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NEWS FLASH - April 19, 2011 3:30 p.m. HST

Ethics Violations Against White Dismissed

WAILUKU, Maui, Hawaii -- The Maui County Board of Ethics dismissed complaints filed by members of the public against Maui County Councilmember Mike White claiming that his introduction and support of a resolution seeking supplemental funding for the Maui Visitor’s Bureau violated conflict of interest rules.

In its opinion dismissing both complaints, the Board of Ethics stated that Councilmember White “does not have a direct or indirect financial interest which is incompatible with the discharge of his duties or which may tend to impair his independence of judgment of the resolution” that he introduced. The resolution was defeated by the County Council in a 4 – 5 vote.

The Board also determined that Councilmember White “did not represent any private interest before any county agency by authoring the proposed resolution,” and that there was no violation of the County Charter.

Councilmember White, employed at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, pointed out that he would receive no financial benefits from supplemental funding of the Maui Visitor’s Bureau that were not enjoyed by any member of the public or the visitor industry. In addition, any determination that Councilmember White could not offer the resolution or vote on visitor industry funding would prevent him from carrying out his duties as an elected representative. This point was echoed both by the Maui County Board of Ethics opinion and by a 1976 ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court in the Eddie Tangen v. State Ethics Commission case.

“[An ethics] statute clearly should prohibit conflicts of interests which are most damaging to the standards of good government and yet not prohibit so much that competent people will be discouraged from serving or that legislators and employees are deterred or restricted from freely carrying out their intended functions and duties.”

Mr. Tangen was an international representative of the ILWU who served on the State Land Use Commission; the Hawaii Supreme Court affirmed a decision that Mr. Tangen had not violated the conflict-of-interest section of the state ethics code in his service on the Land Use Commission. The case stemmed from an ethics complaint that Mr. Tangen’s vote on land use issues brought before the commission that could result in approved developments because his vote would directly affect the employment security and welfare of union members.

In reaching its decision, the Hawaii Supreme Court said: “(a) statute which barred (or is construed to bar) a union member-legislator from serving on the labor committee would be a disservice.”

Councilmember White represents the Makawao - Haiku - Paia district and previously served five years in the State House of Representatives. In his capacity as State representative it was determined that there was no conflict of interest, and he was allowed to vote on all visitor-industry related matters including the formation of the Hawaii Transit Authority (HTA).

While the Board was reviewing the complaints it recently dismissed, two additional complaints were filed with the Board concerning Councilmember White’s introduction and support of the same resolution.

“Based on the Maui Board of Ethic’s decision, and the precedent set by the Hawaii Supreme Court, I am confident that these complaints also will be dismissed,” Councilmember White stated.

For more information, call 270-5507 or visit www.mauicouncil.org.

(Report Provided by the Maui County Office of Information)

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NEWS FLASH - April 19, 2011 11:10 a.m. HST

HMSA Donates Nearly $83,000 Toward Japan Recovery

In response to the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northern region of Japan last month, the Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA) today announced it made a total donation of $82,995 to Aloha for Japan. HMSA employees contributed $37,995 to the effort, and HMSA matched employee contributions up to $25,000. The HMSA Foundation also made a charitable donation of $20,000.

“In the hours and days that followed the deadly earthquake and tsunami, all of us at HMSA were impacted by the images of devastation and reports of loss of life,” says HMSA President and Chief Executive Officer Robert P. Hiam. “In the true spirit of community, HMSA employees came together to share their aloha with the people of Japan. I am pleased to offer this contribution on behalf of our employees, the organization, and the HMSA Foundation.”

Aloha for Japan is a coordinated statewide effort to collect donations for victims of the Japan earthquake and Pacific-wide tsunami. The relief effort is headed by Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz at the request of Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

HMSA is a nonprofit, mutual benefit association founded in Hawaii in 1938. It is governed by a community board of directors and includes representatives from health care, business, labor, government, education, clergy, and the community at large. HMSA is a member of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans. Nationally, HMSA and 38 other Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans provide worldwide coverage to more than 100 million members. For more information, visit hmsa.com.

The HMSA Foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt private charitable organization. The mission of the Foundation is to extend HMSA’s commitment to provide community access to cost-effective health care services, promote health, provide health education and relevant research, and improve social welfare in Hawaii. Health plan dues from HMSA members and employer groups are not used to fund Foundation grants. For more information on the HMSA Foundation, visit hmsafoundation.org.

(Report Provided by the Hawai'i Medical Services Organization)

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NEWS FLASH - April 19, 2011 8 a.m. HST

Hawaian Airlines Pilots, Union, Donate $14,000 for Quake/Tsunami Victims

Hawaiian Airlines pilots and their union have donated more than $14,000 to victims of Japan's earthquake and tsunamis.

The Air Line Pilots Association said Monday Hawaiian Airlines pilots donated $9,500 and the union contributed an additional $5,000.

A check was presented to the Hawaii chapter of the Red Cross.

Hawaiian Airlines Capt. Rick Baldwin, who organized the fundraising effort in two weeks, says many at the airline have ties to Japan.

The pilots have previously donated $15,000 in 2009 for typhoon victims in the Philippines and Indonesia.

(Report Provided By The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - April 19, 2011 7:40 a.m. HST

MPD Wants to Develop Database of Disoriented Citizens

WAILUKU - Maui police want to build a database to help with looking for missing people who may be disoriented or suffering from dementia.

The Maui News reported Monday that because of a recent overnight search for an elderly man lost in Kahului, police are urging caregivers and families to fill out forms that would help locate disoriented people.

The police department has had a disoriented persons identification form for the past 18 years but only 50 families have one on file.

Police say family members and caregivers might be too distracted to give first responders information soon after reporting a disappearance.

Families who complete the identification can provide a photo of the person, information about where the person lives and other details such as former places of employment and former residences.

(Report Provided by The Maui News)

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NEWS FLASH - April 19, 2011 7:10 a.m. HST

Rainwater Catchment Being Tested for Radiation on Maui, Kaua'i, Big Island

State health officials are testing large rainwater catchment systems this week on the Big Island, Maui and Kauai for radiation from Japan's nuclear release, but re-emphasized that radiation in milk, rainwater and likely in locally grown produce remains minute.

Lynn Nakasone, administrator of the Health Department's Environmental Health Services Division, said produce will not be tested, as other officials noted there is concern about creating a health scare and hurting local farmers.

"I know people are thinking, ‘Oh, a little bit (of radiation) here, a little bit there (adds up),' " Nakasone said. "But think of it as calories. What if milk had 0.000004 calories and produce had 0.000003 calories and so on? So you add up all these little calories, but then you probably won't get to even one calorie.

"(The radiation from Japan) is kind of like that. We're talking about so minute amounts. Even if you took all the cumulative doses for everything, you are still way below any kind of action level and it's not a health risk at all."

Nakasone spoke about Hawaii's radiation levels yesterday during and after an "informational briefing" held by state Sen. Josh Green, chairman of the Senate Health Committee and a Big Island physician.

Green said a "profound" number of people have been asking about the radiation issue in Hawaii.

Two U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials from Maryland also participated via phone, and one, John Verbeten, said there is no concern about seafood caught across the Pacific and served in Hawaii.

"It's a big ocean," Verbeten said, adding that radiation released from Japan's Fukushima reactors will dissipate to a great extent.

However, all milk and milk products, vegetables and fruits produced from the four Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma are being detained upon entry in the U.S. and are not being allowed to enter the food supply unless shown to be free from radionuclide contamination, the FDA said on its website.

Particulates with radiation are carried on the wind, fall in rain and gather in surface water and on food crops and grass eaten by dairy cows.

Testing showed that milk collected on April 4 from a dairy in Hilo had 43 pico­curies per liter for cesium-134 and 137 combined, and 18 picocuries for iodine-131. Another sample was taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday and the results are expected back later this week, Nakasone said.

The FDA's "derived intervention level" — the point at which steps would be taken to safeguard the public — is 33,000 picocuries for the combined cesium isotopes and 4,700 picocuries for iodine-131. At those levels the sale of affected milk could be stopped.

Nakasone said yesterday that combining the three isotopes, it would be necessary to drink 1,000 liters of milk with the trace radiation amounts, or 4,000 cups, to get the equivalent of a less than 4-millirem dental X-ray.

The average person is exposed to about 620 millirems of radiation a year. According to the American Nuclear Society, a chest X-ray is 10 millirems and a six-hour flight in a jetliner results in an exposure of 3 millirems.

Health experts in Hawaii said 35,000 millirems is the lowest exposure of ionizing radiation that could lead to mild changes in the blood.

The Health Department said on its website that the highest radiation air sample reading in Hawaii from the Japanese nuclear crisis was from iodine-131 at a level of 1.4 picocuries per cubic meter on March 20.

"Minuscule" amounts of iodine-132, cesium-134 and -137, and tellurium-132 also were detected, but have since dropped to undetectable amounts, the department said.

Rainwater catchment testing at big collection systems was conducted yesterday and is expected to take place today at two locations on Hawaii island, one on Maui and one on Kauai, officials said.

The EPA's "maximum contaminant level" for radiation in water is 3 picocuries per liter, which supposes a 70-year consumption of two liters per day at that level and translates to about 700 picocuries per liter a year, or about 4 millirems of radiation, health officials said.

Jeff Eckerd, acting program manager of the department's indoor and radiological health branch, said that duration is not expected to be seen with the radiation decreasing in Hawaii.

Additionally, a lot of surface water catchment systems can have millions of gallons and water previously added to the system and can dilute even further small amounts of radiation, Eckerd said. Rainwater in Hawaii previously was found to have 2 picocuries per liter.

Eckerd said "it's still a very serious situation in Japan," but what we're seeing now in Hawaii "is the (radiation) levels in the air are dropping, so we should see some levels in water and other areas also decreasing significantly over time."

Reach William Cole at wcole@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - April 19, 2011 6:40 a.m. HST

Lahaina Accident Claims Life of Pedestrian

A man was killed last night in Lahaina in a pedestrian-vehicle accident along Honoapi'ilani Highway. Mau Police say that, at 7:49 p.m.,a 55 year-old man with no local address, was crossing Honoapi'ilani Highway from east to west near Kenui Stream when he was struck by a vehicle driving south along the highway.

The pedestrian was in an unlit area and was not in a crosswalk. The man was transported to Maui Memorial Medical Center in critical condition.He died at the hispital. His identity is being withheld until his family can be located and notified,

The driver of the vehicle is a 54 year-old person from Switzerland. Police kept a section of Honoapi'ilani Highway closed for about three hours during their investigation. That investigation continues to determine the roles, if any, of alcohol, speed or drugs - including the sobriety of the pedestrian.

This is the third traffic fatality of 2011, compared with six at this time last year.

(Information Provided by the Maui Police Department)

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NEWS FLASH - April 18, 2011 8:20 p.m. HST

Accident Closes Part of Honapi'ilani Highway in Lahaina

Maui Police say Honoapi'ilani Highway is closed in Lahaina between Kenui and Keawe Streets due to a motor vehicle accident.No word on the cause of the accident or any injures - nor when the stretch of road might reopen.

Traffic is being rerouted to Front Street until the scene is cleared and the investigation complete. The incident occurred just before 8 p.m. tonight.

(Information Provided by the Maui Police Department)

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NEWS FLASH - April 18, 2011 7:30 a.m. HST

North Pacific Fish 'Unlikely to Be Contaminated' - Officials Say

ANCHORAGE, Alaska >> North Pacific fish are so unlikely to be contaminated by radioactive material from the crippled nuclear plant in Japan that there's no reason to test them, according to federal and state of Alaska health officials.

Dangerous levels of radiation have been reported off the coast from the Fukushima reactor complex. However, a spokeswoman for the federal Food and Drug Administration told the Anchorage Daily News that the ocean is so huge, and Alaska fisheries so far away, that there is no realistic threat.

Alaska's food safety program manager, Ron Klein of the Department of Environmental Conservation, said the FDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have demonstrated that Alaskans have no cause for worry.

"Based on the work they're doing, no sampling or monitoring of our fish is necessary," he said.

A little more than a month into the nuclear crisis, Japanese officials believe they have plugged the major leak that allowed tons of water containing highly radioactive isotopes of iodine and cesium to flow into the sea.

The reactors and spent-fuel-rod pools remain unstable, according to Congressional testimony Tuesday by the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A Japanese official said recently the crisis will continue for "a long time."

Alaska is the nearest U.S. state to Japan. Fish caught by U.S. fishermen in the 200-mile economic zone swim even closer. That has prompted some fears, particularly in Europe, that Alaska fish could be contaminated.

Tyson Fick, spokesman for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, said he's urging fishermen and consumers to look at the science conducted by federal agencies. In Germany and Austria, he said, Alaska fish may have gotten caught up in anti-nuclear politics.

The Green Party in Germany, campaigning in regional elections, used the nuclear issue late last month to take over the state government in prosperous Baden-Wurttemberg, where conservatives had ruled for more than 50 years. Alaska pollock is sold as fish sticks throughout Germany, Fick said, and fear of them could be trouble.

In Anchorage, Dannon Southall of 10th and M Seafoods said customers have expressed concern, but not enough to stop buying fish. Almost all fish the store is selling now was caught and frozen before the March 11 earthquake, he said.

As new supplies replace the old, he expects imported fish especially to be tested if they come from waters close to Japan.

As for the sea in the region near Fukushimi, only octopus and eel from there had been imported to Alaska in the past, and that was mainly for sushi, he said. DeLancey, the FDA spokeswoman, said those Japanese fishermen were disrupted by the tsunami and are no longer fishing anyway.

The FDA has not been testing U.S. fish.

"We've been working with NOAA to keep an eye on U.S. waters, to see if there is any cause for alarm, and we do have the capability to begin testing if that does occur," she said.

NOAA fisheries spokeswoman Kate Naughton declined to answer questions and referred a reporter back to DeLancey and the EPA.

DeLancey said that so far, there's no reason for concern about Fukushima. The radioactive materials in the water near Fukushima quickly become diluted in the massive volume of the Pacific, she said. Fallout that lands on the surface tends to stay there, giving the most unstable ones isotopes, such as iodine, time to decay before reaching fish, she said.

Some imported fish are tested, she said, but those also appear safe.

(Report Provided By The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - April 18, 2011 6:50 a.m. HST

Brennan Returning to Football - in UFL

Quarterback Colt Brennan will return to pro football this season with the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League, Brennan's father, Terry, told the Star-Advertiser today.

Jerry Glanville was recently named head coach of the Colonials. The former NFL head coach was the defensive coordinator at Hawaii during Brennan's first two years as UH's quarterback in 2005 and 2006.

Hartford was 3-5 in the UFL last year. Former NFL quarterback Josh McCown started for the Colonials and is the only quarterback currently on the team's roster. Glanville said on his Twitter feed that the team will be soon officially adding more players.

Colt Brennan did not immediately return a text message.

"This looks like a good opportunity for Colt," Terry Brennan said in a phone interview. "I think Colt and his agents like this because playing in Canada requires a two-year contract and this doesn't. The season ends in November and if he does well he could possibly be picked up by an NFL team."

Brennan set numerous school, conference and national passing records and was third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2007 when he led UH to an unbeaten regular-season record and the Sugar Bowl.

He was drafted in the sixth round by the Washington Redskins. He did not play in a regular-season game in two seasons there and was released prior to last season. Brennan was with the Oakland Raiders in the 2010 preseason, but did not make the team.

Last November, Brennan was seriously injured in a two-car accident on the Big Island. He was passenger in a vehicle driven by his girlfriend, Shakti Stream. The driver of the other car, Theresa Wang, was critically injured in the head-on collision. An attorney representing Wang has filed suit against Stream.

Brennan and Glanville were together last week at an SMU practice in Dallas. That's where June Jones is now head coach. Jones was head coach at UH when Glanville and Brennan were there.

Brennan will be 28 in August.

(Report Provided By The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - April 17, 2011 10:10 a.m. HST

U.S., Japan Coast Guards Crews Rescue 27 Fishermen Near Guam

Apra Harbor, GUAM - U.S. and Japan Coast Guard rescue crews coordinated the rescue of 27 fishermen after a severe shipboard fire forced them to abandon ship 540 miles east of Guam, Sunday.

Japan Coast Guard received notification from the owners of the fishing vessel Daichi Shoei Maru reporting that their vessel was on fire and the crew was contemplating abandoning ship.

A request from the Japan Coast Guard was relayed to Coast Guard rescue coordinators at Sector Guam for assistance as the vessel in distress was within their area of response. The Coast Guard Cutter Washington, a 110-foot patrol boat homeported in Guam, and a Coast Guard C-130 Hercules airplane from Air Station Barbers Point Hawaii were launched to render assistance. Japan Coast Guard also launched an aircraft to search for the vessel.

Coast Guard rescue coordinators located a merchant vessel about 115 miles from the Daiichi Shoei Maru and radioed a request to assist. The master of the 527-foot Panamanian flagged cargo ship South Islander responded to the distress call and diverted.

"Fortunately, the Daichi Shoei Maru was equipped with an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) that allowed Coast Guard Sector Guam to continually monitor the position of the distressed vessel," said Leif Wigman-Nilsson, Coast Guard Sector Guam search and rescue controller.

Using the position provided by the EPIRB, the Japan Coast Guard aircrew was able to locate the burning vessel and contact the crew who were still aboard.

At 7:45 p.m. Daichi Shoei Maru's crew abandoned ship into life rafts moments before the vessel suffered several explosions which left Daichi Shoei Maru severely burning. The crew was at a safe distance from the burning vessel when the South Islander arrived at 8:10 p.m.

All 27 personnel were safely transferred to the South Islander without incident or injury. Crewmembers are being taken to the South Islander's next Port of Call in the Solomon Islands.

More information on EPIRBs can be found at the following link. http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=mtEpirb

(Report Provided by the U.S. Coast Guard)

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NEWS FLASH - April 17, 2011 7:20 a.m. HST

Statewide 'Aloha for Japan' Campaign Exceeds $3 Million So Far

A statewide campaign for donations to survivors of the massive Japan earthquake has exceeded $3 million.

The "Aloha For Japan" initiative has gathered more than $3 million in the month following the March 11 earthquake and tsunamis.

Japan-America Society of Hawaii President Ed Hawkins traveled to Tokyo this week to present a $1 million check to the Japanese Red Cross Society

Banks that are contributing have extended collections deadlines to the end of the month. Credit unions statewide are also joining the effort.

Money continues to go to the campaign through donations, concerts, fundraising events and T-shirt sales.

(Report Provided By The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - April 16, 2011 9:50 a.m. HST

Radioactivity in Sea Rises Sharply Near Japan Reactor

TOKYO >> Levels of radioactivity have risen sharply in seawater near a tsunami-crippled nuclear plant in northern Japan, signaling the possibility of new leaks at the facility, the government said Saturday.

The announcement came after a magnitude-5.9 earthquake jolted Japan on Saturday morning, hours after the country's nuclear safety agency ordered plant operators to beef up their quake preparedness systems to prevent a recurrence of the nuclear crisis.

There were no reports of damage from the earthquake, and there was no risk of a tsunami similar to the one that struck the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant March 11 after a magnitude-9.0 earthquake, causing Japan's worst-ever nuclear plant disaster.

Since the tsunami knocked out the plant's cooling systems, workers have been spraying massive amounts of water on the overheated reactors. Some of that water, contaminated with radiation, leaked into the Pacific. Plant officials said they plugged that leak on April 5 and radiation levels in the sea dropped.

But the government said Saturday that radioactivity in the seawater has risen again in recent days. The level of radioactive iodine-131 spiked to 6,500 times the legal limit, according to samples taken Friday, up from 1,100 times the limit in samples taken the day before. Levels of cesium-134 and cesium-137 rose nearly fourfold. The increased levels are still far below those recorded earlier this month before the initial leak was plugged.

The new rise in radioactivity could have been caused by the installation Friday of steel panels intended to contain radiation that may have temporarily stirred up stagnant waste in the area, Hidehiko Nishiyama of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency told reporters. However, the increase in iodine-131, which has a relatively short eight-day half life, could signal the possibility of a new leak, he said.

"We want to determine the origin and contain the leak, but I must admit that tracking it down is difficult," he said.

Authorities have insisted the radioactivity will dissipate and poses no immediate threat to sea creatures or people who might eat them. Most experts agree.

Regardless, plant workers on Saturday began dumping sandbags filled with zeolite, a mineral that absorbs radioactive cesium, into the sea to combat the radiation leaks.

Meanwhile, the newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported, without citing its sources, that a secret plan to dismantle Tokyo Electric Power Co., which runs the radiation-leaking Fukushima plant, was circulating within the government. The proposal calls for putting TEPCO, the world's largest private electricity company, under close government supervision before putting it into bankruptcy and thoroughly restructuring its assets. Most government offices were closed Saturday, and the report could not be immediately confirmed.

In the wake of the nuclear crisis, the government ordered 13 nuclear plant operators to check and improve outside power links to avoid earthquake-related outages that could cause safety systems to fail as they did at the Fukushima plant, Nishiyama told reporters late Friday. The operators, including TEPCO, are to report back by May 16.

Power outages during a strong aftershock on April 7 drove home the need to ensure that plants are able to continue to operate crucial cooling systems and other equipment despite earthquakes, tsunamis and other disasters, Nishiyama said.

Utility companies were ordered to reinforce the quake resistance of power lines connected to each reactor or to rebuild them. They also must store all electrical equipment in watertight structures. Earlier, the nuclear agency ordered plant operators to store at least two emergency backup generators per reactor and to install fire pumps and power supply vehicles as further precautions.

The massive 46-foot (14-meter) wave that swamped Fukushima Dai-ichi last month knocked out emergency generators meant to power cooling systems. Since then, explosions, fires and other malfunctions have compounded efforts by TEPCO to repair the plant and stem radiation leaks.

TEPCO said Saturday it had moved power sources for some of the reactors at the stricken plant to higher ground by Friday evening in order to avoid another disastrous failure in the event of a tsunami.

Goshi Hosono, an adviser to the prime minister and member of the nuclear crisis management task force, said the damaged reactors were much more stable than they had been earlier in the crisis and TEPCO was preparing to unveil a plan for restoring cooling capacity to the ailing reactors "soon."

"Problems are still piled up and we are far from the end of crisis," he told a TV news program, citing radioactive water as one of the biggest headaches. "I expect there will be more mountains that we have to climb over."

The crisis at the Fukushima plant has forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate the area, while radiation leaks have contaminated crops and left fishermen unable to sell their catches, adding to the suffering of communities already devastated by earthquake and tsunami damage.

Government officials fanned out across the affected areas to explain their decisions and calm nerves.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama apologized for the uncertainty and confusion to residents in Iitate village, parts of which the government recommended be evacuated because of the nuclear crisis.

"Everyone in the village must be extremely troubled, uncertain and worried," he said, promising to provide temporary housing and financial support for the residents, many of them farmers.

In the city of Inawashiro, Hiroshima University Professor Kenji Kamiya, who has been appointed a health risk adviser to Fukushima prefecture, met with about 250 education officials to explain that radiation levels in the area do not pose an immediate or significant threat to the public.

"I hope people understand that the levels we are seeing are fairly low. Even in the most impacted areas, we have screened more than 1,000 children for radiation abnormalities in their thyroids and have found none at all," he said.

Kamiya has been giving almost daily lectures in an effort to prevent people from overreacting to the possible danger.

"People fear things that they don't understand. We were even afraid before of the rain, because we just didn't know if it was safe," said Takaaki Kobayashi, a father of two grade school children. "I feel more comfortable now about sending kids to school. It helps to understand."

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - April 15, 2011 12:30 p.m. HST

Unemployment Dips Slightly in March

HONOLULU- The Hawai‘i State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations announced today that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March remains at 6.3 percent, unchanged from February. There were 594,000 employed and 39,950 unemployed in March, for a total seasonally adjusted labor force of 633,950. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined slightly to 8.8 percent in March from 8.9 percent in February.

March, 2011 Unemployment
(Not Seasonally Adjusted)

March, 2011
February, 2010
March, 2010
Maui County
7.8
8.0
8.8
Maui Island
7.8
7.9
8.7
Moloka'i
10.8
11.1
12.6
Lana'i
5.4
5.8
6.8
Honolulu
5.1
5.3
5.6
Hawai'i
9.5
9.5
10.0
Kaua'i
8.5
8.6
9.0
State
6.1
6.3
6.7
U.S.
9.2
9.5
10.2
Source: Hawai'i State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations

The unemployment rate figures for the State of Hawai‘i and the U.S. in this release are seasonally adjusted, in accordance with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) methodology. The not seasonally adjusted rate for the State dipped to 6.1 percent in March from 6.3 percent in February. Read the entire report here.

(Report Provided by The Hawai'i State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations)

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NEWS FLASH - April 15, 2011 7:55 a.m. HST

80 MECO Customers Still Without Power in East Maui

Maui Electric customers from Huelo to Hana with the exception of approximately 80 customers in Nahiku have been restored to power. MECO crews have begun work to bring these customers back online as soon as possible.

(Report Provided by Maui Electric Company)

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NEWS FLASH - April 15, 2011 6:40 a.m. HST

Surprise! America's Most Expensive Gas is Here

Hawaii's average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline hit a nation-leading $4.46 on Thursday, 28 cents higher than second-place California.

The state's average on Thursday was 12 cents higher than a week ago, 44 cents more than a month ago and 91 cents more than last year, according to AAA data.

It is just 5 cents below the all-time record of $4.51 set on July 31, 2008.

The most expensive gas in Hawaii was on the island of Maui, where the average price was $4.77, down a penny after hitting a record of $4.78 on Wednesday. The previous Wailuku record was $4.75 in August 2008.

The average price for a gallon of regular in Honolulu was $4.36, just five cents below the record high for Honolulu of $4.39 set on July 29, 2008

As most states brace for gas to climb to $4, Hawaii was the first to reach that mark a month ago. Now three other states share that distinction: Alaska, California and Illinois.

The national average reached $3.81 Thursday. Wyoming was the cheapest in the country at $3.53.

"There's no doubt that across the country the pain is being felt, but more acutely in Hawaii," said Marie Montgomery, spokeswoman for Automobile Club of Southern California, which covers Hawaii.

Eighteen percent of Hawaii motorists polled by AAA last month said $5 is the breaking price point that would make them drastically reduce driving.

"There is a bit more tolerance for a higher price just because Hawaii has been paying more for longer," Montgomery said. "The people who are paying $3.80 a gallon in other states are outraged about it. It's all relative."

(Report Provided by the Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - April 14, 2011 8:50 p.m. HST

Lights Still Out in East Maui - And Will Be Until Tomorrow

Maui Electric workers continued their inspection of the Hana transmission line until night set in. They were unable to identify the problem and customers from Huelo up until Hana town remain without power tonight. Hana town is being powered by two distributed generators. Crews will be back out at first light to continue the investigation and conduct an aerial inspection of the line.

MECO sincerely apologizes for the inconvenience caused by this situation. We would like to remind customers to unplug appliances and equipment. Keep the refrigerator door closed to keep food cold and avoid cooking indoors with an open flame. Also, please remember to use flashlights instead of candles.

(Report Provided by Maui Electric Company)

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NEWS FLASH - April 14, 2011 5:30 p.m. HST

Power Out From Huelo to Hana - Cause Unknown

The area from Huelo to Hana town is currently without power. Hana generating units are providing power to residents and businesses in Hana town.

The cause of the outage is unknown at this time as MECO crews continue to investigate.

An update will be provided when available.

(Report Provided by Maui Electric Company)

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NEWS FLASH - April 14, 2011 2:50 p.m. HST

Senate Confirms First Appointed BOE Appointees

The full Senate unanimously confirmed the governor's nine appointees to the Board of Education today.

Before taking a vote, senators praised the nominees and urged them to take bold steps to improve public education in the islands.

"Among the nine we have chief executive officers, university administrators, community leaders, educators, attorneys and passionate advocates," said state Sen. Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee.

But, she added, "This clearly is a case where the proverbial sum is greater than its parts."

After the confirmation, the board members were sworn in at a ceremony in the governor's offices.

The new members are:

>> Don Horner, First Hawaiian Bank chief executive officer and chairman, who will serve as chairman of the board;

>> Keith Amemiya, former executive director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association and current executive administrator and secretary of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents;

>> Former television news anchor Kim Gennaula, now philanthropy director at Kapiolani Health Foundation;

>> Attorney Brian DeLima, an attorney and former Hawaii County Council member;

>> Attorney Nancy Budd, former president of the Kauai Parent Teacher Student Association;

>> Wesley Lo, CEO at Maui Memorial Medical Center;

>> Jim Williams, retired administrator and CEO of the Hawaii Employer-Union Benefits Trust Fund;

>> Cheryl Kauhane Lupenui, CEO of YWCA-Oahu

>> Charlene Cuaresma, associate director of the Graduate Professional Access Program at the University of Hawaii-Manoa and a leader in the Filipino community.

The board, whose members will serve staggered terms, will meet for the first time April 26.

Reach Mary Vorsino at mvorsino@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - April 14, 2011 8:15 a.m. HST

Ali'i Kula Lavender Founder - Chang - Passes Away at 69

KULA, Maui - Ali‘i Arlington Chang, 69, of Kula, Maui passed peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday, April 13, 2011. Ali'i is survived by his son, Forrest Koa Chang. A “Celebration of Life” will be held on Saturday, July 9, 2011 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Ali‘i Kula Lavender.

“Our hearts ache, yet we’re comforted and inspired by Ali‘i’s love and his everyday actions that encouraged us all to live life fully and with aloha,” said Lani Weigert, co-owner, Ali‘i Kula Lavender.

Anyone who knew Ali‘i recognized one thing – he was truly a steward of aloha. “He was an old-school, strong-minded, often stubborn Chinese-Hawaiian farmer,” said Weigert. “Yet he was a gentleman committed to an impeccable work ethic who was in-tune with nature, a magnificent storyteller, and unbeknownst to him, a comedian who was a hoot to be around. Above all, he was wise and gifted,” said Weigert.

Folks who knew Ali‘i would agree that everything he touched flourished and turned to gold. “Maui has lost one of its treasures. We’ll miss him very much, but thankfully, his spirit will live on here at Ali‘i Kula Lavender,” Weigert stated.
The staff of Ali‘i Kula Lavender gathered at Ali‘i’s home on Tuesday night for a crew meeting. “He cooked the most delicious and delectable roast with locally-grown vegetables. We all had such an enjoyable evening together,” Weigert shared. It would be the last time the AKL staff would share an evening with him.

Ali‘i came by his green thumb naturally. He grew up on a 20-acre farm in Kane‘ohe, O‘ahu. He watched and learned from his grandmother who could grow anything placed before her and had a recipe for every crop. Ali‘i would often say, “she made me express art in whatever I did.”

The beauty of his work can be seen across the farm’s 13-acre stretch. On any given day, Ali‘i could be found nurturing lavender fields with attention to detail and robust charm. Though his lavender beauties are not native to Maui, they have settled on the majestic Kula mountain under Ali‘i’s care, with style and grace.

Back in March 1976, he opened Ali‘i Gardens Nahiku, an isolated community along the winding Hana Highway on the rainy eastern coast of Maui where Ali‘i grew tropical exotic plants with Hana farmer Howard Cooper of Helani Gardens.

In 1992, Ali‘i purchased a protea farm in Kula.

In 2001, Ali‘i was given a single lavender plant by his dear friend Emma Veary. One of Hawai‘i’s most respected vocalists of all time, Veary to this day is affectionately known as “Hawai‘i’s Golden Throat.” Ali‘i planted the herb with the best of intentions and it truly took off! He transformed that farm into his own lavender wonderland – a true work of art that Ali‘i Kula Lavender is today.

\“Ali‘i prided himself on having an impeccable and ever-changing canvas for all eyes to see and enjoy,” said Weigert. “He took considerable pride in his work and the work of his staff. Of his many traits, Ali‘i was a true perfectionist."
Ali‘i’s vision was to create Ali‘i Kula Lavender as the premier purveyor of “Sustainable Aloha” through educational stewardship that nurtured the well-being of our island community while contributing to the well-being of the planet for future generations.

At Ali‘i’s request, no services will be held. A celebration of his life will be held on July 9, a day when Ali‘i, Weigert and their staff plan to hold their First Annual Sustainable Aloha Summer Festival.

Further, the Ali‘i Chang Foundation will be established to provide scholarships for Native Hawaiians pursuing skills training in agriculture and for agricultural education in our local schools. Scholarship recipients should embody the very qualities Ali‘i possessed including a strong work ethic, as well as innate and natural skills in growing plants, flowers, trees and food crops. Applicants should also have an eye for design, a commitment to aloha, hospitality and “aloha ?aina” or “love for the land.”

More information will be posted at www.aklmaui.com. For more information or to make a donation to the Ali‘i Chang Foundation, please contact Lanim@aklmaui.com

(Report Provided by Ali'i Kula Lavender)

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NEWS FLASH - April 14, 2011 6:55 a.m. HST

Foreclosures Drop - But Surge Expected Again

It's been relatively calm on Hawaii's home foreclosure front during the past several months, but the storm could soon return.

Foreclosure activity in Hawaii real estate declined for a fourth consecutive month in March, falling 37 percent from a year earlier, according to a report industry research firm RealtyTrac released yesterday.

The count — 691 foreclosure filings last month — was the lowest in nearly two years. It was also less than half the record 1,629 reached in August.

But RealtyTrac and local foreclosure attorneys say recent declines likely will be over soon when several major lenders resume more normal processing of delinquent mortgage cases after resolving issues with improper case documentation.

Marvin Dang, a Honolulu foreclosure attorney, said he expects a rebound as early as this month or next month.

"There should be some increases in foreclosures, though it's hard to say how much," he said.

Daren Blomquist, a RealtyTrac spokesman, said rebounds after the artificial lulls have already occurred in a few other states, and the trend most certainly will follow for Hawaii.

"Over the last three or four months, the (foreclosure) numbers have just fallen off a cliff," he said. "It's really too sudden of a decline to say that it's a true market recovery."

Some lenders began announcing in October that they were voluntarily holding back on filing new foreclosure cases or selling repossessed homes after their loan documentation practices were called into question and rejected in some courts.

Since then, lenders including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and GMAC Mortgage have been addressing deficiencies. If problems are resolved, there will be a backlog of delinquent mortgages to process, though the size of a resurgence may be limited by processing capacity and take several months or more to return to more normal levels.

Eventually as the economy recovers, foreclosure filings will subside, but industry observers say it's too soon to predict when that will likely happen given present instability in the economy and housing market.

Last month, foreclosure filings nationally fell 35 percent to 239,795 from 367,056 in March 2010, which represented the highest monthly total since RealtyTrac began publishing the data in 2005.

The national rate last month represented one foreclosure filing for every 542 households.

Hawaii had the 16th highest rate at one filing for every 746 households.

The worst rate was in Nevada, where there was one filing for every 88 households.

Kauai had the next best rate at one filing per 793 households, and the lowest number of filings at 38.

On Maui there were 161 filings, or one for every 414 households.

The worst rate was on Hawaii with one filing per 397 households based on 203 filings.

RealtyTrac counts three types of filings in its data that can occur at different stages of the foreclosure process — initial default notices, auction notices and lender repossessions.

Statewide, most Hawaii foreclosure filings, 365, were auction notices. Another 280 filings were lender repossessions, while just 46 filings were default notices.

The methodology produces a somewhat imprecise measure of how many homes are in the process of foreclosure because RealtyTrac counts different types of filings on the same property if they occur in different months, which means some properties may be counted in more than one month.

RealtyTrac also doesn't exclude commercial property from its count, which means popular vacation property in Hawaii such as time shares and condominium-hotel units can be among RealtyTrac's tally.

Reach Andrew Gomes at agomes@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - April 13, 2011 1:30 p.m. HST

Maui Man - Korean War Hero - To Receive Medal of Honor

A Maui man who died fighting in Korea in 1951 will get a long-delayed Medal of Honor for his bravery on May 2, when President Barack Obama will make the award to his relatives at the White House, officials said.

Army Pfc. Anthony T. Kahoohanohano gave his life in a one-man stand against overwhelming numbers of enemy troops so fellow soldiers could survive.

As enemy troops tried to overrun Kahoohanohano's gun emplacement, the 21-year-old from Wailuku fought back with bullets, grenades and then his hands, according to a Distinguished Service Cross citation presented to the family in 1952.

"Private Kahoohanohano fought fiercely and courageously, delivering deadly accurate fire into the ranks of the onrushing enemy" until he was killed, the citation states.

U.S. troops subsequently found 11 dead enemy soldiers in front of Kahoohanohano's position, and two in the gun emplacement itself who had been beaten to death with an entrenching tool.

The upgrade to the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award, was approved by Congress in 2009 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

Kahoohanohano's sister, Elaine Kahoohanohano, and brother, Eugene Kahoohanohano, will join the president at the White House to "commemorate their brother's example of selfless service and sacrifice," the White House said.

The addition of Kahoohanohano's name to the Medal of Honor roll represented a more than decadelong effort by his family and Hawaii lawmakers to upgrade the Distinguished Service Cross he received and to give him the recognition they said he deserved.

The quest by the family started by Abel Kahoohanohano Sr., one of Anthony's brothers, and taken up by Abel's son, George Kahoohanohano, after his father died.

A recommendation for a Medal of Honor was made by the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink in 2001 but the request was denied by the Army. U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, then took up the cause.

Former Army Secretary Pete Geren wrote to Akaka saying that after giving the request "careful, personal consideration, I have determined that the Medal of Honor is the appropriate award to recognize Private First Class Kahoohanohano's heroic actions."

All six Kahoohanohano brothers served in the military — four in the active duty Army, one in the Marines and another in the National Guard.

Kahoohanohano, who was with Company H, 2nd Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, of the 7th Infantry Division, was in charge of a machine gun squad supporting a company of soldiers as a much larger enemy force advanced in the vicinity of Chup'a-ri, Korea, on Sept. 1, 1951.

According to the posthumously awarded Distinguished Service Cross citation, as the men fell back, Kahoohanohano — although already wounded in the shoulder — ordered his squad to a more defensible position while he gathered grenades and returned alone to the machine gun post.

"When his ammunition was depleted, he engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat until he was killed," a White House statement said. "His heroic stand so inspired his comrades that they launched a counterattack that completely repulsed the enemy."

In 2009, Madeline Kahoohanohano remembered Anthony, her brother-in-law, as a fearless man of his word. The son of a police officer, he was a football and basketball standout at St. Anthony's School for Boys.

"He didn't seem to be afraid of anyone," Madeline Kahoohanohano said at the time. "He always was a toughie. He always used to stand up — even for his younger brothers. He would step up and protect his younger brothers."

Reach William Cole at wcole@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - April 13, 2011 6:50 a.m. HST

Trades Replaced With Kona Winds, Vog, Humidity

Our usual tradewinds are gone, replaced by Kona winds from the south which likely means more vog, humid conditions and the possibility of afternoon showers in leeward areas, National Weather Service forecasters say.

A weather system approaching from the northwest has cut off the tradewind flow and the voggy, humid weather is likely to continue into early next week, forecasters say.

The front is not expected to move over the islands. But the moisture in the air may bring an increased chance of showers to Kauai. The Big Island may also see an increased chance of showers because of afternoon heating.

Forecasters say lighter showers are expected on other islands, mostly in the afternoon.

There is some good news for surfers, a south swell is predicted to arrive tonight and peak tomorrow perhaps at advisory levels of more than six feet.

(Report Provided by the Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - April 12, 2011 8:40 p.m. HST

Soetoro-Ng Calls Trump's 'Birther' Position A 'Shame'

The president's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, answered questions about her brother's birthplace and called the revival of the issue by Donald Trump, "a shame."

Soetero-Ng, who is traveling in New York to promote her children's book, told CNN's Piers Morgan in an interview airing today that continued questions about her brother's birthplace in Hawaii are "unfortunate ... he was born in Hawaii, there's a tremendous amount of proof that has already been presented."

She also told the Associated Press: "The facts are simply that my brother was born in the United States at the Kapiolani Hospital for Women and Children in 1961. His birth certificate has been authenticated by a number of sources. ... Really, I feel that it behooves us to think about moving forward, and up, and really focusing on positive possibilities and solutions, and the facts are that my brother is a U.S. citizen."

Trump who says he is considering a run for president, recently revived the birther issue with his questions about the Obama's birth certificate.

Officials in Hawaii have long certified Obama's birth in Honolulu, but Trump questions whether the president was born abroad and has suggested that Obama may have violated the Constitution.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - April 12, 2011 8:30 p.m. HST

Senate Shies Away from Pension Taxing

State senators amended a bill Tuesday to remove a provision taxing pensions for the first time, an attempt to kill the proposal as the Legislature enters its final weeks.

Lawmakers could revive the pension tax during conference committee negotiations, but its chances of becoming law greatly diminished following the Senate's action.

Sen. Clayton Hee said taxing pensions may not survive a court challenge or raise much money.

The House had passed a bill that would have taxed pensions of individuals with federal adjusted gross income exceeding $100,000 or couples earning $200,000, raising about $17 million a year.

The amended bill prevents higher-income taxpayers from claiming state income tax deductions, generating about $40 million for the state.

The pension tax is amid hundreds of bills getting votes Tuesday as the Legislature enters the final weeks of this year's session.

The House and Senate planned to pass the measures before Thursday's deadline for them to clear their nonoriginating chambers and advance to conference committees.

Much of the debate Tuesday was expected to surround measures raising taxes to help address a projected $1.3 billion shortfall over the next two years.

Besides pensions, other tax proposals would affect online purchases, business exemptions, deductions and more.

Senators last week killed a proposal to raise the state's broadest tax, the general excise tax.

The Legislature remains hundreds of millions of dollars short of a balanced budget, even including tax increases and spending cuts.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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