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New York National Guardsmen to Test NASA Space Capsule Recovery System in Hawaii

Forty-five members of the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing are heading to Hawaii, Feb. 27, to participate in a joint NASA and Defense Department mission to evaluate recovery techniques and gear that will be used to recover NASA’s Orion spacecraft, the next generation of American space vehicle.

Navy divers and other personnel in a Zodiac boat secure a harness around a test version of the Orion crew module during Underway Recovery Test 5 in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California, Oct. 28, 2016. Members of the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing will participate in a mission in Hawaii designed to test space capsule recovery techniques and equipment, although they will not work with a capsule simulator like this one. Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans. NASA photo

The team of 45 airmen is made up of pararescuemen; combat rescue officers; survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists; and other support airmen assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing’s 103rd Rescue Squadron based here.

Pararescuemen are trained to rescue downed aviators behind enemy lines and from land and water environments. Each pararescue airman undergoes two years of training that includes extensive medical training as well as training in parachute jumping, scuba diving and survival skills.

The pararescuemen are experienced in dropping fully stocked rescue boats to recover personnel.

The New York Air National Guardsmen will work with experts from NASA, the Air Force and the Department of Defense Human Spaceflight Support Office in developing techniques for air-dropping gear needed to recover the crew from an Orion screw module and fit the floating spacecraft with special equipment.

The New York airmen will conduct airdrops and practice helping astronauts out of the spacecraft, providing medical assistance if necessary. The jumps will help NASA and the military test a number of systems and procedures for future launches.

While the 106th airmen will be testing recovery equipment, they will not be working with an actual or simulated Orion capsule.

Experienced Airmen

This is not the first time the New York Air National Guard has been involved in a spacecraft recovery mission.

The 106th Rescue Wing provided a rescue support package at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, which is located adjacent to the Kennedy Space Center, for 109 of the Space Shuttle missions. The mission of the National Guardsmen was to rescue astronauts who were forced to abandon their spacecraft during the launch sequence.

“We are pleased to be partnering once again with NASA and the Department of Defense on manned space travel. This exercise is one of many steps the 106th will take to ensure the successful recovery of our nation’s astronauts should the need arise. This will further demonstrate the versatility and tremendous capability the Airmen of the 106th possess,” said Air Force Col. Michael Bank, the commander of the 106th Rescue Wing.

“The personnel of the 106th Rescue Wing are professionals who have proven themselves in both combat and here at home, “said Air Force Maj. Gen. Anthony German, the adjutant general of New York. “We’re pleased that they can lend their expertise as NASA plans for the continued exploration of space.”

To the Moon and Beyond

Orion is designed to take Americans back into deep space — defined as the moon and beyond.

The spacecraft resembles a larger version of the Apollo space capsule which took men to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s. Like the Apollo command module, the Orion spacecraft is designed to ‘splash down” in the ocean instead of landing on a runway like the Space Shuttles, which flew 135 times between 1981 and 2011.

Unlike the Apollo capsules, the Orion crew module is designed to be reusable and will house two to six astronauts instead of three.

An unmanned Orion flew in 2014. The next launch of the spacecraft is due in September 2018. That three-week long mission to the moon and beyond was originally to be unmanned by NASA has announced they are studying whether or not a crewed mission can be conducted.

The deployment of the 106th personnel is part of the Sentry Aloha series of air operations exercises hosted by the Hawaii Air National Guard each year.

NASA’s objectives for the mission are to:

  • Test the best way to mark the spacecraft’s location in the water;
  • Test configurations for airdropping recovery equipment;
  • Practice the inflation of a “front porch” which would be used by astronauts exiting the spacecraft; test the stabilization collar which will be placed on the Orion capsule before recovery; and
  • Test storage capacity for equipment on land.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Promotes Diversified Agriculture on Valley Isle

On Maui today, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) attended the kick-off and blessing for Pacific Biodiesel’s biofuel sunflower crop, where she delivered opening remarks about the importance of diversified agriculture, protecting our environment, and creating local jobs. She met with the project’s leaders and farmers, and planted seeds as part of the blessing ceremony.

Continuing this week’s focus on reforming the criminal justice system and visiting Hawaiʻi correctional facilities, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard toured the Maui Community Correctional Center (MCCC) and met with Maui Economic Opportunity caseworkers who assist the inmates as they reintegrate into the community. The congresswoman heard about the programs being offered there and spent time with many of the incarcerated men and women. She saw firsthand the problems and challenges at MCCC, foremost of which is the dilapidated facilities and extreme overcrowding. She was especially moved by the positive stories shared by those participating in the Maui Drug Court Program.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard visited the Hawaiʻi Youth Correctional Facility and the Women’s Community Correctional Center on Oʻahu earlier this week, and will be at the Kauaʻi Community Correctional Facility tomorrow morning. She has long advocated for common sense criminal justice reform legislation and has been a vocal advocate supporting state programs like Drug Courts, Veteran Courts, Hawaiʻi Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE), and the State Juvenile Justice Hoʻopono Mamo Civil Citation Initiative.

While on the Valley Isle today, the congresswoman also participated in an AARP roundtable discussion with Maui members, volunteers, and others from the community to discuss federal issues that impact seniors and how to better serve kūpuna on Maui, Molokaʻi, and Lanaʻi.

Tomorrow, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will be hosting a “Congress on Your Corner” in Waianae to talk story, hear from Oʻahu constituents about their ideas and concerns, and share how her office can assist families with federal issues like veteran services, immigration, social security, Medicare, and more. She will have her usual pop-up tent in the parking lot of “Da Crawfish and Crab Shack” at 87-64 Farrington Highway in Waianae on Saturday, February 25th from 3:00-4:00pm.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Recognized for Pro-Environment Voting Record

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard received a 100% score from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) for her pro-environment voting record:

“In Hawaiʻi, we know that protecting our ʻāina and caring for our home is more than just a policy discussion, it’s a basic necessity and responsibility. I will continue working to advance Hawaiʻi’s renewable energy initiatives, protect our coral reefs, keep our water, air and oceans clean, fight against invasive species, and support sustainable growth throughout our state and country. We cannot afford to play politics with our environment—it’s too important for our economy, our security, our health, and the future of our planet,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Background: LCV’s National Environmental Scorecard represents the consensus of experts from about 20 respected environmental and conservation organizations who select the key votes on which members of Congress should be scored. LCV scores votes on the most important issues of the year, including energy, global warming, public health, public lands and wildlife conservation, and spending for environmental programs. The Scorecard is the nationally accepted yardstick used to rate members of Congress on environmental, public health, and energy issues.

Local Divemaster/Photographer Member of 1st Place Team USA at World Shootout Underwater Photo Grand Prix

Kona Honu Divers divemaster and popular local photographer Jeff Milisen joins two other photographers on Team USA at the World Shootout Underwater Photo Grand Prix. Milisen, along with Renee Capozzola and Ron Watkins took home the first place prize in the National Team category, which included a trip to Papua, New Guinea.

Seahorse has an octopus on its head. Photo by Jeff Milisen

“We’re not surprised Jeff was part of a winning team, because he’s won so many other photo competitions,” said Byron Kay, owner of Kona Honu Divers where Milisen works. “He’s such a pro we asked him to once again host our 2nd Annual Kona Underwater Shootout which will be held May. Jeff’s willingness to put himself in situations that make most people squeamish allows him to capture the action up close and personal”.

Milisen specializes in “blackwater” photography of small marine creatures that rise to the surface of the ocean at night, and was the Overall Grand Prize winner in the 2015 Ocean Art photo contest.  Milisen, a biologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa studying coral reefs, is also a divemaster for Kona Honu Divers and the Director of the annual Kona Underwater Shootout. Check out Milisen’s photos at http://www.iphotograph.fish.

Byron Kay owns Kona Honu Divers, a SCUBA diving, Manta Ray watching and snorkeling activity company and equipment shop.  He also owns Kona Freedivers. Kay is a certified SCUBA and Freediving Instructor who’s a valuable resource for information about Hawaii’s ocean life. He’s also a founder of the Kona Underwater Club, an organization dedicated to local research, education, and cleaning up the debris on the coastline and in the ocean.

Tulsi Gabbard Visits Hawaii Island Kūpuna and Native Hawaiian Veterans

This morning at the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program recognition luncheon in Kona, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) visited with some of the 1,129 kūpuna who serve Hawaiʻi Island communities through the county’s Elderly Activities Division. She spent time visiting with seniors, delivered remarks thanking them for their service, and answered questions about her work in Congress. Last year, kūpuna volunteers on Hawaiʻi Island gave 97,815 hours in service at more than 140 different public and private non-profit agencies.

Photos via: Ilihia Gionson.

In Waimea today, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard met with Native Hawaiian leaders who are focusing on farming, food security, and sustainability for the homestead land they live on. The Waimea Nui Community Development Initiative is a sustainability project on 61 acres of Hawaiian Homestead land that includes a community ag park with farm lots for small farmers and a post-harvest facility. Soon, small farmers will be able to participate in a community equipment program and training through the College of Tropical Agriculture and the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.

The congresswoman also met with several constituents, including a group organized by Father John Schroedel that has been actively supporting the Orthodox Diocese of Aleppo.

Hawaiian-Born Daughter Becomes Commander, Navy Region Southeast

Rear Adm. Babette “Bette” Bolivar assumed the duties and responsibilities as Commander, Navy Region Southeast during a change of command ceremony aboard Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida Feb. 23.

Rear Adm. Babette “Bette” Bolivar

Bolivar was born in Hawaii and raised in various locations in the Western Pacific by traditional Filipino parents Ted Cereno Bolivar, from Nabua in the Philippine province of Camarines Sur and who retired as a Chief Petty Officer from the United States Navy, and Virginia Dolor Bolivar of the Philippine province of Pangasinan.

Bolivar graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1985, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in oceanography. She also holds a Master of Science in management from Troy University.

In 1988, following her second tour, Bolivar was accepted to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal / Diving and Salvage Community as a special operations officer.

Bolivar has served in various leadership positions aboard five Navy ships, as well as commanding officer of Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1. She has served in numerous positions in the Commander, Navy Installations Command enterprise, including a tour as the CNIC chief of staff and commander, Navy Region Northwest.

Most recently, she served as commander of Joint Region Marianas from August 2014 to January 2017, where she held multiple positions including U.S. Pacific Command/Defense Representative Guam-Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands-Federated States of Micronesia-Republic of Palau; Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas; and Commander, Task Force West.

As commander of Navy Region Southeast, Bolivar will be charged with providing support and guidance for 18 installations within the Southeastern United States as well as the Caribbean. The regional command is responsible for shore activities, including each installation’s standards of performance, anti-terrorism and force protection, disaster preparedness, safety, joint services, financial management, public affairs, state and local government liaison, environmental protection and legal affairs.

Residents in Hawaii Have the MOST Money Taken Out of Their Paychecks

According to a study from GoBankingRates, workers in Hawaii get the most money taken out of their paycheck. An employee here making $50,000 a year will get a $1,923.08 paycheck, assuming a biweekly pay cycle.

In Hawaii, $542.24 of that will go to pay for things like the Federal Insurance Contributions Act taxes (FICA), which is a tax used to fund older Americans’ Social Security and Medicare benefits.

In addition to a high state income tax (8.25%), locals in Hawaii have more money withheld from their paychecks thanks to items like the State Disability Insurance (SDI), which is only applicable in four other states.

While Hawaii leads the charge on money withheld, there is some close competition. Other states taking the most out of your paycheck include Oregon ($538.05), Idaho ($528.93), South Carolina ($524.95) and Minnesota ($515.93).

Governor Ige to Attend National Governors Association Conference in D.C

Gov. David Ige is traveling to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Feb. 21 to attend the National Governors Association’s (NGA) winter meeting. The governor will join other governors from across the country to discuss a wide range of topics that are important to the future of the State of Hawai‘i. The topics include energy, early childhood education, transportation, homeland security, cybersecurity, public safety, health care reform, conservation management and species preservation.

The governor will also meet with various members of the new administration to discuss energy, transportation, defense and homeland security.

First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige is scheduled to participate in an NGA panel discussion on the evolving role of governor’s spouses in the 21st century.

The NGA is a bipartisan organization of the nation’s governors that promotes visionary state leadership, shares best practices and speaks with a collective voice on national policy.

The governor and first lady will be traveling with two staff members. The total cost of the trip is approximately $13,300.

Gov. Ige returns to Hawai‘i on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui will serve as acting governor while Gov. Ige is out of state.

Families Reunite as USS Hopper Returns to Pearl Harbor Today

The guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) returned home from a 180-day independent deployment to the Arabian Gulf, Western Pacific, and Indian Ocean, Feb. 21.

While deployed to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleets, the ship and crew of more than 330 Sailors, assigned to Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 9, conducted presence and maritime security operations and integrated with six different Combined Task Forces while independently deployed.

While on station in the Arabian Gulf, Hopper joined Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10 for integrated operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

“This was an incredible deployment which saw six different Task Forces, which means six different missions and operations, some of which were ‘firsts’ and set new precedents on what is expected from an independent deployer,” said Cmdr. J.D. Gainey, Hooper’s commanding officer.

Under the operational control of 7th Fleet, Hopper conducted routine patrols, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation activities with allies and partners to enhance regional security and stability.  Hopper also participated in the 13th iteration of the Royal Australian navy’s premier multinational maritime Exercise Kakadu.

The exercise provided an opportunity for regional nations to participate in a wide variety of maritime activities, from humanitarian assistance and search and rescue operations to high-end maritime warfare scenarios.

“It was our turn to stand the watch, forward and deployed, and we did so with aggressive excellence in every mission placed before us,” Gainey added. “This crew absolutely rocked; mission complete.”
Hopper is a multi-mission ship with ballistic missile defense, air warfare, submarine warfare, and surface warfare capabilities; designed to operate independently or with a carrier strike groups, surface action groups or amphibious ready groups.

The ship is homeported in Pearl Harbor and is part of Naval Surface Forces and U.S. 3rd Fleet.

For more information please visit the ship’s website: http://www.public.navy.mil/surfor/ddg70

Hawaii Delegation Introduces Legislation to Protect Drinking Water and Improve Red Hill Fuel Storage Facility

The Hawai‘i congressional delegation introduced legislation to ensure the Navy, Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) meet their obligations to the State of Hawai‘i to protect drinking water and improve the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Oahu.

Inside one of the Red Hill fuel tanks.

“The EPA, the Navy, and the State agree that protecting the aquifer that supplies Oahu’s drinking water is essential,” said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i). “Our bill firms up that commitment into federal law by making sure the agencies responsible for improving Red Hill have the federal funding they need to implement the actions that are agreed to.”

“Red Hill is critical military infrastructure and we want the Navy to succeed in successfully remediating environmental concerns associated with past fuel leaks above Oahu’s aquifers,” said U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01). “Working together, this will be a win-win for military readiness and Oahu residents.”

“Completing the necessary infrastructure upgrades at Red Hill Fuel Facility will safeguard our water and environment, while also protecting a critical asset to our national security,” said U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i). “Providing budget flexibility and conducting strict oversight of EPA and DOD’s progress towards meeting their commitments is an appropriate way to stretch a short supply of critical federal dollars.”

“These fuel storage tanks sit above aquifers that provide drinking water for up to 30% of Oahu’s residents,” said U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02). “It’s essential the Department of Defense commit the necessary resources to eliminate any threat these tanks pose to our most precious resource – water.”

The legislation, written and introduced by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, ensures the Navy, DLA, and other federal agencies charged with protecting Oahu’s drinking water from fuel leaks follow a set of actions the agencies agreed to take following the January 2014 leak of jet fuel from the Red Hill facility. The Navy’s investigation of the January 2014 leak determined that it was the result of contractor error. In September 2015, the Navy, DLA, and EPA entered into an Administrative Order on Consent/Statement of Work (AOC/SOW) with the State of Hawai‘i’s Department of Health (DOH). That agreement establishes a roadmap for how the Navy and DLA will protect Oahu’s drinking water from future fuel leaks by making improvements to Red Hill, including the fuel tanks. The bill requires the Department of Defense, which includes the Navy and DLA, and the EPA to include the necessary funding in their respective budgets to make the improvements identified in the agreement.

U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Hawaii Senators Kim and Inouye Appointed to Leadership Position for National Organization

Two Hawai‘i State Senators have been selected to serve in leadership roles for the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL), the nation’s oldest non-partisan organization addressing the needs of elected women at the city, county, and state levels of government.

Senator Donna Mercado Kim (Dist. 14 – Kapalama, ‘Alewa, Kalihi Valley, Ft. Shafter, Moanalua Gardens & Valley, portions of Halawa and ‘Aiea) was recently appointed to serve on the 2017 Policy Committee for the NFWL.

As a member of the Policy Committee, Sen. Kim will contribute to all committee business by developing education policy programs on policy issues, engaging with policy partners, and recommending which areas of policy the Foundation shall focus on.  The Committee will focus on shared legislation by encouraging elected women to exchange legislative ideas.  This is a new emphasis for NFWL and the Policy Committee will play an integral role in the launch and maintenance of shared legislation.

“It’s an honor to be asked to serve on the Policy Committee,” said Sen. Kim, who has been a member of NFWL since 2015. “This year more than ever, there are timely, pressing issues facing our communities.  Hawai‘i is not alone in many of these problem areas such as homelessness, the economy, and education. Being on this Committee allows me to collaborate with other women legislators across the country and find creative solutions.”

Senator Lorraine Inouye (Dist. 4 – Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, Kona) was recently appointed to serve as the 2017 State Director for the NFWL.

“I’m proud to serve as the State Director for this distinguished organization,” said Sen. Inouye.  “The greatest rising force in politics is not a political party, but women. I know that there is much that can be accomplished to help our state and our country by working together as elected women.”

“We are so honored Senators Kim and Inouye have accepted leadership positions in our foundation,” shared Minnesota State Senator Carrie Ruud, NFWL’s 2017 Chair. “They will play a crucial role in the continued success of NFWL, as we embark on our most exciting year yet.”

Sens. Kim and Inouye begin serving in their new positions immediately, and will hold this office through the end of 2017.

About the National Foundation for Women Legislators, Inc. (NFWL)

Through annual educational and networking events, the National Foundation for Women Legislators supports elected women from all levels of governance.   As a non-profit, non-partisan organization, NFWL does not take ideological positions on public policy issues, but rather serves as a forum for women legislators to be empowered through information and experience.   www.womenlegislators.org

Hawaii Ranked 1st Nationally in School Internet Connectivity

Hawaii’s public school system is the top ranked school district in K-12 broadband connectivity according to the 2016 State of the States annual report released by EducationSuperHighway, an advocacy group dedicated to upgrading Internet infrastructure in K-12 public schools.

“In 2014 we accomplished our goal to deliver Wi-Fi to all public schools statewide, which was a huge undertaking by our Office of Information Technology Services and Office of School Facilities and Support Services,” noted Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “The work of our teams have paid off and we’re very proud to be recognized as number one in the country for our Wi-Fi connectivity.”

From 2010 to 2015, the Hawaii State Department of Education increased its broadband at schools from 0.3 gigabytes/second to 8.0 gigabytes/second.

“Having access to the Internet allows our teachers to enhance classroom lessons and gives our students vast digital learning resources that make learning an interactive, hands-on activity. Complete connectivity is a large step forward towards 21st Century Learning initiatives and preparing our students for college and careers,” added Superintendent Matayoshi.

Hawaii’s national No. 1 ranking is based on full 100 percent scores in the report’s four criteria:

  • Connectivity, reflecting the percentage of school districts meeting 100 kbps per student;
  • Fiber, reflecting the percentage of schools with fiber optic connections needed to meet bandwidth targets;
  • Wi-Fi, reflecting the percentage of school districts reporting sufficient Wi-Fi in all classrooms; and
  • Affordability, the percentage of school districts maximizing their bandwidth within set budgets.

EducationSuperHighway is a non-profit advocacy group focused on providing equal access to high-speed broadband for all K-12 public school students.

Kupu Receives National Recognition with 2017 Project of the Year Award

Kupu, Hawai‘i’s leading conservation and youth education organization, received The Corps Network’s 2017 Project of the Year Award at The Corps Network 2017 National Conference in Washington, D.C., last night. Kupu is one of four organizations in the nation, and the only in the state to receive this prestigious accolade. This year’s award recognizes the Kupu’s critical role in establishing youth-focused programming at the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress.

Kupu Receives The Corps Network 2017 Project of the Year Award in Washington, D.C. (L-R: Janice Kim, Kim Matsukawa, Kana Smith, Matthew Bauer, Bettina Mok, Luella Costales, Marie Walker)

“This award is a true celebration of our incredible team and partners, who helped strengthen our impact and create a robust platform of educational opportunities at last year’s IUCN World Conservation Congress,” said John Leong, CEO of Kupu. “When we focus our efforts in elevating our youth, we’re establishing a new generation of stewards that will lead our communities towards a healthier, more sustainable future.”

Kupu played a significant role in developing and launching various youth-based programs during the 10-day conference, which helped to engage over 1,500 students from more than 20 countries throughout the world. The Congress included 10 education-focused events, including: He Puko’a Kani ‘Aina – Biocultural Conservation Stories from Pacific Island Youth; a youth symposium; student-guided media workshops; and eco-system restoration projects. In addition, Kupu kicked off the inaugural IUCN Students’ Day: Hawai‘i Youth Challenge 2020, which brought together 1,000 middle and high school students and teachers throughout the state. The program included conservation-related presentations and discussions, as well as a Design Thinking workshop led by Oceanit, which encouraged students to develop collaborative and sustainable solutions for their communities.

“Hawai‘i set a precedence for engaging youth in the IUCN Congress,” said Randall Tanaka, president of the IUCN National Host Committee. “Kupu’s leadership development program is second to none, and with their experience and partnerships, last year’s Congress was the biggest and most successful youth engagement initiative in the history of the IUCN. Through their efforts and our partners’, we were able to accomplish one of Committee’s critical priorities of building the next generation’s capacity, while integrating our unique culture and values.”

Kupu recently also helped to launch one of the 2016 IUCN Congress Legacy Initiatives – the Hawai‘i Youth Sustainability Challenge (HYSC) is a new educational mini-grant program that provides financial support to environmental projects proposed by Hawai‘i’s K-12 students and educators. The HYSC was first announced by First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige at the 2016 IUCN Congress and is dedicated to inspiring youth to be intentionally engaged with the environment through action, advocacy and education.

For the past decade, Kupu has served as a member of The Corps Network, which leads and supports over 130 of America’s Service and Conservation Corps that engage participants in service projects, job training and academic programming. The organization delivers three distinguished accolades each year, chosen through a competitive nomination process: Corpsmember of the Year, Project of the Year and Legacy Achievement Awards. For more information about the organization and awards, visit http://www.corpsnetwork.org/.

Student Leaders From Hilo and Kalaheo High Schools Chosen for Week-Long Program in Washington DC

Jessica Valdez from Hilo High and Matthew Darrah from Kalaheo High have been selected to represent Hawaii at the annual United States Senate Youth Program. The student delegates will receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Hearst Foundation and a trip to Washington D.C.

Jessica Valdez (Hilo High) and Matthew Darrah (Kalaheo High) Photo Credit: Department of Education

Jessica Valdez, president of Hilo High’s Student Association, and Matthew Darrah president of Kalaheo High’s Student Association, will be heading to Washington D.C. for the 55th annual Washington Week in March. The duo was selected to represent Hawaii at the annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP).

“Congratulations to Jessica and Matthew for being selected for this prestigious program,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “This is a wonderful opportunity for these student leaders to see how their experience serving at their school and state councils could turn into a career in public service by seeing it firsthand in our nation’s Capitol.”

The student delegates will receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Hearst Foundation and a trip to Washington D.C. where they will tour the national monuments and museums, as well as have the opportunity to attend meetings and briefings with legislators, an ambassador to the U.S., a justice of the Supreme Court and other government leaders.

“I was honored to be part of the program last year. It gave me a newly found sense of confidence, and once in a lifetime experiences that I’m applying in Hawaii as a college student and intern at the legislature,” shared Zachary Espino, 2016 USSYP Hawaii delegate. “My advice to Jessica and Matthew would be to take a lot of notes, and listen and engage in conversations with the other delegates. These are students who share the same passion and drive, and are valuable connections that you may rely on down the road.”

Valdez serves as the chairperson of the Hawaii State Student Council. She was elected to this position to effect positive change and promote the voice of Hawaii’s public school students. At Hilo High, she has served as vice president, recording secretary and representative of her School Council. Valdez has also held a variety of leadership positions including chair of the Inter-Club Council, and secretary, treasurer and president of the Rainbow Friends Club, which raises money for and awareness about a local nonprofit sanctuary protecting, caring for and sheltering the community’s animals in need.

Darrah serves as sergeant at arms of the Hawaii State Student Council, the secretary of his school’s organization of clubs as well as a member and representative of state and district councils. He intends to attend the University of Florida to major in environmental studies and minor in political science, with the hopes of a career at the Environmental Protection Agency or an environmental institute.

The USSYP was established in 1962 by U.S. Senate Resolution, is a unique educational experience for outstanding high school students interested in pursuing careers in public service. For more information, visit http://ussenateyouth.org.

Hawaii Travel Ban Lawsuit Adds Religious Freedom Claim

Attorney General Doug Chin announced today that Hawaii federal judge Derrick K. Watson has partially lifted the stay he placed last week on Hawaii’s travel ban lawsuit. This action by Judge Watson allows Dr. Ismail Elshikh, a U.S. citizen and Hawaii resident, to join Hawaii’s case against the President’s Executive Order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority nations and suspending the nation’s refugee program.

Click to read lawsuit

Judge Watson also allowed Hawaii to add a new count, alleging violations of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Act prohibits the federal government from substantially burdening the exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

The stay Judge Watson issued last week remains in place for all other purposes, so long as the nationwide injunction against implementation of the President’s Executive Order, signed on January 27, 2017, remains in place. On Friday, February 10th, a 3-0 decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the nationwide injunction to remain in place.

Attorney General Chin added, “President Trump’s executive order imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion. Freedom of religion is one of the most important rights and values for citizens in this country, no matter what religion that is. The additional claim in our complaint protects that right.”

A copy of the first amended complaint in Hawaii v. Trump is attached.

Gabbard-Backed Bill to Expedite Veterans Claims Process Passes House

Legislation cosponsored by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) to streamline the veterans claims process unanimously passed the House today. The bipartisan WINGMAN Act (H.R.512), which would allow congressional offices to directly access information on behalf of a constituent without having to go through a middle-man at the VA bureaucracy, now moves to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

In a speech on the House floor, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said:

“One of the things I appreciate most about the job that I have to represent Hawaiʻi’s Second District is to be able to respond to and provide assistance to the hundreds of veterans from across my state that contact our office every single year. They call to ask for help with things like compensation and pension issues, healthcare, mileage reimbursement—especially for our veterans who live on the neighboring islands where they don’t have a VA clinic on island—education, home loan benefits, and more. This is a responsibility as a Member of Congress and as a fellow veteran that I take very seriously.

“Right now, if a veteran contacts my office for assistance, we are required to go directly through the Congressional Liaison at the VA. We act as veterans advocates to try to get answers for them on things that they haven’t been able to get answers on and things they haven’t heard back on.

“Too often, we’re faced with bureaucratic layers within the VA and a slow turnaround that leaves congressional staff, like mine and my colleagues’, jumping through hoops to access basic but critical information on behalf of our veterans and their families. At times, we have waited for months to get answers from the VA on behalf of a Hawaiʻi veteran for something that should be a quick turnaround, like a status update.

“This is unacceptable, and it’s why I’m proud to cosponsor the WINGMAN Act, legislation introduced by my friend and colleague Ted Yoho of Florida, which allows us to cut through the red tape and ensure that our certified caseworkers within our offices can provide quicker, more efficient and effective service to our veterans. It would help streamline the veterans claims process by allowing congressional offices, on behalf of our veteran constituents, to directly access the status of pending claims, rating decisions, statement of the case, and more.

“I urge my colleagues to support this common sense legislation, so that all of us working here in the people’s house can better serve our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our communities and our country.”

Background: The WINGMAN Act would streamline the veterans claims process between congressional offices and their constituents by eliminating the requirement to use the VA as a middle-man. Under WINGMAN, certified constituent advocates would be able to directly access the status of pending claims, medical records, rating decisions, statement of the case, supplementary statement of the case, notice of disagreement, and Form-9 files within a reasonable amount of time, without having to go through a middle-man at the VA.

Each year, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s office helps hundreds of veterans get assistance from the VA and other federal agencies. Constituent advocates are located in every county, and hold regular “office hours” to help constituents, including veterans, with federal agency casework. For a list of upcoming office hours, click here. For information on how the congresswoman and staff can assist constituents, click here.

Hokulea Sets Sail for Rapa Nui and the Navigational Return to the Pacific

The crew of Hawaii’s legendary Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokulea set sail today for Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, continuing the Worldwide Voyage’s Malama Honua global movement to care for our earth and marking Hokulea’s return to the navigational ocean currents that will lead her home.

During their visit to the islands of Galapagos, the crew of Hokulea invited teachers and students from James B. Castle High School, Kamehameha Schools and Halau Ku Mana Public Charter School to join them at the UNESCO World Heritage Marine Site in learning more about the islands’ fragile ecosystem and discussing best practices for how to conserve the earth’s most critical resources.

“Heading to Rapa Nui, Hokulea carries the invaluable lessons of global sustainability that were learned and shared at other UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the Galapagos Islands,” said Nainoa Thompson, president of Polynesian Voyaging Society. “In addition to being a recognized global resource by organizations such as UNESCO, Rapa Nui signifies a major cultural return for Polynesian navigation and our Worldwide Voyage as we re-enter the Polynesian triangle, the birthplace of our wayfinding heritage.”

Hokulea is expected to port in Rapa Nui around February 28, weather permitting. The crew will stay on the island for approximately a week  before sailing on to French Polynesia. The crew will again be joined by a contingency of teachers and students from Hawaii.  The last time Hokulea visited Rapa Nui was on a voyage that took place in 1999.

Host to famed archaeological sites including nearly 900 monumental statues called moai, Rapa Nui is a remote volcanic island located in Polynesia under Chilean territory. Rapa Nui represents an opportunity for the crew to learn more about the island’s status as a World Heritage Site as well as the rich cultural history of its Polynesian ancestors.

The Malama Honua voyage will cover over 60,000 nautical miles upon its return home to Magic Island estimated this June.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Address U.S. Nursing Shortage

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), a co-chair of the House Nursing Caucus, joined fellow lawmakers in introducing the bipartisan Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act (H.R.959). The bipartisan legislation would reauthorize federal funding for nursing workforce and education programs to help grow and support the nursing workforce in the United States.

“Nurses are the heart of our healthcare system, and one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. As Hawaiʻi and states across the country face serious nursing shortages, it’s critical we support Title VIII nursing programs that help recruit, train and retain our nurses, especially in our rural and underserved communities,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “This bill will help ensure that Hawaiʻi’s nurses and future nurses get the support they need to continue to serve our communities across the state.”

“In Hawaiʻi, nurses are the largest licensed healthcare profession and work in all healthcare settings, from hospitals to home health to school nursing, and work in all areas of the state. As the healthcare needs of the state grow, including the increased demand for primary care, extended care, long term care, and geriatric nursing, nurses can serve to meet these changing demands. Educational pathways, tuition support and loan repayment programs for nurses and nurse faculty, and recruitment and retention programs are critical to ensuring that our nursing workforce in Hawaiʻi is adequate and nimble to the needs of our changing healthcare environment,” said Laura Reichhardt, Director of the Hawaiʻi State Center for Nursing.

Background: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of Registered Nurses (RNs) is projected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022. At the same time, the Bureau predicts there will be over 1 million job openings for RNs in 2022 due to the increasing demand for nurses.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has consistently prioritized Title VIII nursing workforce programs in annual appropriations bills. Administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration, Title VIII programs have supported the recruitment, retention, and distribution of highly-educated professionals who comprise our nation’s nursing workforce for more than 50 years. Title VIII programs bolster nursing education at all levels, from entry level preparation through graduate study, and provide support for institutions that educate nurses for practice in rural and medically underserved communities. These programs are designed to address specific needs within the nursing workforce and America’s patient population, and are, therefore, a direct investment in the nation’s health.

The legislation is endorsed by the American Nurses Association, the American Association of the Colleges of Nursing, and more than 50 other national nursing organizations.

HAWAII VS. PRESIDENT TRUMP

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin announced today that the state of Hawaii has filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump in Hawaii federal court.

Click to read lawsuit

The lawsuit filed today asks the court to block implementation of the January 27, 2017 Executive Order signed by President Trump entitled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” The Executive Order restricts immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen. It suspends all refugee admission for 120 days and bars all Syrian refugees indefinitely. It grants entry preferences to minority religions. This order is the beginning of the fulfillment of President Trump’s campaign pledge to implement a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Attorney General Chin said, “What makes our country special and a beacon across the world is its inclusive democracy and the rule of law. Everyone in the United States, including the President, must follow the law and follow the Constitution.”

The complaint alleges several causes of action:

  • The Executive Order is unconstitutional because it favorsone religion over another in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment;
  • The Executive Order is unconstitutional because it denies equal protection of the law on the basis of national origin;
  • The Executive Order is unconstitutional because it curtails the right to travel without any legal justification;
  • The Executive Order is unconstitutional because it deprives individuals of their liberty interests without due process of law;
  • The Executive Order is illegal because it violates the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.

Hawaii’s papers filed today asked the court to block the order across the country. As the state’s memo argues:

Hawaii joins the many voices that have condemned the Order. But this pleading is not about politics or rhetoric—it is about the law. The simple fact is that the Order is unlawful. By banning Muslims and creating a preference for Christian refugees, the Order violates the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. By those same acts, it violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment. By failing utterly to provide procedures or protections of any kind for people detained or turned away at our airports, it violates the Due Process Clause. And by enshrining rank discrimination on the basis of nationality and religion, it flies in the face of statutes enacted by Congress.

Hawaii has asked for a hearing on its motion for a temporary restraining order in no more than 14 days.

Attorney General Chin added, “Hawaii is an island state. This illegal order affects our state in a unique way. Under this order, an Iraqi permanent resident on the mainland U.S. cannot leave the country without the risk of never being allowed to return, but he still can travel throughout the continental United States. That same person here cannot so much as visit another island within our state for fear of being detained by federal agents at the airport. In the past, the people of this state experienced discrimination by the federal government based on national origin. We must speak up and not let this happen again.”

Assisting the state of Hawaii in the litigation is Neal Kumar Katyal, Esq., former Acting Solicitor General of the United States during the Obama Administration. He is currently a partner at the Washington, D.C. law firm Hogan Lovells, and a law professor at Georgetown University.

Copies of the complaint, motion for a temporary restraining order, and memorandum in support of the motion for a temporary restraining order are attached.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Cosponsors Bill to Expedite Veterans Claims Process

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) announced support today for the bipartisan WINGMAN Act (H.R.512), legislation that would streamline the veterans claims process between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and congressional offices that process claims on behalf of veterans and their families.

Tulsi Gabbard at Hawaii County Civil Defense

“It’s my honor to serve the hundreds of Hawaiʻi veterans that contact my office each year for help. However, slow turnaround and thick layers of bureaucracy at the VA too often leave certified congressional staff jumping through tedious hoops to access critical information on behalf of veterans and their families. At times, we have waited for months to get a simple answer from the VA on behalf of a Hawaiʻi veteran. This is unacceptable. The WINGMAN Act would cut through the red tape and allow congressional offices to provide quicker, more efficient service to our veterans,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Background: The WINGMAN Act would streamline the veterans claims process between congressional offices and their constituents by eliminating the requirement to use the VA as a middle-man. Under WINGMAN, certified constituent advocates would be able to directly access the status of pending claims, medical records, rating decisions, statement of the case, supplementary statement of the case, notice of disagreement, and Form-9 files within a reasonable amount of time, without having to go through a middle-man at the VA.

Each year, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s office helps hundreds of veterans get assistance from the VA and other federal agencies. Constituent advocates are located in every county, and hold regular “office hours” to help constituents, including veterans, with federal agency casework. For a list of upcoming office hours, click here. For information on how the congresswoman and staff can assist constituents, click here.