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Reps. Gabbard, Perry Introduce Bill to Permanently End Warrantless Collection of Americans’ Emails

Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Scott Perry (R-PA), both founding members of the Fourth Amendment Caucus, introduced legislation today to permanently codify protections on Americans’ privacy.

Last month, the NSA announced it is ending its collection of Americans’ Internet communications that merely mention identifying terms for foreign targets, but are not to or from those targets, also known as “about” surveillance. The legislation introduced today would permanently codify this policy change into law. Gabbard and Perry, both veterans of the Iraq War, also co-chair the Post 9/11 Veterans Caucus.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said, “For years, the NSA has been collecting phone and online communications from everyday Americans across the country, defying the rights and liberties granted to us under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. The 2008 FISA Amendments, specifically Section 702, has led to massive government-led exploitation of personal privacy through the collection of American citizens’ emails. We need serious reforms that balance the protection of our civil liberties and rights through our constitution, and also keep the American people safe. The NSA recently announced that they would stop collecting our emails and electronic communications under Section 702, but what is to say that it won’t start up again? Our legislation will keep our country from backtracking on this progress by permanently codifying this policy change and banning this privacy-invading collection from taking place again.”

Rep. Scott Perry said, “The NSA recently changed policy to prohibit the collection of electronic communications sent or received by American citizens that merely mention a foreign target of surveillance. This practice has long been used as an end-around the Fourth Amendment, and we commend the NSA for aligning their collection efforts with the Constitution. The legislation ensures that this important win for the American people cannot be reversed under future administrations. I thank Congresswoman Gabbard for her continued efforts on this issue and look forward to seeing this bill move quickly.”

Background: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has long advocated for reforms that address our government’s responsibility to protect civil liberties and ensure a strong national defense. She has actively sought reforms to Section 702, the Patriot Act, introduced legislation to strengthen and expand the functions of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), and is a founding member of the bipartisan Fourth Amendment Caucus focused on protecting the privacy and security of Americans in the digital age.

Hawaii Senator Hirono: “Mr. President, what do you have to hide?”

Senator Mazie K. Hirono issued the following statement on President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey:

“The President’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey in this manner, under this pretext, and at this time is a total disservice to the American people.

“The country is asking, Mr. President, what do you have to hide?

“There is no question that President Trump wants the investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election, and the Trump team’s ties to those efforts, to just go away.

“Knowing this, it is hard to interpret the decision to fire Director Comey as being motivated by anything other than a desire to shut down or derail the FBI’s investigation. In fact, it only raises further suspicions about the Trump team’s ties to Russian interference in our election.

“For months, I have called for a special prosecutor and an independent investigation into this serious matter. We need a special prosecutor who will conduct an impartial, thorough investigation untainted by political considerations.”

North Korea Nuclear Threat to Hawaii is REAL

Nuclear arms experts think North Korea already has, or soon will have, the ability to target Hawaii with a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile with possibly about the same destructive force as the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Warnings are mounting apace with that growing threat.

“North Korea’s unprecedented level of nuclear testing and ballistic missile development offers a sobering reminder that the United States must remain vigilant against rogue nation-states that are able to threaten the homeland,” Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson, who heads the North American Aerospace Defense Command, told a congressional committee Thursday.

In Hawaii a profusion of four-star military commands — including U.S. Pacific Command, which oversees U.S. military activity over half the globe — makes Oahu a strategic and symbolic target. The threat from an unpredictable North Korea, in turn, is prompting a revisitation of some old Cold War practices that until recently seemed laughable.

Duck and cover? Still there in the form of “shelter in place,” state officials say.

Nuclear fallout shelters? In 1981 Oahu had hundreds of them. The Prince Kuhio Building could hold 14,375 people — not because it has a secret underground bunker, but because its concrete parking structure could be used as shelter.

“Each one of those facilities had to be surveyed for how much concrete density (was present),” said Toby Clairmont, executive officer of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, the successor to Civil Defense. “And they had to be equipped, so they put medical kits in them, food, sanitary kits, all that kind of stuff.”

As time went on, funding for those provisions stopped, and the stocks were disposed of because they became too old, Clairmont said. In the majority of cases, existing fallout shelter markings are out of date and no longer applicable.

Alternatively, the U.S. military would try to shoot down an incoming North Korean ICBM with ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California, although the $36 billion system was rated by the Pentagon in December as having low reliability.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, ICBMs in the late 1990s came off Hawaii Emergency Management’s threat list of mostly natural hazards. Terrorism was added, and in 2006 the state practiced for a half-kiloton explosion in Honolulu Harbor that resulted in up to 8,000 casualties with injuries or radiation.

A new threat

President Donald Trump, who met last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida, has warned that the United States might take unilateral action against North Korea unless China does more to rein in its pugnacious neighbor. He did not mention a pre-emptive first strike per se.

Such a first strike presumably would take out the fixed launch sites at Sohae and Tonghae, but North Korea is also believed to have road-mobile launchers that could survive to retaliate — if they actually work.

With North Korea emerging as a new threat, state Emergency Management Administrator Vern Miyagi said it’s time to update the previous plans.

“If you were to ask me what is the status of North Korea, and is (a missile attack) a high probability, no, it’s a low probability,” said Miyagi, a retired Army two-star general who served at the Pacific Command as senior adviser for military support to civil authorities operations and Reserve and National Guard affairs.

“But then, so, we have to keep a lookout for that (threat). That’s why we’re talking about updating the plan. It’s an awakening. Maybe we should get involved with” fallout shelters again and identify where still-usable shelters are located, he said.

Fallout protection exists to some degree in any building, but it is most effective in heavy concrete buildings and underground structures, he said.

The agency does monthly tests with the Pacific Command using secure communications, Miyagi said. The advice in the event of a missile attack is still to duck and cover and “get into a substantial building,” he said.

“The bottom line in our plan right now is close coordination with Pacific Command, the military side, so that we understand what’s happening, and we can prepare for it with what we have — and what we have right now is very thin,” Miyagi said.

Looking for a solution

During the Cold War the state envisioned moving hundreds of thousands of Oahu residents to the neighbor islands if things heated up with the Soviet Union. However, a North Korean ICBM could reach Hawaii in under 20 minutes with no warning, experts say.

Robinson, the North American Aerospace Defense commander, said 2016 was “one of North Korea’s most active years in terms of nuclear weapon and missile program development in pursuit of weaponizing a nuclear ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States.”

Riki Ellison, chairman of the nonprofit Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, is among a growing number of voices calling for “operationalizing” the Aegis Ashore facility on Kauai in emergencies to be able to shoot down North Korean missiles. Right now it’s used for missile defense testing only.

Ellison said the new SM-3 Block IIA missile, which is expected to have ICBM shoot-down capability, is a “critical asset required for the region and Hawaii.”

“For U.S. homeland defense, the emergency operational activation of the Aegis Ashore site, to include the AN/TPY-2 radar at the Pacific Missile Range Facility,” is needed in the short term, Ellison said in a release.

In 2015 Adm. Bill Gortney, then commander of North American Aerospace Defense, said, “Our assessment is that they (North Korea) have the ability to put … a nuclear weapon on a KN-08 (missile) and shoot it at the homeland.”

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program and founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk.com, said the road-mobile KN-08 hasn’t been flight-tested yet.

“This is a very important caution because an ICBM that has never been tested is very unreliable,” he said in an email. If it works, it can probably hit targets throughout the U.S., he said.

North Korea claimed that its last nuclear test validated a standardized warhead of at least 10 kilotons for its long-range missiles, but it “may be significantly more than that,” Lewis added. Ellison, with the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, maintains North Korea might have a miniaturized warhead around 20 kilotons.

The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 was 15 kilotons, while a 20-kiloton device was detonated over Nagasaki

Climate Change Research at UH Hilo: Monitoring the Coasts for Signs of Erosion

Climate change is affecting more than just plants and animals—it is changing coasts and sea levels. Researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo are monitoring these changes and the impact on local communities by gathering data that will help officials make sound predictions about, and decisions for, the future.

Graduate student and researcher Rose Hart holds an unmanned aerial vehicle used to survey coastal areas.

Rose Hart, a first-year graduate student in the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science program at UH Hilo, has teamed up with faculty member Ryan Perroy, an assistant professor of geography and environmental science at UH Hilo, to begin monitoring shorelines using an exciting and innovative technique.

The researchers are using small unmanned aerial vehicles to capture images of coastal areas across hundreds of acres. The images are used to create 3D data sets to observe past and present changes. A variety of coastal environments are being used for the study including sea cliffs (honoliʻi), low-lying and subsiding coastal lava fields (kapoho) and calcareous beaches (hapuna).

The project has a number of aspects and goals—one is to determine from a historical point of view how these coasts and regions have changed over time to present day. Another aspect is more short term, meaning that data collection occurs every couple of months to every few weeks to see how the coasts are currently changing.

The overall goal is to try to make accurate predictions on how the rise in sea level will affect the coast and what that entails for communities and the county in regard to planning. For example, setback regulations from the coastline may need to be adjusted. How the community will respond to the rising sea level is an important factor to consider especially in the long-term sense things will be dramatically different in the next 50 to 100 years.

For more on Hart and Perroy and their research, read the full article at UH Hilo Stories.

Costco Coming to East Hawaii

Costco has announced plans to open on the East side of the Big Island of Hawaii in 2018.  Their current plans are to renovate and expand at the former Safeway located at Prince Kuhio Plaza.Representative Ian Kirkland stated, East Hawaii residents have been longing for a Costco and are “tired of making the drive over from the Hilo side of the island for a simple hot dog or pizza combo special.”

Costco plans to open 32 warehouses in fiscal 2018 — a record expansion pace for the retailer. By comparison, it added 23 locations last year and its highest new warehouse count over the last decade was the 31 stores it opened in 2007.

Safeway had no comment on this story and has rebuilt another store within a mile of this location.

New warehouse launches provide a quick boost to membership levels and revenue growth. But the real impact isn’t felt until the stores mature into their tenth year and beyond. Costco’s newest locations that were opened in the last three years, for example, have averaged $104 million of sales during their freshman years. But that number steadily climbs toward $178 million per year for the Costco warehouses that have been around for over a decade.

Plans for a Maui and Kauai Costco are being discussed but nothing has been confirmed as of this post.  The grand opening date is scheduled for April 1st, 2018 according to developer Lirpa Sloof.

Man Arrested in Pahoa With *UPDATE* (Alleged) Dynamite

Yesterday evening around 5:45 in Pahoa, a man sitting on the wall near Paul’s Gas Station was arrested and among the items found in his possession was allegedly a stick of dynamite.

An officer at the top of the picture photographing the alleged explosive device.

I asked on the Recover Pahoa Facebook Page if anyone could confirm if it was dynamite and the following was reported:

Yes the police/bomb squad detonated it around 2 this morning According to the security in Luquin parking

Here is another picture of the incident:

It is unknown at this time what he was arrested for and the Hawaii Police Department has not released a media report on this incident as of this posting.

UPDATE: I received the following report:One of the guys who had to close off the area said the ATF actually detonated the home made device under the steel shroud and it did give off a small bang.

DLNR Statement Regarding Conviction of Officer Ethan Ferguson

The Department of Land and Natural Resources has not received the record of conviction for Ethan Ferguson.  At such time this record is received and reviewed, a decision will be made on Mr. Ferguson’s job status.

KHON reported today that “A state law enforcement officer has been convicted of sexually assaulting a teenager on Hawaii Island. On Wednesday, a jury found Ethan Ferguson guilty on five counts: two counts of second-degree sex assault, and three counts of fourth-degree sex assault.”

Several news organizations have asked about Ferguson’s mother in connection with this matter. Hawaii Government Employees Association President Jackie Ferguson-Miyamoto, had nothing to do with his hiring as a Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) officer and we have no record of her being listed as a reference.

Jackie Ferguson-Miyamoto

DOCARE has implemented changes to its vetting process for all new hires.  This includes extensive background and reference checks, additional evaluation and training for both officers and supervisors, and closer monitoring by supervisors.

Previously, the DLNR stated:

The DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement  (DOCARE) will cooperate with the Hawaii Police Department criminal investigation.

DOCARE will also conduct its own internal investigation.

Ethan Ferguson has been a Conservation and Resources Enforcement Officer (CREO) since June 27, 2013

He is still in custody and has been served with a letter of removal of police authority, and is being put on administrative leave with pay, pending adjudication.

There are 109 DOCARE officers statewide, and 27 on Hawaii Island. DLNR does criminal background checks for prospective employees.

DOCARE officers are responsible for enforcement activities of the Department. The division, with full police powers, enforces all State laws and rules involving State lands, State Parks, historic sites, forest reserves, aquatic life and wildlife areas, coastal zones, Conservation districts, State shores, as well as county ordinances involving county parks. The division also enforces laws relating to firearms, ammunition, and dangerous weapons.

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.

Housekeeper Leaves Note Warning Tourist About Dangers of Taking Lava Rock Home

A Colorado resident that was staying in a room at the Hilton Grand Vacation Club here in Hawaii was stunned when they returned to their room and found this note left from one of the housekeepers:
Mr & Mrs. ********

Thanks for staying at HGVC (Hilton Grand Vacation Club). 
Just to let you know please don’t attempt to bring home some stones or rocks & sand from HAWAII.

According to what they say that Madam Pele Goddess won’t allow anyone to take it home from the Hawaiian Islands.  It is not safe.  You might get sick or something. 

Your Housekeeper ********** 

Happy New Years

A neighbor of the person that received the note told me, “They had little bags of sand in their room from the beaches they’d gone to.

Invasive Scavengers in Hawaii Alter Island Nutrient Cycle

Researchers from the University of Georgia have found that invasive species on Hawaii Island, or the Big Island of Hawaii, may be especially successful invaders because they are formidable scavengers of carcasses of other animals and after death, a nutrient resource for other invasive scavengers.

A mongoose basking in the sunlight at the “scrub” site in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Credit: Erin F. Abernethy

The team of researchers from UGA’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory is the first to study vertebrate and invertebrate scavenging of invasive species on an island.

The state of Hawaii has the highest number of endangered and threatened native species in the U.S., and this study, published recently in the journal Ecosphere, could inform efforts to manage invasive populations in Hawaii and similar island ecosystems threatened by invasive species.

“It is essential to know where nutrient resources flow in a highly invaded ecosystem,” said wildlife ecologist Olin E. Rhodes Jr., director of the SREL.

“We wanted to see what was eating the invasive species that have significant populations on the island,” said team leader Erin F. Abernethy, an alumna of SREL and UGA’s Odum School of Ecology, now at Oregon State University. “And, we wanted to identify the percentages of carcasses eaten by invasive vertebrates and invertebrates.”

What they found, said Abernethy, “indicates a positive feedback loop. The more non-native species invade an island, live and reproduce and die, the more nutrient resources they create for other invasive species through carcasses–synergistically refueling off of one another and further invading the ecosystem.”

The team set up 647 individual invasive carcasses of amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and birds on camera traps across three diverse landscapes on the island.

A small percentage of the carcasses were also fitted with transmitters to allow the researchers to see if they were consumed after being removed from the camera’s view.

The camera images revealed significant scavenging by invasive vertebrates. Although scavenging by vertebrates was only 10 percent higher than that of invertebrates, the researchers were surprised at their lack of discrimination about what they scavenged.

“We anticipated that vertebrates would quickly find and remove large carcasses, but we discovered that the vertebrates were skilled at acquiring all types of carcasses,” Abernethy said. “They were adept and highly efficient at finding the smallest of resources–locating carcasses of coqui frogs, a small frog native to Puerto Rico–and geckos that only weighed a few grams, before invasive invertebrates had the opportunity to get to them.”

Abernethy said that despite their small size, these animals represent a significant food resource. Previous research on the island indicates coqui frogs number 91,000 per 2.47 acres.

Invasive vertebrates removed 55 percent of the carcasses in this study. The mongoose and the rat proved to be the most formidable scavengers. They removed the most carcasses and were observed more frequently. The mongoose was the only species in the study to participate in cannibalism–feasting on mongoose carcasses.

The invasive invertebrate scavenger community, which included yellow jackets and fly larvae, removed 45 percent of the carcasses. This left no carcass resources for the native species on the island–the owl and hawk. Few in number on the island, these animals were not seen by the team during the study.

Senate Sends Thune-Schatz Legislation Protecting Consumer Reviews to President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hawaii Electric Light Company to Conduct Aerial Line Inspections Next Week

To improve system reliability, Hawaii Electric Light Company will conduct aerial line inspections of its major overhead transmission lines from Monday, Nov. 28, to Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016.

helicopter-line-inspectionThe islandwide inspections are scheduled from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. However, exact times and routes will depend on weather conditions. Inspections will be conducted in a Manuiwa Airways helicopter and require the aircraft to fly low and slow which may cause some noise disturbances.

Hawaii Electric Light apologizes for any disruptions this may cause and sincerely thanks the community for their cooperation and understanding.

If there are any questions or concerns, please call 969-6666.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Responds to AP Story on Alarming Fishing Industry Practices

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard issued the statement below today in response to the report by the Associated Press on alarming labor abuses and human rights violations in the U.S. fishing industry:

“The AP’s report that hundreds of foreign workers are being subjected to human rights abuses and inhumane conditions just off our shores is deeply disturbing. This is a problem that has been ignored for years, and must be immediately addressed. We are working with major stakeholders to determine the most expedient course of action to put an end to this unacceptable situation, and protect the safety and human rights of these crewmen, making sure that fair labor standards are enforced for all workers.”

In this March 23, 2016 photo, foreign fishermen aboard an American fishing boat unload a moonfish.

In this March 23, 2016 photo, foreign fishermen aboard an American fishing boat unload a moonfish.

Companies to Pay More Than $1 Million to Hawaii for Hindering Release of Generic Versions to Consumers

Attorney General Doug Chin today announced a $125 million multistate settlement with Cephalon and affiliated companies (Cephalon). The settlement ends a multistate investigation into anticompetitive conduct by Cephalon to protect the monopoly profits it earned from its wakefulness drug, Provigil. That conduct delayed generic versions of Provigil from entering the market for several years.

Cephalon

The settlement includes $35 million for distribution to consumers in 48 states plus the District of Columbia who bought Provigil. Based on pharmaceutical retail sales data, Hawaii consumers’ share of the $35 million is estimated to be $160,000, depending on the number and quality of claims submitted. In addition, Hawaii is expected to receive about $1,020,543.05. This amount consists of $400,994.62 to compensate for Provigil purchases by certain state entities or authorized purchases from state contracts and $619,548.43 for Hawaii’s share of disgorgement and costs.

As patent and regulatory barriers that prevented generic competition to Provigil neared expiration, Cephalon intentionally defrauded the Patent and Trademark Office to secure an additional patent, which a court subsequently deemed invalid and unenforceable. Before that court finding, Cephalon was able to delay generic competition for nearly six years by filing patent infringement lawsuits against all potential generic competitors. Cephalon settled those lawsuits in 2005 and early 2006 by paying the generic competitors to delay sale of their generic versions of Provigil until at least April 2012. Because of that delayed entry, consumers, states, and others paid hundreds of millions more for Provigil than they would have if generic versions of the drug had launched by early 2006, as expected.

This multistate settlement was facilitated by litigation brought against Cephalon by the Federal Trade Commission. In May 2015, the FTC settled its suit against Cephalon for injunctive relief and $1.2 billion, which was paid into an escrow account. The FTC settlement allowed for those escrow funds to be distributed for settlement of certain related cases and government investigations, such as those of the 48 states.

The settlement is subject to court review, including providing consumers with notice and an opportunity to participate in, object to, or opt out of settlement. The states expect court review will be provided by Judge Mitchell Goldberg of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, who is currently overseeing other litigation concerning Provigil against Cephalon and others.

Justin Bieber on The Big Island NOW – Staying at Waterfalling Estate

Well the buzz has been going around town that folks have been seeing Justin Bieber on the Big Island of Hawaii, with reports that he was seen cruising at 4 mile beach earlier today as well as reports that he was seen at Rainbow Falls.

Bieber was seen cruising around the 4 mile beach area of Hilo today.

Bieber was seen cruising around the 4 mile beach area of Hilo today.

Scott Watson the developer of Waterfalling Estates confirmed that Justin Bieber is staying at the place that he developed in a Facebook post.

Watson wrote:

“I just left WaterFalling where Justin Bieber is staying for 2 weeks.  He’s kicking it with 7 girls and a couple of his buddies.  I couldn’t get a picture with him, his body guard wouldn’t let me go the last few feet to shake his hand.  Oh well, looks like I’m gonna be a Swifty instead.

Justin Bieber in Hilo

RIMPAC Begins… May Affect Garage Door Openers

Dozens of ships from 26 nations are arriving in Pearl Harbor this week for the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise. RIMPAC 2016 will be held in and around the Hawaiian islands and off the coast of Southern Calif. June 30-Aug. 4.

RIMPAC brings international participants together to foster and sustain cooperative relationships.  Training during RIMPAC builds credible, ready maritime forces that help to preserve peace and prevent conflict.

RIMPAC is hosted by U.S. Pacific Fleet, headquartered here, and led by U.S. 3rd Fleet. The exercise will be based at Navy Region Hawaii, which includes Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, and the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai. Training will also be held at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and several other locations in the state.

Hawaii’s operating areas and ranges offer realistic, relevant training opportunities like nowhere else in the world and environmental stewardship and protection of marine mammals are always top priorities during RIMPAC.  During the in port portion of the exercise, crews receive training on sighting marine mammals and required protective measures. Participants follow established and approved procedures to minimize the potential impact on marine life.

Some Temporary Noise and Crowds

With 25,000 participants coming to Hawaii, noise, crowds and traffic will increase in the last week of June and through the end of July. Some residents in Hawaii can expect aircraft noise temporarily in certain areas, including the early evening.

According to the Hawaii State Department of Business and Economic Development and Tourism Research and Economic Analysis Division, RIMPAC 2016 is initially anticipated to bring $52.5 million to Hawaii, based on the number of exercise participants and their time in port.

By the end of RIMPAC, the overall economic benefit is expected to be tens of millions of dollars higher than $52.5 million after purchases of supplies, fuel and food or the spending by family and friends of participating personnel are calculated.

Raising Discussion of Garage Door Openers

During RIMPAC some remotely operated garage door openers may be temporarily affected. This can occur if the device is a type (FCC-regulated but unlicensed Part 15) that operates on frequencies reserved for federal government systems.
Garage Door
Remotely controlled garage door openers legally operate at a very low power on an unlicensed basis. Therefore, they can be affected by electromagnetic activity that is generated by navy ships, civilian boaters or other sources.

Such devices may not work properly from time to time, especially if they are not pointed directly at the door.  If that happens, drivers may have to remove the opener from their sun visor and point it directly at the door.  If the opener still doesn’t work right, garage door owners may have to open and close their doors manually or consider other options for a short time.

The Navy is required to test commercial surface search radars in port prior to getting underway and as part of scheduled maintenance.  Surface search radars are available commercially, used by civilian boaters and not a safety issue.  Exercising safety is a top priority for the Navy.

To be sure their garage door opener will function properly, owners may want to check with their garage door company.  At least one company in Hawaii asks their customers to be patient in dealing with the inconvenience, “for a short bit of time, [but] for a lifetime of safety and freedom.”

To learn more about RIMPAC, please visit http://www.cpf.navy.mil/rimpac/2014/
For concerns, noise complaints or general questions about RIMPAC, please call the Combined Information Bureau at (808) 472- 0235. Media interested in covering RIMPAC can call 808-472-0239.

Hawaii Representative Asks Attorney General to Investigate School Air Conditioning Bids

Contractors bids so high that project delayed and students to suffer

As summer heats up and public schools prepare to begin Aug. 1, plans to spend $100 million to cool off 1,000 classrooms have been delayed due to the outrageously high bids from contractors to install air conditioning.

Rep. Matthew LoPresti

Rep. Matthew LoPresti

Rep. Matthew LoPresti has asked the Attorney General to investigate if there is a conspiracy to defraud taxpayers by artificially inflating bids for profit at the expense of school children – who will suffer through yet another unbearably hot summer in stifling classrooms.

“We cannot just wait for another round of bids and hope they are reasonable,” said Rep. Matthew LoPresti. “Classrooms in my district and across the state will soon be too hot for students to learn and teachers to teach. We must find a way to get this project moving forward.

“At the same time, the bids for the work came in so high that it is possible contractors who know the state is hard pressed to get this work done conspired to submit bids much higher than reasonable to make unreasonable profits.”

This past session the Legislature approved more than $100 million to add air conditioning to 1,000 classrooms by the end of the year and Gov. David Ige has been working with the state Department of Education and private companies to get the work done.

The DOE now says the project must be either delayed due to the high bids or far fewer classrooms then expected will be cooled.  As an example, the DOE said the bid for one photovoltaic-powered air conditioning project with an estimated cost of $20,000 came in more than $100,000.

LoPresti said there have also been complaints from contractors that the bid specifications for a $20,000 project were up to 100 pages long and that makes submitting a bid expensive and complicated.

“I would like the DOE to take a look at the bidding process and simplify the documents if possible,” he said. “We need to get to the bottom of why these bids are so high. Whatever the reason, we need to fix it.”

The cool schools project now is being pushed back with bidding reopened with the new fiscal year which begins July 1, 2016.

“If contractors are gouging the state at a time of great need in our schools and the students have to suffer because of this, the Attorney General must find them and prosecute to the full extent of the law,” LoPresti said. “The public deserves answers as to why bids are coming in suspiciously high and we cannot just sit by and accept this.”

As part of his “Cool Schools 4 Ewa” initiative, LoPresti is reaching out to the public to create a hui of professional volunteers willing and able to contribute to the heat abatement effort by donating their time and labor to help the DOE cool classrooms at realistic and reasonable costs.

LoPresti urges those able to install PV or PV AC systems to contact his office so he can help organize and facilitate those willing to step up and help our keiki to move beyond those who would rather profiteer from their suffering.

Shark Study Helps Explain Higher Incidence of Encounters Off Maui

A spike in shark bites off Maui in 2012 and 2013 prompted the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), with additional support and funding from the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System (PacIOOS), to commission a two-year-long study of shark spatial behavior on Maui.  The research was conducted by a team from the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB).

shark bites in maui

Dr. Carl Meyer, principle investigator for the study, explained that the Maui Nui complex, consisting of Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kahoolawe, has more preferred tiger shark habitat than all other main Hawaiian Islands combined.  According to Dr. Meyer, “Tiger sharks captured around Maui spend most of their time on the extensive Maui Nui insular shelf, which is also an attractive habitat for tiger sharks arriving from elsewhere in Hawaii.  The insular shelf extends offshore from the shoreline to depths of 200 meters (600 feet), and is home to a wide variety of tiger shark prey.”

Although tiger shark movement patterns revealed by the latest study are generally similar to those seen in previous studies, the larger area of shelf habitat around Maui may be able to support more tiger sharks than other main Hawaiian Islands.  In addition, the most frequently-visited areas by tiger sharks around Maui include waters adjacent to popular ocean recreation sites.

Meyer noted “This combination of factors may explain why Maui has had more shark bites than other Main Hawaiian Islands, although we cannot completely rule out a higher number of ocean recreation activities on Maui as the primary cause of these differences.  However, despite the routine presence of large tiger sharks in waters off our beaches, the risk of being bitten remains extremely small, suggesting tiger sharks generally avoid interactions with people.”

Dr. Bruce Anderson, administrator for DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), said, “This study provided us with important new insights into tiger shark movement behavior around Maui, and helps answer some questions about why that island has led the state recently in shark bites.  We agree with the study’s recommendation that the best approach to reducing numbers of these incidents is to raise public awareness of what people can do to reduce their risk of being bitten.  This has been our focus for a long time.  People who enter the ocean have to understand and appreciate that it is essentially a wilderness experience.  It’s the shark’s house, not ours.

DAR will continue to work with other agencies to expand outreach regarding hazards in the ocean, such as drownings, to include shark safety information so people can make well-informed, fact-based decisions.”

As for the 2012-2014 spike in shark bites around Maui, Meyer said the reasons remain unclear.  He noted, “2015 saw only one unprovoked shark bite off Maui.  Shark behavior didn’t change year to year, and there was no shift in human behavior.  These spikes occur all over the world, and are most likely due to chance.”

Citing previous studies, the HIMB team also noted that historical shark culling in Hawaii neither eliminated nor demonstrably reduced shark bite incidents.  Tiger sharks tracked around Maui exhibit a broad spectrum of movement patterns ranging from somewhat resident to highly transient. This ensures a constant turnover of sharks along coastal locations.  Sharks removed by culling are quickly replaced by new ones locally and from distant locations.

Maui Shark Report-Media Clips from Hawaii DLNR on Vimeo.

PacIOOS makes tiger shark tracks available online and provides funding for ongoing and future tagging efforts. Melissa Iwamoto, Director of PacIOOS explained, “We are pleased to be a partner in this important effort by offering an online platform where you can view the tiger sharks tracks. Providing ocean users, agencies, residents and visitors with relevant ocean data is our priority. While the tracks do not serve as a warning or real-time monitoring system, they are a great way to raise awareness about the ocean environment and to inform long-term decision-making.”

All of the partners agree that the more information people have, the better decisions they can make when entering the ocean.

Hawaii Tiger Shark Tracking Report: http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar/files/2016/05/Maui_tiger_shark_spatial_dynamics_final.pdf

Hawaii Tiger Shark Tracking website: http://pacioos.org/projects/sharks

Hawaii Sharks website: www.hawaiisharks.org

Another Check of Mauna Loa Summit Towers – Steam Sources Noted in Usual Locations

Mauna Loa’s summit was cold and clear this morning while HVO scientists performed maintenance on the summit thermal camera and two seismic stations.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

A few faint steam sources were noted in the usual locations on the caldera floor.

Hawaii Department of Health Investigates Travel Related Cases of Mosquito Borne Illnesses on Oahu

The Hawaii State Department of Health is investigating four cases of travel related mosquito borne viruses on Oahu. The cases include an individual who traveled to Latin America, returned ill, and is being tested for dengue and Zika virus, as well as individuals who are being tested for dengue fever and chikungunya and have a history of travel to the Pacific Islands and Latin America. All of the individuals have recovered.

Mosquito Bite

Initial lab tests for the first individual referenced above conducted by the State Laboratories Division were not conclusive, and further testing will be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The department’s Vector Control teams have been assessing residential and other areas in urban Honolulu and along the North Shore this week to determine if mosquito control measure such as eliminating mosquito breeding sites or spraying to reduce adult mosquitos activity will be necessary.

Dengue fever, Zika, and chikungunya are all mosquito borne viruses that are spread when a sick person is bitten by a mosquito, which later bites another person. Evidence suggests that Zika can also be transmitted through unprotected sexual contact with someone who has been infected. The best way to prevent all these viruses is to take mosquito control measures and to avoid getting bitten. Some who carry Zika do not show symptoms, and in others, illness may last from several days to over a week. There is currently no cure for these viruses.

“The department expects to see more of these travel related cases as outbreaks of all these diseases continue in other countries,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “The department is working closely with the counties and taking precautionary measures to respond to all suspected and confirmed cases. We ask for the public’s help in reducing mosquito breeding areas around homes and workplaces and preventing mosquito bites by using repellant or protective clothing.”

Department of Health staff will continue to conduct site visits in various areas on Oahu in the coming week to assess problem areas for mosquito breeding and inform residents of the need to take precautions against mosquito-borne viruses. Residents who are not at home when a Vector Control team visits their neighborhood will receive a flyer or letter from the Department of Health and are advised to read the information carefully.

The public is advised that anyone who has traveled outside the country and has mild to severe symptoms such as fever, joint pain, rash, or red/pink eyes within 2 weeks after returning from travel should see their healthcare provider. All residents and visitors should avoid getting mosquito bites by using repellent and wearing light-colored clothing with long sleeves, pants, shoes and socks when outdoors. Residents should fix broken window and door screens at home, and get rid of standing water in the yard. Old tires, buckets, toys and plants, especially bromeliads, can become breeding sites for mosquitos.

For more tips on how to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne viruses, visit health.hawaii.gov.