The Beat

  • From Maui Mayoral Campaign to 20-Year Prison Sentence

    ·By Richard Wiens
    A man who ran unsuccessfully for Maui mayor last year has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for securities fraud, the state Attorney General’s Office announced in a press release Monday. Nelson N. Waikiki was sentenced Friday by Maui circuit judge Rhonda I. L. Loo. Nelson Waikiki “Mr. Waikiki convinced several people to invest money in a water rights company on Maui,” said Deputy Attorney General Albert Cook in the release.  “Following an investigation by the state, it was determined that Mr. Waikiki did not have any such rights to the water, that he was not registered to sell securities in Hawaii, and that the securities he sold were not registered.  In total, Mr. Waikiki’s schemes scammed up to 21 victims for more than $100,000.” In addition to sentencing Waikiki to two consecutive 10-year prison terms for four counts of securities fraud, Loo ordered Waikiki to pay restitution to the victims.
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  • Halemaumau Crater a Big Draw at Hawaii Volcanoes Nat’l Park

    ·By Chad Blair
    I’ve visited Kilauea at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park many times over the past 30 years or so, taking family, friends and students to view the huge caldera and get a closer look at Mauna Loa, the world’s largest mountain and active volcano. But there is something special going on right now, something drawing tourists from all over: boiling, spewing lava from the Halemaumau crater. The crowds were big and steady at Halemaumau crater on May 3. Cory Lum/Civil Beat It’s not like those images from Mark Twain’s era in the 19th century, nor quite as spectacular as the Herb Kane paintings at the Jaggar Museum that overlooks the crater. And the lava lake is not spilling over the rim of the crater, as has been suggested in some media reports, but rather sometimes flowing or spouting over the rim of the lake and spreading fresh pauhoehoe onto the crater floor. But it’s a bubbly, fiery show, especially in the evening, when the magma stands out even more and makes it seem as if you are watching “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” An iPhone 6 doesn’t do Kilauea justice, but it’s a good show nonetheless. Chad Blair/Civil Beat On Sunday, a double rainbow blessed Halemaumau not long before the sun went down. Then, a full moon provided another spectacle. Earlier in the day, a small explosion collapsed part of the crater wall. Visitors ate it up, paying the $10 per vehicle at the entrance to the park and staying far longer than the time it takes to
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  • Film About Transgender Teacher in Hawaii to Premiere on PBS

    ·By Chad Blair
    A documentary telling the story of a transgender Hawaiian teacher will premiere on PBS Monday evening. Kumu Hina is about Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, who is a mahu — the Hawaiian word for “those who embody both male and female spirit,” according to a press release for the film. Wong-Kalu was born on Oahu and educated at Kamehameha Schools and the University of Hawaii. She is known in part for her strong advocacy for kanaka maoli rights, assets and practices. “This film introduces us to an unforgettable and courageous woman whose life is simultaneously grounded in ancient tradition and on the forefront of one the most contemporary movements in society today,” said Lois Vossen of the PBS program Independent Lens. “Gender fluidity is a concept that has been understood for thousands of years in Polynesian culture, but is only now beginning to be accepted in the West. ‘Kumu Hina’ teaches us all how to love and accept ourselves as we are.” “Kumu Hina” is directed and produced by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson. The film’s airing is part of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month programming on PBS.
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  • New York Times Ed Board Chides Hawaii Gov. David Ige Over Mauna Kea

    ·By Patti Epler
    Hawaii Gov. David Ige is well-known in the islands for his mild-mannered approach to controversy. We like to believe that’s because he’s an engineer and takes a deliberative approach, rather than the fiery political passion of other elected officials. That demeanor holds no sway with the opinion writers 5,000 miles away who in a Sunday editorial rebuked him for being “far too withdrawn” in the clash between those who want to protect Mauna Kea from a 14th telescope and those who want to move ahead with the long-planned and approved scientific project. The NYT ed board isn’t taking a stand on the development itself, just on Ige’s lack of leadership on it. The board wants him to “step up.” “If he thinks the telescope is an important asset that promises great benefits to Hawaii’s residents and economy, not to mention to science and humanity at large, he should say so. If he thinks more needs to be done to protect the environment and native interests, he should say what that is and make it happen. His mild news releases urging more dialogue are not enough.” A false-color composite near-infrared image of Jupiter taken by the Keck II telescope on Mauna Kea. Courtesy W. M. Keck Observatory
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  • Chaminade President to Continue Through 2017

    ·By Todd Simmons
    Brother Bernard Ploeger will continue to serve as president of Chaminade University through 2017 under a two-year contract extension approved Friday by the school’s board of regents, but will conclude his tenure then, by which time he’ll have served as president for eight years. Chaminade President Bernard Ploeger Kapono RyanPloeger, 66, has held various leadership positions at the private Catholic university since joining it in 1995. He was named president in 2009 following the death of President Sue Wesselkamper. Board of Regents Chair Vaughn A. Vasconcellos on Friday said the university, which serves about 2,600 students, has flourished under Ploeger’s leadership. “Brother Bernie has worked tirelessly to put the university on sound financial footing, raise the quality of our educational offerings, and renew and expand our facilities,” Vasconcellos said in a statement. “His quiet style of leadership allowed the university to achieve sound progress across the board and has led to an overall transformation of our campus.” Ploeger noted that conducting a search for a university president is an extended duty these days, and said campus leadership will spend the next two years preparing for a successful transition. “I am so pleased with what we have been able to accomplish thus far.  The extension will afford me the privilege of serving for over eight years as president of this wonderful institution,” said Ploeger in a university news release. “In the next two years, we have some tremendously ambitious projects to complete, and I’m committed to making these last two
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  • Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Begins

    ·By Jessica Terrell
    The White House marked the start of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month Friday with a presidential proclamation and a publicity push for a summit later this month. The White House Summit on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, to be held in D.C. on May 12, is being touted as an  “unprecedented and historic all-day event” pulling together federal officials and community leaders to celebrate recent achievements and lay out priorities for the next two years. The event is open to the public, but registration is full. It will be streamed live here. A preview video can be seen here. AAPI Heritage month dates back to 1977 when — in part through the efforts of Hawaii senators Daniel Inouye and Masayuki Matsunaga — Congress passed a bill making the first 10 days of May Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. The celebration was extended across the entire month of May starting in the early-1990s. “Through times of hardship and in the face of enduring prejudice, these women and men have persisted and forged ahead to help strengthen our Union,” President Obama’s 2015 proclamation notes, adding that “Native Hawaiians have fought to protect their treasured traditions, language, and lands.” Kiran Ahuja, executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Konrad Ng, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, are featured in a video previewing the event. Courtesy of the White House  
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  • HPD Posts Policies, Including For Use of Force, Online

    ·By Nick Grube
    If you ever wanted to learn more about the Honolulu Police Department’s policy on use of force, bias-based profiling or even its grooming standards, you can now do so simply by going to the agency’s website. On Friday, the HPD announced it has uploaded each of its more than 250 policies in order to increase departmental transparency. The Honolulu Police Department’s downtown headquarters. PF Bentley/Civil Beat For the past year, the HPD and its leadership has been under intense scrutiny for its handling of several cases, including those in which officers are alleged to have violated protocol or even broken the law. It even caused several lawmakers to introduce bills to impose reform on the department. “Making our policies available to the public is a necessary and key component of building the community’s trust in HPD,” Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha said in a statement. “As of today, the policies will be available 24/7 on the Internet and free to anyone who wants to review them.” While the policies cover everything from arrest procedures and drug and alcohol use to domestic violence and officer training, there are certain protocols that have been omitted from the records for security purposes. According to an HPD press relase, those policies might include sensitive information that could “jeopardize public safety or impede an officer’s ability to respond to critical incidents.” Click here to access the full list of policies.
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  • Schatz: Police Body Cams Could Help ‘Reform Our Broken Justice System’

    ·By Richard Wiens
    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii is praising an Obama Administration announcement Fridayt that it will provide $20 million in grants to local police departments around the country for the purchase of body cameras for officers. The grants represent the first portion to be approved by Congress of a $75 million, three-year body camera funding program requested in December. Selected departments will be part of a pilot program to evaluate the effects. “The announcement today by the administration is an important step forward,” said Schatz in a press release. He said he hoped that participating police departments will be encouraged “to put in place responsible policies to ensure that cameras increase accountability and protect the privacy rights of citizens.  I support the administration’s efforts and will continue to push for legislation to rebuild the trust between communities and the police and to reform our broken criminal justice system.” Last month, Schatz introduced the Police Creating Accountability by Making Effective Recording Available (Police CAMERA) Act of 2015. Civil Beat recently published an editorial citing Hawaii’s need for police body cameras. Body-worn cameras for police. Flickr: West Midlands Police
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  • Transgender Birth Certificate Bill Passes Conference Committee

    ·By Todd Simmons
    A bill approved by conference committee in the Hawaii Legislature on Thursday would make it easier for transgender individuals to get a birth certificate that agrees with their gender identity, removing the requirement for gender reassignment surgery before such a change can be made. House Bill 631 would enable transgender individuals who either cannot or choose not to have surgery to have the sex marker changed on their birth certificate after having their physician or psychiatrist attest that the individual’s gender identity does not correspond to that indicated on the form. Based on the medical professional’s affidavit, the Department of Health would make the change. Birth certificate are used to prove such things as date of birth, citizenship and parentage in a range of circumstances, from obtaining work permits to school registration to receiving insurance benefits. They are vital records, critical to managing some of life’s most personal and basic necessities. The bill next goes back to the House and Senate for final floor votes, which are considered formalities, since both chambers previously passed similar versions of the bill. With their passage, it will go to Gov. David Ige, who is expected to sign the bill into law. Hawaii would then join six other states and the District of Columbia that allow such birth certificate changes without gender surgery. Connecticut, Colorado and Maryland are considering similar changes in their respective legislative sessions this spring.
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  • Hawaii Loses Its Bid for Obama Library

    ·By Rui Kaneya
    It was always considered a long shot, but now it looks official: Honolulu will be missing out on the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum. Citing two anonymous sources, The New York Times reported that the Obama library will be built in Chicago, the president’s adopted home. The exact location is not yet known, but Chicago’s local news outlets are reporting that it will be built near the University of Chicago on the city’s South Side, where the president began his career as community organizer. The proposed Kakaako Makai location. KITVChicago beat out the bids from New York City, where Obama earned his bachelor’s degree, and Honolulu, where he spent his youth. The news brings a sigh of relief to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the president’s former chief of staff. Since word spread earlier this year that first lady Michelle Obama favored New York, Emanuel lobbied heavily to bring the library to his city. The Chicago bid appears to have received a lift last week when the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill designed to stem any legal action if a Chicago Park District property were used for the library.
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  • In Victory for Republicans, US House Passes Budget

    ·By Chad Blair
    The U.S. House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans, on Thursday passed a Republican budget “that would boost defense spending, slash social welfare programs and target ObamaCare, in what GOP leaders cast as a victory for fiscal sanity.” That report comes from The Hill, which said that the U.S. Senate is expected to pass the “combined budget” next week. Tulsi Gabbard and Mark Takai of Hawaii joined all Democrats and 14 Republicans in voting “nay” on the measure. But, on another piece of legislation that also passed — this one an appropriations bill that funds the Veterans Administration and military construction projects — Hawaii’s reps were among just 19 Democrats voting in favor. Gabbard and Takai are both military veterans. U.S. flags and flowers at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe in 2014. PF Bentley/Civil Beat Though they voted differently on the military construction and VA bill than did Minority Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, Gabbard and Takai did side with Democrats on an amendment to that bill that would have allowed doctors at VA hospitals “to discuss the use of medical marijuana with patients.” But the measure failed narrowly. As The Hill reports, “More than 30 Republicans voted in favor of the amendment. Boos ensued from the Democratic side of the House chamber when Republicans closed the vote despite the razor-thin margin.” Medical pot is legal in more than 30 states including Hawaii, but VA doctors “are prohibited from completing patient forms seeking recommendations or opinions regarding medical marijuana to
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  • Study: Big-Time Political Spending Came from Elite Donors

    ·By Rui Kaneya
    During the 2014 election cycle, the top 0.01 percent of the Americans — about 32,000 people in all — flexed their fiscal muscles, spending a whopping $1.18 billion on political contributions, according to a new study released Thursday. The joint analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Sunlight Foundation shows that 150 deep-pocketed donors hailed from Hawaii and collectively contributed about $2.7 million at the federal level. http://www.opensecrets.org The outsized impact of these big givers — dubbed “The 1 percent of the 1 percent” — on federal campaigns has steadily increased over the years. The $1.18 billion accounted for 29 percent of all disclosed political contributions in 2014 — a greater share than the total of 25 percent in 2012 and 21 percent in 2010. The study found the big givers have some common traits: “They’re mostly male, tend to be city-dwellers and often work in finance. Slightly more of them skew Republican than Democratic. A small subset — barely five dozen — earned the (even more) rarefied distinction of giving more than $1 million each. And a minute cluster of three individuals contributed more than $10 million apiece.” Of the 50 ZIP codes that generated the most money, most were population hubs like New York, San Francisco, Houston and Chicago. None of Hawaii’s ZIP codes made the list.
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  • Hawaii Dems Join Push to Raise Federal Minimum Wage

    ·By Richard Wiens
    Democrats in Washington, D.C., announced a measure Thursday to gradually raise the federal minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 per hour to $12 by 2020, and tie additional increases after that to growth in the national median wage. Hawaii Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono were among numerous co-sponsors in the Senate, and U.S. Rep. Mark Takai quickly chimed in with his support. Since Republicans control both houses of Congress, there is little chance that the Raise the Wage Act will be taken up in the next 20 months. But it will likely be a campaign issue for Democrats next year. The increase to $12 per hour would take place over five years, starting with an $8 wage and increasing by $1 per year through 2020. After that, the wage would be indexed to the growth in the national median wage. The bill would also gradually eliminate the lower “subminimum” wage for tipped workers. The U.S. Capitol Chad Blair/Civil Beat “If you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to support your family,” said Schatz in a statement. “But too many working families today can barely make ends meet because our federal minimum wage has not kept up with the cost of living. Raising the minimum wage would lift millions of families out of poverty and put them on the path to the middle class, helping build a stronger, more resilient economy for everyone.” “It is not right that an individual working a full-time job is
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  • Seven Reps Break From Session’s Final Days to Raise Some Cash

    ·By Richard Wiens
    These are the busy final days of the Hawaii’s Legislature’s 2015 session, with the fate of numerous bills being decided. But that didn’t stop seven members of the House of Representatives from teaming up to hold a fundraising event Tuesday evening, according to documents filed with the state Campaign Spending Commission. A $100 donation was requested of people attending the event at the Jade Dynasty restaurant in the Ala Moana Shopping Center, with the proceeds apparently divvied up by the lawmakers. The participating legislators included Reps. Isaac Choy, Sharon Har, Ken Ito, Jo Jordan, Derek Kawakami, Calvin Say and James Tokioka There are a lot of people paying close attention to a lot of bills right now, and many of those same people give money to lawmakers. flickr:AMagill  
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  • Another Member of Hawaii’s Delegation Misidentified

    ·By Todd Simmons
    U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, it turns out, isn’t the only Asian-American politician from Hawaii who can suffer from a case of mistaken identity in the nation’s capital. You may recall that C-SPAN identified California Congressman Ted Lieu as Hawaii’s freshman representative while Lieu was speaking in late March on the House floor. The Washington Post on Wednesday showed it can hold its own in the misidentification sweepstakes with a large photo of two guests entering the state dinner honoring Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, one of whom was identified as U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono. Trouble was, it was actually Congresswoman Doris Matsui, another California lawmaker. Congressional staffer Andy Stone pointed out the Hirono-Matsui gaffe on Twitter, and conservative website Twitchy.com gleefully picked up the post, helpfully posting large color pics of both lawmakers along with a well-placed jab: “Imagine the outcry if Fox News had done this.” Update: It helps to have a sense of humor in such matters, as Hirono and Matsui showed Thursday in an epic follow-up tweet.  
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  • Hawaii Senator Offers Poetic Recap of 2015 Session

    ·By Nathan Eagle
    Hawaii lawmakers are down to their last two days of conference committee, an intense series of meetings in which designees from each chamber work to iron out the differences they have on legislation. The full House and Senate will then go on a voting spree next week, giving final approval to the surviving bills before session ends May 7. For those just tuning in, Sen. Will Espero offered a poetic recap of the entire session Wednesday on the Senate floor. Sen. Will Espero speaks to city officials after a joint conference committee last week. Cory Lum/Civil Beat “2015 Session Poem” by Will Espero Maui Memorial Hospital Time for privatization Union members not too happy Not much love and elation Mr. Ching didn’t make the cut Nothing on sex education A ban on powdered alcohol No funding for a hydrogen fuel station Another look at OCCC Time for a new prison and jail Food tax credits for those in need Maybe more taxes for rail Lobbyists and advocates Bombarded with emails each day Moments of contemplation for all But still not allowed to pray Licenses for undocumented people Recognizing the hoary bat CIP and GIA As we try to cut out the fat Trying to help transgender folks Amending birth certificates Dealing with homelessness Regulating e-cigarettes A look at sex trafficking No ban on ivory sales Time for needed police reform A boost for local ale In vitro for future moms An issue so personal and real Supporting teachers with a raise Funding for 2 zip mobiles Medical marijuana dispensaries Helping our veterans cope Working on our penal code Supporting hemp products like rope Crosswalks and repairing roads Building much needed schools Audits, working groups, oversight Creating new administration rules Although we know we have done a lot There’s
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  • DHHL Told to Clean Up Wastes at Former Race Track Site

    ·By Rui Kaneya
    The Hawaii State Department of Health ordered the cleanup of the site of a former race track, known as Kalaeloa Raceway Park, Wednesday after finding hazardous wastes and used oil there. The property, owned by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, had been leased to Save Oahu’s Race Tracks LLC, but the DHHL revoked the lease last year after a long dispute over delinquent rent and utility payments. As the landowner, the DHHL found itself in violation of environmental regulations for the waste left behind by the race track operator and must submit a “corrective action plan” to the DOH for the cleanup. Kalaeloa Raceway Park vimeo.com “As a major landowner and lessor in Hawaii, DHHL will be required to properly dispose of remaining hazardous wastes and conduct a site characterization of the property for contaminants associated with the automotive and race track operations to determine the magnitude of contamination and risks that it presents to human health and the environment,” the DOL said in a statement. The DHHL released its own statement saying it’s “extremely concerned about the hazardous waste,” and that it “recognizes its responsibility to its beneficiaries and to the general public to address any hazardous materials and contaminants, regardless of the fact that it was the direct result of the actions of SORT.” But it added that it “does not agree with all of the allegations or inferences” in the DOH’s order and announced that it’s contesting it “in an effort to assure that it accurately reflects
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  • Effort Launched to Recall Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi

    ·By Richard Wiens
    A petition drive has been started by a Hilo man to recall Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi, West Hawaii Today reports. The newspaper recently disclosed in a series of stories that Kenoi has been misusing his pCard since 2009, making a total of more than $22,000 in unauthorized personal goods and services purchases in violation of county regulations. Kenoi is being investigated by the state Attorney General’s Office. While Hawaii law does not allow recalls of statewide officials, there are procedures for removal from office at the county level. It won’t be easy. The Hawaii County charter requires signatures of 25 percent of the electorate that voted in the last mayoral election in order to recall the mayor. That means there are 120 days to gather signatures of 15,544 voters “Although we haven’t seen the petition, we certainly respect the process,” Peter Boylan, a spokesman for Kenoi, told the newspaper. The Civil Beat Editorial Board has called on Kenoi to resign. Hawaii Mayor Billy Kenoi speaks at a legislative hearing in January. Cory Lum/Civil Beat
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  • Thirty Meter Telescope Protesters Hold Third Rally in Pasadena

    ·By Richard Wiens
    Pasadena, home of the the TMT Corporation and the California Institute of Technology, is emerging as a hotbed of protest against the Thirty Meter Telescope planned for Mauna Kea on the Big Island. A third protest in recent days was held in the California city Wednesday morning, according to Pasadena Weekly, which reported on an earlier Pasadena protest. Wednesday’s event at TMT headquarters was timed to coincide with a meeting that included a group of officials from Canada, one of the countries funding the TMT, and representatives of Caltech, another key partner in the project, the Weekly reported. Meanwhile, protests continue on the islands, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has scheduled a special Board of Directors meeting for Thursday at 10 a.m. to discuss its evolving position on the TMT project. A sign at a University of Hawaii, Manoa, protest on April 13. Cory Lum/Civil Beat  
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  • Geothermal Developer Denies Fraud in Response to Whistleblower Lawsuit

    ·By Rui Kaneya
    In a document filed Tuesday at a federal court in Nevada, the owner of Hawaii’s sole geothermal power plant denied allegations that it fraudulently obtained more than $130 million in federal grants. Ormat Technologies Inc., a Nevada-based geothermal power developer, could face penalties of up to $400 million in a whistleblower lawsuit brought by two of its former employees. At issue are federal grants Ormat received through the U.S. Department of Treasury’s 1603 program, an initiative created under the so-called stimulus package in 2009. The plaintiffs allege that the company “knowingly and purposefully exploited” the program by filing fraudulent grant applications. The Puna Geothemal Ventures plant on the Big Island. Ormat Technologies Inc.In its first answer to the plaintiffs’ complaint, Ormat — which owns Puna Geothermal Ventures, the operator of a geothermal power plant on the Big Island — categorically denied any wrongdoing. “All accusations of an intent to defraud the Treasury or to obtain grants to which Ormat was not entitled are specifically rejected,” it wrote. “Ormat generally denies the allegations of wrongdoing in the complaint and affirmatively asserts that, at all times, Ormat and its officers acted reasonably and in good faith in light of all circumstances and in compliance with all applicable legal requirements.” The lawsuit, filed in 2013, has been making its way slowly through the court. Ormat initially sought to dismiss it on technical grounds, but a federal judge rejected the move in March and forced the company to file its response this week. It appears
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UH Scientists Solve Asian Monsoon Mystery

·By civilbeat

Scientists working at UH-Manoa’s International Pacific Research Center have made a breakthrough in their research on East Asian monsoons.

Meterologists have long attempted to figure out a way to predict the amount of rainfall and number of tropical storms that will occur during any given monsoon season. The UH scientists say they finally have an answer.

Apparently, they can predict in spring what the monsoon will be like come summer.

Their study was published in the scholarly journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Curious about their findings? Go here. 

Photo courtesy of CEBImagery.com

— Alia Wong

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