-Speed Internet to more than 1,800 locations on Hawaiʻi Island. These locations are within areas that include Ainaloa, Aliʻi Kane, Fern Acres, Fern Forest, Glenwood, Hawaiian Acres, Kaiwiki and Miloliʻi. Interested residents should visit hawaiiantel.com/Internet and key in their address to learn which services and speed tiers are available or call Hawaiian Telcom’s consumer sales center at (808) 643-3456.

The FCC created CAF in 2011 by reforming its Universal Service Fund (USF), which consumers contribute to as a Federal Universal Service fee on their monthly telephone and wireless bills, in an effort to accelerate broadband deployment to the approximately 23 million Americans in rural populations that lack access.