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UH Manoa Named One of the Top “Primo, Gorgeous” Campuses

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has been named one of the nation’s Top 20 “primo, gorgeous” campuses by Thrillist.com, and number 10 out of the 50 most beautiful U.S. campuses by TheBestColleges.org.

Kamakaūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies

Kamakaūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies

Thrillist.com describes UH’s flagship campus as “truly one of those 360-degree places in Hawaiʻi where you can do no wrong. On the mountain side, you’ve got some of the most lush forests abutting an urban area anywhere in the states, usually with a rainbow dawdling overhead. Look makai, you’ll see the extinct volcano Diamond Head and Waikīkī leading to the Pacific surf.”

TheBestColleges.org calls the campus location “one of the most beautiful places in the United States.”

UH Mānoa is internationally accredited as an arboretum by Morton Arboretum’s ArbNet program, and is designated as an official Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. It has also been recognized as among the 35 most beautiful college campuses in America by Deseret News, which compiled research from Thrillist, TheBestColleges.org, Forbes and Business Insider.

Said Roxanne Adams, UH Mānoa director of buildings and grounds management, “We are more than just a pretty place: UH Mānoa is home to more than 6,000 plants representing over 700 species, with numerous awards for our landscaping efforts from the Outdoor Circle, Scenic Hawaiʻi and others. We love what we do and are here to serve our university.”

Other public universities making the 2016 list include UC Berkeley, the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina.

AirAsia X Expects to Start Hawaii Service in 2017


According to Flight Global, AirAsia X will begin flight service to Hawaii:

AirAsia X expects to launch services on the Kuala Lumpur-Osaka-Hawaii route in the first quarter of 2017.

Speaking to journalists during World Routes, carrier chief executive Benyamin Ismail says that FAA approval has taken longer than expected, but should arrive soon.

Services will initially run four-times-weekly, but this will grow to daily in the summer season. The carrier has fifth freedom privileges throughout Japan, except for Tokyo.

You can read the full article here:  ROUTES: AirAsia X expects to start Hawaii service in 1Q 2017

President Obama Signs Schatz’s Native Tourism Bill Into Law

New Law Will Help Empower Native Communities in Hawai‘i and Across the Country to Tell Their Own Stories

President Barack Obama signed the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience (NATIVE) Act into law.  The bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and John Thune (R-S.D.) will enhance and integrate native tourism, empower native communities, and expand unique cultural tourism opportunities in the United States.

schatz-and-obama“I’m incredibly proud to have worked with our native communities on this legislation, and I’m pleased the president has signed it into law,” said Senator Schatz.  “This new law gives our native communities a real opportunity to grow their local economy and share their history and culture with the rest of the world.”

The NATIVE Act will require federal agencies with tourism assets and responsibilities to include tribes and native organizations in national tourism efforts and strategic planning. It will also provide Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, and American Indian communities with access to resources and technical assistance needed to build sustainable recreational and cultural travel and tourism infrastructure and capacity; spur economic development, and create good jobs.

U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) are cosponsors of the NATIVE Act.

The NATIVE Act is supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders including the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association, Sovereign Councils of the Hawaiian Homeland Assembly, U.S. Travel Association, American Indian and Alaska Native Tourism Association, Southeast Tourism Society, Western States Tourism Policy Council, National Congress of American Indians, Alaska Federation of Natives, and the Native Enterprise Initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

U.S. Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) led companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Hawaii Public School Students Outpace Nation in Gains on AP Exams

Hawaii’s public school students are exceeding the nation in gains on the Advanced Placement Program (AP) Exams over the year prior. In a report released today, the AP results for Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) students who were tested last May show increases in the number exam takers, exams taken and scores of 3 or higher.

Hawaii Advanced Placement Exam results 2014-15 vs. 2015-16 Photo Credit: Department of Education

Hawaii Advanced Placement Exam results 2014-15 vs. 2015-16
Photo Credit: Department of Education

“In just one year, between 2015 and 2016, the number of AP Exams in Hawaii that were scored 3 or higher increased by 7.5 percent,”said Scott Hill, a vice president at the College Board, which administers the AP Program. “That significant increase is a testament to the hard work and commitment of Hawaii’s students, parents, teachers, and education leaders, all of whom deserve commendation for this great achievement. We will continue to partner with Hawaii educators to ensure that all students ready for the challenge of AP are able to access those opportunities.”

Compared with last year, Hawaii’s public schools exceeded the nation’s growth in all categories –number of exam takers, exams taken and scores of 3 or higher.

Since 2012, the number of exams taken by Hawaii public school students has increased by 26 percent (from 6,669), and the number of passing scores increased by 29 percent (up from 2,599).

“Growth is crucial for our public schools and these results show promising system-wide improvement as we continue to raise the rigor and prepare our students for post-high school endeavors,”said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “These gains also reflect the hard work and professional development being done by our educators to prepare for and teach these college-level courses. Their dedication to their craft and students is evident in these positive results.”

The AP provides willing and academically prepared students with the opportunity to take rigorous college-level courses while still in high school, and to earn college credit, advanced placement, or both for successful performance on the AP Exams.

Students taking AP Exams also qualify for AP Scholar Awards, which recognizes exceptional achievement on the exams. For SY 2015-16, 616 students from 33 HIDOE schools earned AP Scholar Awards.

  • 10 students from 6 HIDOE schools qualified for the National AP Scholar Award by earning an average score of 4 or higher on a five-point scale on all AP Exams taken, and scores of 4 or higher on eight or more exams.
  • 26 students at 23 HIDOE schools qualified for the AP Scholar with Distinction Award by earning an average score of at least 3.5 on all AP Exams taken, and scores of 3 or higher on five or more of these exams.
  • 16 students at 26 HIDOE schools qualified for the AP Scholar with Honor Award by earning an average score of at least a 3.25 on all AP Exams taken, and scores of 3 or higher on four or more of these exams.
  • 374 students at 31 HIDOE schools qualified for the AP Scholar Award by completing three or more AP Exams with scores of 3 or higher.

The College Board also awards the AP International Diploma (APID) for students interested in pursuing university study outside of their native country, and who earn scores of 3 or higher on five or more total AP Exams in specific subject areas including world language and culture courses, global perspectives, science, math and computer science. Miki Kinnamon, a senior at Kalaheo High School, earned the APID for SY 2015-16.

Since 2012, Hawaii has received grants from the U.S. Department of Education to subsidize test fees for low-income students. Funding has increased year-over-year with HIDOE receiving $114,168 in 2015.

“These grants have been a tremendous help in making sure that we are able to provide college and career readiness opportunities for all of our students. For many of them, earning college credits at no cost in high school will help with the financial burden associated with completing a post-secondary degree,”Superintendent Matayoshi added.

The push behind providing opportunities for more students to take AP courses and exams are part of a range of recent transformational efforts to increase students’ college and career readiness. Learn more about these efforts in an Expectation of College. The results include strong increases in college enrollment, enrollment in early college programs at the high school level, as well as significant declines in college-level remediation in English and Mathematics.

For more information about AP courses and participation at HIDOE schools, visit www.hawaiipublicschools.org.

Pan Pacific Robotics Championships Scheduled Oct. 7-9, 2016

The Pan Pacific VEX Robotics Championships return, Oct. 7-9, 2016 at Kamehameha Schools Kapalama Campus Kekuhaupio Gym, with nearly 700 students from Hawaii, California, Canada, China, and Taiwan competing for qualification slots at the 2017 VEX Worlds. The event is free to the public.

vex-challengeCorporate grants from the Hawaiian Electric Companies and Okinawa Enetech, with support from Kamehameha Schools, have helped organizers reinstate the Pan Pacific VEX Championships which were last held in 2013. Organizers plan to rotate the tournaments between Hawaii and the Pacific Rim in future years.

“VEX Robotics is the largest and fastest growing scholastic robotics program in the world which teaches engineering, high-tech and problem-solving skills while students work in teams to achieve a common goal,” said Art Kimura of the Hawaii Space Grant Consortium, one of the event organizers and a champion of space, robotics and science education programs in Hawaii. “For Hawaii teams, the Pan Pacific VEX tournaments give our students an opportunity to compete at an international level without the expense of travel. For all the students, VEX Robotics offer invaluable life experiences they wouldn’t find in a classroom setting,” he added.

For the past several months, the student teams have been working together under the guidance of teachers and mentors to build innovative robots designed to solve a set of difficult challenges presented in the game.

In the VEX Robotics Competition (VRC), 51 teams comprised of middle and high school students will square off in the game of “Starstruck,” which involves a two-team alliance maneuvering their autonomous and driver-controlled robots to place as many stars and cubes into their opponent’s side of the field and by hanging robots onto a bar.

In the VEX IQ Challenge, 36 teams made up of elementary and middle school students will compete in the game called “Crossover.” The objective of this game is to maximize the alliance teams’ scores by placing as many hex balls into the opponent’s side of the field and by parking and balancing robots on a bridge by the end of the match.

According to organizers, the Pan Pacific VEX Championships are the first tournaments of the 2016-17 robotics season to qualify teams for the 2017 Championships. Of the total 87 teams participating, only two (2) will earn an opportunity to participate in the 2017 VEX Worlds, the ultimate showcase of robotics engineering expertise, held in Louisville, KY next April. Hawaii teams will have one more opportunity to qualify for the 2017 VEX Worlds through the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ Hawaii State High School VEX Championship and Hawaii State Middle School VEX Championship events scheduled in January 2017.

Opening ceremonies for the Pan Pacific VEX games begin at 9:00 a.m. on Oct. 8, with the first qualification matches to start at 9:30 a.m. through the end of the day, and resume on Oct. 9 at 8:30 a.m. The VEX IQ Challenge and VRC will be held simultaneously on two different playing fields. The VEX IQ awards presentation will take place on Oct. 9 at 1 p.m., followed by the VRC awards presentation at 2:30 p.m.

Hawaii Is the Worst State for Teachers – WalletHub Study

With Oct. 5 being International World Teachers Day and the Every Student Succeeds Act soon to go in effect, the personal-finance website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of 2016’s Best & Worst States for Teachers.

In order to help educators find the best teaching opportunities in the country and draw attention to the states needing improvement in this regard, WalletHub analyzed the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 16 key metrics, ranging from “average starting salary” to “pupil-teacher ratio” to “school safety.”

Teacher-Friendliness of Hawaii (1=Best; 25=Avg.)

  • 51st – Average Starting Salary for Teachers (Adjusted for Cost of Living)
  • 51st – Median Annual Salary for Teachers (Adjusted for Cost of Living)
  • 39th – WalletHub “School Systems” Ranking
  • 39th – Teachers’ Income Growth Potential
  • 21st – Projected Number of Teachers per 1,000 Students by Year 2022
  • 34th – 10-Year Change in Teacher Salaries
  • 37th – Pupil-Teacher Ratio
  • 19th – Public-School Spending per Student

For the full report, please visit:

“Lava Ocean Entry” 1 of 15 Photos Selected for National Geographic Contest

Kailua-Kona Photographer Mason Lake’s photo titled “Lava Ocean Entry” taken on the Big Island of Hawaii at the lava flow entrance Kamokuna, is one of fifteen photos that are in the running for the title of 2016 National Geographic “Nature Photographer of the Year”.

Lava Ocean Entry ... Lava ocean entry from the 2016 Kalapana lava flow on the Big Island of Hawaii. Watching new earth being formed is an amazing experience. Boiling ocean waves crashing into fresh lava & giving off clouds of steam along with scatter violent lava bursts from pressure release, creation of the earth is mesmerizing & powerful sight to see. Photo and Caption by Mason Lake/2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year

Lava Ocean Entry … Lava ocean entry from the 2016 Kalapana lava flow on the Big Island of Hawaii. Watching new earth being formed is an amazing experience. Boiling ocean waves crashing into fresh lava & giving off clouds of steam along with scatter violent lava bursts from pressure release, creation of the earth is mesmerizing & powerful sight to see. Photo and Caption by Mason Lake/2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year

The Grand Prize of the contest provides the winner with a 10-day trip for two to the Galápagos with National Geographic Expeditions.

Makers of the Prescription Drug that Treats Opioid Addiction Sued for Antitrust Practices

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin and 35 other attorneys general today filed an antitrust lawsuit against the makers of Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction, over allegations that the companies engaged in a scheme to block generic competitors and cause purchasers to pay artificially high prices.

suboxoneSuboxone is a brand-name prescription drug used to treat heroin addiction and other opioid addictions by easing addiction cravings. No generic alternative of the film is currently available.

Attorney General Chin said, “Helping addicts recover from the deadly effects of opioids is a top priority here and in other states. This week I had commented on the legal authority in Hawaii to prescribe Suboxone for the purpose of opioid detoxification or maintenance treatment of opioid dependence. Unfortunately, the makers of this drug have capitalized on this serious public health crisis and raked in huge corporate profits.”

Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, now known as Indivior, is accused of conspiring with MonoSol Rx to switch Suboxone from a tablet version to a film (that dissolves in the mouth) in order to prevent or delay generic alternatives and maintain monopoly profits. The companies are accused of violating state and federal antitrust laws.

According to the lawsuit, when Reckitt introduced Suboxone in 2002 (in tablet form), it had exclusivity protection that lasted for seven years, meaning no generic version could enter the market during that time. Before that period ended, however, Reckitt worked with MonoSol to create a new version of Suboxone – a dissolvable film, similar in size to a breath strip. Over time, Reckitt allegedly converted the market away from the tablet to the film through marketing, price adjustments, and other methods. Ultimately, after the majority of Suboxone prescriptions were written for the film, Reckitt removed the tablet from the U.S. market.

The attorneys general allege that this conduct was illegal “product hopping,” where a company makes modest changes to its product to extend patent protections so other companies can’t enter the market and offer cheaper generic alternatives. According to the suit, the Suboxone film provided no real benefit over the tablet and Reckitt continued to sell the tablets in other countries even after removing them from the U.S. market. Reckitt also allegedly expressed unfounded safety concerns about the tablet version and intentionally delayed FDA approval of generic versions of Suboxone.

As a result, the attorneys general allege that consumers and purchasers have paid artificially high monopoly prices since late 2009, when generic alternatives of Suboxone might otherwise have become available. During that time, annual sales of Suboxone topped $1 billion.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of Pennsylvania, accuses the companies of violating the federal Sherman Act and state laws. Counts include conspiracy to monopolize and illegal restraint of trade. In the suit, the attorneys general ask the court to stop the companies from engaging in anticompetitive conduct, to restore competition, and to order appropriate relief for consumers and the states, plus costs and fees.

Attorneys general of the following jurisdictions joined in the lawsuit:  Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard on DOI Rule Announcement

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard released the statement below following announcement of the Department of Interior’s (DOI) Final Rule for Procedures for Reestablishing a Formal Government-to-Government Relationship with the Native Hawaiian Community.

Click to read

Click to read

The rule incorporates and takes into account more than 54,000 public comments submitted to the Department of Interior from the Native Hawaiian community and other key stakeholders:

“For decades, many in the Native Hawaiian community have fought for the same rights and treatment as indigenous groups across the United States, like Native American tribes and Alaska Natives. The Department of Interior announcement today simply places the decision-making authority solely within the hands of Native Hawaiians to determine what, if any, government-to-government relationship they choose to have with the U.S. federal government. I had the great honor of working as a legislative aide to Senator Akaka, who dedicated so much of his life to creating this opportunity for our Native Hawaiian community. I look forward to continuing to engage and work alongside our Native Hawaiian brothers and sisters as they determine their path forward.” 

Hawaii Governor to Request Presidential Disaster Declaration for Public Assistance After Surveying Storm Damage

Gov. David Ige today toured Maui’s Iao Stream area, which suffered severe damage during last week’s storm. The governor was joined by Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa, State Adjutant General, Major General Arthur Logan, Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi and other government and emergency management officials for aerial and ground tours of the disaster site.

maui-storm1The tours follow initial assessments of the disaster area by the National Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

On Thursday, Gov. Ige took a 30-minute aerial tour of the site aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter before surveying the disaster site on the ground where he met with residents directly affected by the storm.

maui-storm4“It truly is a sobering reminder of the power of nature and to see the impact on the stream and the change of the flows that had a devastating effect on families, the state and county. I will be sending a letter to President Obama requesting a Presidential Disaster Declaration for Public Assistance,” said Gov. Ige.

maui-storm3The governor also met with some of the 30 Hawai‘i Air and Army National Guard members who have been activated to clear out debris and boulders which have diverted the stream flow into residential areas along the stream.

Initial assessments put the state and county’s damage estimate at $15 million. About 20 families were directly impacted by the storm.

maui-storm2While the county and National Guard continue to clear out an estimated 9,000 truckloads of debris, the state and county are working to ensure the safety of the community.

maui-storm5“This is going to be a large project. Very expensive. It’s going to take months and months to try and secure this area, but it’s going to be worth it,” said Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa.

Click here for video of the governor’s aerial tour.

World’s Largest Forensic Anthropology Laboratory is Completed on Oahu

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s (DPAA) Forensic Identification Laboratory recently reached construction completion at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Oahu, Hawaii. Designed by SmithGroupJJR, the new $89 million laboratory will aid in the investigation, recovery and accounting of Americans lost during the nation’s past conflicts dating back to World War II.


SmithGroupJJR served as architect, MEP engineer and laboratory planner and programmer of the new DPAA Laboratory, the world’s largest forensic anthropology laboratory.

The 136,497-square-foot facility consolidates operations that were previously dispersed on three military locations on Oahu. The goal of the new facility is to improve efficiency, productivity and support the DPAA mission, which is to “provide the fullest possible accounting for missing personnel to their families and the nation.”

By bringing all operations under one roof, the new three-story facility demonstrates the unique function and mission of DPAA by providing advanced investigation laboratories, a highly sustainable and flexible working environment for staff and appropriate spaces for the families of the deceased.

Primary laboratory spaces include the DPAA Laboratory, the Material Evidence and Life Support Investigation Lab, DNA lab and a complete forensic medicine facility.

The mission of the DPAA is to provide the fullest possible accounting for missing personnel to their families and the nation.

The mission of the DPAA is to provide the fullest possible accounting for missing personnel to their families and the nation.

“The process of designing this unique facility was a humbling one for our firm,” said Mark Kranz, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, design director, SmithGroupJJR. “Having the ability to meaningfully impact DPAA’s mission was a professional honor.”

The design for the new DPAA facility acknowledges the architectural legacy of Hickam Air Force Base (now Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam), while creating a uniquely Hawaiian character. A three-story garden space with outdoor lanais provides a serene respite for staff, while a chapel-like space for family viewing hovers above. Structural concrete as well as pre-cast concrete panels, which were manufactured on the island and fashioned with an abstracted Hawaiian pattern, create the primary architectural aesthetic. A one a kind craftsman-like shade trellis welcomes families and visitors to this highly secure, yet public facility.

DPAA Laboratory

The DPAA Laboratory spaces within this facility occupy the third floor of the building including 70 tables for examination. Approximately half of the floor space is devoted to conducting laboratory procedures, while the remaining half consist of a family viewing room providing a serene meeting space for families to reunite with their deceased loved ones, as well as offices and administrative spaces for the DPAA Laboratory. The general design of the DPAA Laboratory conforms to Biological Safety Level Two in accordance with requirements set forth by the Center for Disease Control/National Institutes of Health.

“The unique island and Pearl Harbor setting, coupled with this significant national mission allowed for a truly one-of-a-kind facility of national significance,” Kranz added.

Lend a Hand to Protect Volcanoes National Park on Public Lands Day this Saturday

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park celebrates 100 years protecting native ecosystems and invites everyone to lend a helping hand on National Public Lands Day (NPLD) this Saturday, Sept. 24. It’s a fee-free day, and while all park visitors can enjoy the park at no charge, NPLD volunteers will receive a free pass to use on another day of their choosing.

Keiki cut invasive Himalayan ginger from rainforest near Devastation Trail. NPS Photo/J.Ferracane

Keiki cut invasive Himalayan ginger from rainforest near Devastation Trail. NPS Photo/J.Ferracane

Join volunteers on Saturday for the Stewardship at the Summit program, from 8:45 a.m. to noon. Meet NPLD coordinator Jane Field at Kīlauea Visitor Center, then head into the rainforest to remove invasive Himalayan ginger from the summit of Kīlauea. Wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes and long pants. Bring a hat, sunscreen, raingear, snacks, and water. Loppers/gloves provided.  No advance registration required.

While pretty and fragrant, Himalayan ginger (also called kāhili) is one of the most invasive plants in the park, and on earth. It is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as one of the 100 World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species. The park strives to protect the rainforest habitat of native birds and plants, but Himalayan ginger takes over the native rainforest understory, and makes it impossible for the next generation of forest to grow. This inedible ginger species crowds out many native plants, including pa‘iniu (a Hawaiian lily), ‘ama‘u fern, and others.

Every year on NPLD, the largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands in the United States, all fee-charging national parks offer free entry. Many parks and public lands across the nation organize stewardship projects and special programs to raise awareness about why it is important to protect our public lands. To find out more, visit www.publiclandsday.org.

Rep. Gabbard Calls for Accountability on DoD Travel Card Abuse and Waste

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and a bipartisan group of Congressional Members delivered a letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter calling for the Department of Defense (DoD) to address millions of dollars misused by DoD personnel on government travel credit cards. The letter follows a recent Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD OIG) report revealing inadequate action by the DoD to respond to multiple cases of abuse in recent years.


Click to read report

“In just one year, from July 2013 to June 2014, an initial audit found 4,437 transactions totaling $952,258 in which government travel cards were likely used at casinos for personal expenditures. Furthermore, the report noted more than 900 instances of these government-issued cards being used at adult entertainment establishments, totaling $96,576,” the lawmakers wrote.

“The most recent report found that the Department of Defense has failed to take appropriate actions to resolve the issues highlighted by the previous audit. The Department has not taken steps to eliminate additional misuse of the government travel cards, initiated reviews for improper payments, or consistently considered the security implications of the misused travel cards. As a result, the government travel card program remains susceptible to continued waste and exploitation.”

The letter was also signed by Reps. Jim Costa (CA-16), Paul Gosar (AZ-04), Walter B. Jones (NC-03), Seth Moulton (MA-06), and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09). Full text is available below:

Dear Secretary Carter,

We are writing to express our concern about DoD personnel misusing government travel cards and American tax payer dollars.

The Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD OIG) has investigated these abuses on multiple occasions in recent years. The most recent investigation resulted in a report, issued on August 30, 2016, in which the DoD OIG found the Department has not done enough to respond to the infractions. The report findings also suggest the Department still maintains insufficient processes to address the problem: insufficient instruction on the appropriate use of the government travel card; improper reimbursements for personal expenses; and a tepid response from DoD management to correct these issues. Most troubling is that the most recent audit was conducted as a response to a previous report on DoD misuse of government travel cards released in 2015.

In a one year period from July 2013 to June 2014, the initial audit found 4,437 transactions totaling $952,258 in which government travel cards were likely used at casinos for personal use. Furthermore, the report noted more than 900 instances of cards being used at adult entertainment establishments, totaling $96,576.

The most recent report found that the DoD has not taken appropriate actions to resolve the issues highlighted by the previous audit. The DoD has not taken steps to eliminate additional misuse, initiate reviews for improper payments, or consistently considered the security implications of the misused travel cards. As a result, the government travel card program remains vulnerable to continued waste and exploitation.

The DoD IG made a number of recommendations to re-focus the Department’s efforts on identifying, investigating, and reporting the misuse or abuse of government travel cards. In light of the Department’s halfhearted response to the previous audit, we request a response on how the Department intends to implement the DoD IG’s recommendations. We will continue to monitor the Department’s progress.

We thank you for your attention to our concerns. We welcome further discussion on this issue.

Hawaii Health Centers to Receive $753K for IT Enhancements

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard announced today that 14 Hawaiʻi Health Centers will receive a total of $753,064 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support health information technology (IT) enhancements. The funding is part of more than $87 million provided by HHS to 1,310 health centers in every U.S. state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Pacific Basin. The funding will support health IT enhancements to accelerate health centers’ transition to value-based models of care, improve efforts to share and use information to support better decisions, and increase engagement in delivery system transformation. This is the first significant investment directly awarded to health centers to support the purchase of health IT since 2009.

health-center“Health centers across Hawaiʻi provide high-quality health and wellness services that our communities depend upon. Yet, in Hawaiʻi and in states across the country, remote locations, lack of funding, and staff shortages make it difficult to keep up with rapidly changing healthcare technology,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “Investing in our local health centers will increase information sharing, improve electronic healthcare record systems, and expand access to comprehensive, quality care for people in every county across the state.”

The following organizations are the Hawaiʻi recipients of the HHS health IT enhancement funds:

  • Hilo – $66,682 for the Bay Clinic
  • Wailuku – $52,900 for the Community Clinic of Maui
  • Honokaʻa – $46,535 for the Hamakua Health Center
  • Hana – $42,428 for the Hana Community Health Center
  • Līhuʻe – $46,320 for Hoʻola Lahui Hawaiʻi
  • Honolulu – $73,739 for the Kalihi-Palama Health Center
  • Honolulu – $54,075 for Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services
  • Kahuku – $48,198 for the Koʻolauloa Community Health and Wellness Center
  • Lanaʻi City – $41,749 for the Lanaʻi Community Health Center
  • Kaunakakai – $42,884 for Molokaʻi Ohana Health Care
  • Waiʻanae – $81,237 for the Waiʻanae District Comprehensive Health and Hospital Board
  • Honolulu – $55,087 for the Waikiki Health Center
  • Waimānalo – $46,056 for the Waimānalo Health Center
  • Kailua-Kona – $55,174 for the West Hawaiʻi CommunityHealthCenter

For a list of all fiscal year 2016 Delivery System Health Information Investment Awards recipients, visit: http://bphc.hrsa.gov/programopportunities/fundingopportunities/dshii/fy2016awards/index.html

To learn more about HRSA’s Health Center Program, visit: http://bphc.hrsa.gov/about/index.html

To find a health center in your area, visit: http://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/

Hokulea Spreading the Malama Honua Message at the 2016 Our Ocean Conference

To Malama Honua is to take care and protect all that makes up our planet. From the lands to the seas to perpetuating indigenous cultures across the globe, Hokulea’s historic Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage connects communities and countries through stories of hope and wisdom-utilizing these different perspectives as a guiding force to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.

Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and master navigator of Hokulea shared his vision of Malama Honua at this year’s 2016 Our Ocean Conference, hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday, September 15, 2016.

our-ocean-nainoaWith a special connection to the sea, Thompson was chosen to speak among prominent influencers and leaders to help explore and understand the importance of conserving the ocean. The Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage has been inspiring collective actions from different organizations around the world-many of which are starting in Hawaiʻi, as Governor David Ige announced Hawaiʻi’s commitment to manage 30 percent of Hawaiʻi’s nearshore waters by 2030 during the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress.


“It was an honor to provide a voice for Hawaii and the Pacific at this important conference focused on ocean protection,” said Nainoa Thompson, president, Polynesian Voyaging Society. “Being in the room and hearing the actions being taken by these great ‘navigators’ makes me hopeful that the world will get back on the right course with a sail plan for a sustainable ocean and future for our children.”

The ocean is a vital resource to sustain all life on Earth. The Our Ocean Conference brings together many of the world’s environmental activists, and higher-level government leaders to catalyze actions in order to protect our ocean from pollution, climate-related impacts, and unsustainable and illegal fishing.

our-ocean-obamaSeveral speakers of the 2016 Our Ocean Conference included President of the United States, Barack Obama; Actor and Environmental Activists, Leonardo DiCaprio; and U.S. Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii-all who hope to empower and create a movement for generations to follow.

The 2016 Our Ocean Conference was held in Washington D.C.from September 15 to September 16, 2016.

Hawaii to Receive $3.8 Million to Protect Threatened and Endangered Species

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, yesterday welcomed more than $3.8 million from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect threatened and endangered species in Hawai‘i through better land use management. These funds are a part of a $44.8 million investment under the Endangered Species Act grant program that will be distributed among 20 states.

“This new funding will help ensure that threatened and endangered species in our state will be protected for years to come,” said Senator Schatz. “These funds are a strategic investment that will help strike a better balance between human use and wildlife habitats.  By accounting for threatened and endangered species in our land use planning, we can reduce our impact on the environment and allow our state’s unique wildlife to thrive.”

In Hawai‘i, these funds will be allocated to four programs including:

Helemano Wilderness Area (Honolulu County) $2,000,000:

The Helemano Wilderness Area (HWA) project on Oahu will permanently protect over 3,000 acres of habitat for the federally-listed endangered Hawaiian hoary bat. The proposed acquisition will complement mitigation efforts outlined in HCPs for three Oahu wind energy complexes. Half of the acquisition area contains bat habitat with no need for management or restoration and a substantial portion of the remainder will be reforested and incorporated into ongoing research studies on optimal bat habitat and forest design. The HWA project also includes upland portions of the Paukauila and Kiikii Watersheds.  The Paukauila-Kiikii stream drainage basin is the largest on Oahu, supplying drinking water to communities from Pearl Harbor to the North Shore – a third of Oahu’s residents. Thus, in addition to aiding the recovery of the Hawaiian hoary bat, acquiring the HWA will protect and secure clean drinking water for Oahu’s residents.

Kauai Seabird Habitat Conservation Program: Kauai Island Utility Cooperative Habitat Conservation Plan (Kauai County) $906,105:

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is developing the Kauai Seabird Habitat Conservation Program – Kauai Island Utility Cooperative HCP (KIUC HCP) to address incidental take of the endangered Hawaiian petrel, the threatened Newell’s shearwater, and the band-rumped storm petrel, a candidate for listing, due to light attraction and utility line collisions on the island of Kauai. Completion of the KIUC HCP will result in the implementation of landscape-scale conservation to mitigate for island-wide take and a thorough minimization plan for listed seabirds on Kauai. It is critical to the listed seabirds’ survival that landscape-scale breeding colony management takes place to abate the current population declines.

A Hawaii Hoary Bat

A Hawaii Hoary Bat

Hawaiian Hoary Bat Habitat Conservation Plan for Biomass and Timber Harvest in the Hawaiian Islands* (Hawaii, Honolulu, Kalawao, Kauai, and Maui Counties) $395,000:

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, in cooperation with members of the Hawai‘i Forest Industry Association and biomass industry, will develop an HCP to conserve the Hawaiian hoary bat (HHB) during biomass and timber harvest activities in the Hawaiian Islands. The HCP will result in a better understanding of the HHB’s status and distribution in commercial forest stands, reduce and mitigate impacts from biomass and timber harvest operations, and conserve the HHB while allowing sustainable forest management practices, which will allow public and private landowners to meet economic, ecological, and social goals.

Kaluaaha Ranch Conservation Easement (Maui County) $500,000:

The Kaluaaha Ranch Conservation Easement on Molokai Island will permanently protect 969 acres to support the recovery of numerous endangered species, as well as minimize sedimentation of the near shore ecosystem and the Nation’s largest fringing coral reef. Extending from near sea level to over 4,000 feet at the summit of the East Molokai Range, upper Kaluaaha Valley has high-quality native forest currently being degraded by feral ungulates resulting in increased sediments flowing downstream, which smothers the reefs below. The Molokai Land Trust, The Trust for Public Land, and the Hawai’i Division of Forestry and Wildlife will permanently protect the upper Kaluaaha Valley via a conservation easement. Surveys of the property have documented three highly endangered native plant species — one of them having fewer than 50 extant individuals. Kaluaaha Valley also provides habitat for endangered seabirds such as the Newell’s shearwater that nests in extremely steep valley walls as well as the Hawaiian goose (Nene). The Kaluaaha Stream flows year round and ensures the vitality of the forest and its ability to absorb water will sustain the water supply and clean drinking water for East Molokai.

Hawaii DLNR Shares Concerns Over Reports of Sub-Standard Living Conditions on Certain Longline Fishing Vessels

The Department of Land and Natural Resources is aware of media reports regarding living and working conditions on longline fishing vessels that bring catches into Hawai‘i ports. DLNR’S area of responsibility is limited to the ministerial task of issuing commercial fishing licenses to qualified applicants.

dlnr“The DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), issues licenses to individual fishermen engaged in commercial catch.  DAR continues to follow long-established statutory and administrative rules which require commercial marine licenses for the taking of marine life and landing it in the state for commercial purposes,” explained DLNR Chair Suzanne Case.  The rules regarding Hawai‘i commercial marine licenses can be found in Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (HRS-189-2 and HRS-189-5).

“We are naturally concerned about press reports pertaining to on-board living conditions, pay disparity and the issue of involuntary labor, and applaud the longline fishing industry for the efforts it is taking to resolve these issues,” Case added.  “Further we are happy to engage with any stakeholders, including lawmakers, commercial fishing interests, and other regulatory agencies, in explaining the current laws and regulations pertaining to licensing of commercial longline fishers and in exploring any legislative or administrative rule changes,” Case said. “While our jurisdiction only extends to the protection of natural resources, we are certainly very concerned about any human rights violations that are reportedly occurring on the longline fishing fleet, and stand ready to assist in any way possible,” she concluded.

Hawaii Department of Transportation Plans Mileage Based User Fee Demonstration Using Federal Grant

Demonstration to focus on operational considerations for transition to a mileage based user fee for highway maintenance

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) Highways Division, in partnership with the four county governments, is planning to test a statewide mileage based user fee as a potential source of revenue for the State Highway Fund.

Click to read about the demonstration

Click to read about the demonstration

HDOT Highways Division is pursuing a mileage based user fee as a possible replacement to the fuel tax, which currently makes up 33 percent of State Highway Fund revenue. A statewide mileage based user fee demonstration would allow HDOT Highways Division to test operational considerations in the assessment and collection of a sustainable source of funding to maintain and build Hawaii roadways.

Details of the planned test, or demonstration, are available in a grant proposal sent by HDOT Highways Division to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The grant proposal may be downloaded at http://hidot.hawaii.gov/administration/library/publications/

HDOT Highways Division was awarded a $3.988 million grant from FHWA based on the grant proposal. A total of $14.2 million was awarded to eight states on a competitive basis. Hawaii received the largest Surface Transportation Funding Alternatives grant award for this grant cycle. HDOT is working with a consortium of states, such as Oregon, Washington, California, and Colorado, who have or are in the process of performing their demonstration project.

The mileage based user fee demonstration will include outreach and ample opportunities for public feedback. HDOT Highways Division will make updates on the demonstration to Hawaii drivers through mailings, news releases, and through the department website at http://hidot.hawaii.gov/

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Lawmakers Urge President to Ensure Army Corps Consultation with Standing Rock Sioux on Dakota Access Pipeline

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.


“The federal government has a moral and legal trust responsibility to ensure that federally permitted projects do not threaten historically or culturally significant tribal places, the trust lands of tribal nations, or the waters that run through them. We stand with tribal leaders in asking you to uphold our federal trust responsibility and protect tribal interests in this and future permitting decisions by the United States Army Corps of Engineers,” the lawmakers wrote. “In the instance of the Dakota Access Pipeline, despite its location within a mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, the United States Army Corps of Engineers failed in its responsibility to engage in meaningful consultation and collaboration with potentially impacted tribal nations. The lack of proper consultation on the Dakota Access Pipeline has been detrimental to the interests of all stakeholders in this issue, from the tribal governments whose heritage and lands are at risk to the workers hired to construct this pipeline who now face uncertain conditions.”

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear President Obama:

As Members of the Congressional Native American Caucus, we are writing to you to share our deep concerns with the lack of tribal consultation in the routing of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  In recent weeks, we have heard from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe about the destructive impact that the current route of this pipeline could have upon the tribe’s sacred and cultural places, as well as the risks posed to their waters, due to the lack of proper engagement from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).   We stand with tribal leaders in asking you to uphold our federal trust responsibility and protect tribal interests in this and future permitting decisions by the USACE.

The federal government has a moral and legal trust responsibility to ensure that federally permitted projects do not threaten historically or culturally significant tribal places, the trust lands of tribal nations, or the waters that run through them.  Pursuant to Executive Order 13175 of November 6, 2000, and reinforced by the Presidential Memorandum on Tribal Consultation of November 5, 2009, the executive departments and agencies of the federal government are to engage in “regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials”.  In the instance of the DAPL, despite its location within a mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, the USACE failed in its responsibility to engage in meaningful consultation and collaboration with potentially impacted tribal nations.

We are encouraged by the September 9th announcement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army, and the Department of the Interior that the Army would be halting construction of the DAPL on Army Corps land and undertaking a review of its previous decisions about the Lake Oahe site.  The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is currently petitioning the courts to determine whether the approval process for the DAPL was fully compliant with the National Historic Preservation Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and our federal trust responsibility.  We urge the Administration to maintain its hold on further permitting for the DAPL project until the concerns of the Tribe about the protection of their sacred sites, homelands, and water quality have been fully addressed.  In the meantime, we are pleased to see that the Administration will be holding formal government-to-government consultations this fall to improve tribal input on infrastructure decisions.  We look forward to working with you on legislative proposals to ensure the preservation of tribal sacred and historic sites, protection of trust lands, and access to clean water are prioritized for the DAPL and other USACE project decisions.

As Members of Congress and as fellow trustees for tribal lands with the Administration, we are deeply disappointed in this lapse in our nation-to-nation relationship.  Ultimately, the lack of proper consultation on the DAPL has been detrimental to the interests of all stakeholders in this issue, from the tribal governments whose heritage and lands are at risk to the workers hired to construct this pipeline who now face uncertain conditions.   When tribal consultation is neglected, both tribal nations and our nation as a whole suffer.

Hokulea and Aha Punana Leo Converge on Kahnawake – Heading Towards Great Lakes

As Hokulea continues forth on her Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage, the crew and founding board members of Aha Punana Leo-a Native Hawaiian nonprofit dedicated to revitalizing the Hawaiian language for future generations in Hawaiʻi-honored a relationship that spans nearly 5,000 miles and 40 years of revolutionaries working together to revitalize and perpetuate the core of indigenous knowledge.


Passing through the 34th lock to get to the upper Montreal area of the St. Lawrence river, Hokulea docked at her first Marina within a Native Reserve-the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake.

This gathering was yet another opportunity along this Worldwide Voyage to honor the collaborative work being done in native communities to keep indigenous knowledge alive and relevant to the world around us. Additionally, the crew of Hokulea, the founding members of Aha Punana Leo, and the Mohawk community hope to inspire and perpetuate native knowledge and language for generations to come.


Kauanoe Kamana, founding board member and current president of Aha Punana Leo, addressed both groups in Hawaiian. “The connection between our work in language revitalization and the pursuits of our waʻa Hokulea, have to do with the fact that we set out with our work, prepared and with a strong resolve to succeed as best as we can,” said Kamana as translated in English. “But, we donʻt know what the result will be until we actually arrive.”

“Your work in the past had huge impact in Hawaiʻi, and the fact that you would allow us to bring our leaders up here, our pioneers, our courageous individuals, Pila Wilson, his wife Kauanoe, Nāmaka,” said Nainoa Thompson, Pwo navigator. “These are the ones that are changing the world and bringing back the language with your help,” Thompson added.

The Mohawk community is home to the immersion program whose leaders helped pave the way for Hawaiʻi’s immersion program in the early ʻ80’s. Dorothy Lazore was instrumental in establishing the Mohawk language immersion program in Kahnawake and spoke before Hawaiʻi’s Board of Education on the day that Hawaiʻi DOE’s immersion program was approved-a program that has become a model nationally and internationally.

mohawks“As you were telling us just how we helped you and how we were an inspiration for your people, and how our teachers went out to help you to revitalize what could have been lost in one generation or in two,” said Kanentokon Hemlock, Bear Clan Chief of the Kanonsonnionwe Long House. “It’s interesting because you inspire us.We look to you. We follow your inspiration too in all the work you have been doing in your land,” Hemlock shared.

During this monumental visit, crew members of Hokulea and Mohawk natives gathered at the Kanonsonnionwe Long House as they welcomed each other by exchanging gifts and songs in their native languages. Kālepa Baybayan, captain of Hokulea’s leg 23 of the Worldwide Voyage, presented Kanentokon Hemlock, Bear Clan Chief of the Kanonsonnionwe Long House, with a traditional Hawaiian feather or kahili.

“Working together like this-that is the key to our collective success! It is that kind of mindset, thinking not just about the individual, but thinking about all of us-us as an ʻohana,” said in Hawaiian by Kamanā.

Leg 23 Sail Plan

Leg 23 Sail Plan