The Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shinbun has an interesting piece about Hawaii Sen. Glenn Wakai meeting his birth mother after nearly 50 years.
The article explains he was born Mitsuru Shimabukuro in Japan and adopted by a Japanese-American couple living in Hawaii when he was a year and a half.
Here’s an excerpt from the story describing his reunion with his birth mother:
Wakai, 48, recognized his deep similarities with Yoko almost immediately.
“When we met at the airport, I could see all my traits came from her — short, personable and talkative,” Wakai said.
Yoko could not stop crying as she apologized to Wakai for not being able to raise him herself. However, Wakai held only thankfulness toward her for bringing him into this world.
“I feel much better knowing I was a treasure,” Wakai told her. “I am eternally grateful you gave birth to me.”
Wakai, who represents the 15th state Senate district from Kalihi to Pearl Harbor, is chair of the Senate’s Committee on Economic Development and Technology.
Click here to read more.
The United States joint Typhoon Warning Center has issued a “typhoon formation alert” for the Marshall Islands, “saying a tropical typhoon is building between Majuro and Kwajalein, the two most populated atolls in the nation,” according to this report from Radio New Zealand International.
The center has warned boaters of hazardous surf conditions “that will coincide with a rising spring tide cycle resulting in coastal inundation of up to two feet along south and west facing shores on Majuro, Jaluit and Mili atolls through Saturday evening.”
The Republic of the Marshall Islands, population about 54,000, is located about 2,400 miles southwest of Hawaii. Many of its citizens migrate to live and work permanently in the United States under a 1986 treaty called the Compact of Free Association.
A shoreline bar and store on Majuro is blasted by high waves kicked up by a tropical depression that was building to typhoon strength July 3 in the Marshall Islands. The waves caused major damage to the capital atoll’s three-mile downtown lagoon shoreline.
Kwajalein is home to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, which typically employs several thousand Americans.
The Marshall Islands “is an isolated, sparsely populated, low-lying Pacific island country consisting of approximately 70 sq. miles of land spread out over 750,000 sq. miles of ocean just north of the equator,” says the U.S. State Department. “These characteristics make it vulnerable to transnational threats, natural disasters, and effects of climate change.”
Tony Read more
Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed several health-related bills Thursday as the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs unveiled an online service for insurance agents to file general liability and workers compensation coverage information for contractors and pest control operators.
Gov. David Ige signed several health bills into law Thursday at the Capitol, pictured here in March.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Here’s a look at the bills Ige signed.
House Bill 1343 (now Act 210) appropriates funds to establish a Business Recovery Center within the Department of Defense. The bill appropriates $328,000 in state funding with a federal match of $1.16 million. The center is a website where businesses and government agencies collaborate and coordinate information and resources before, during and after a natural disaster, according to the governor’s office.
House Bill 589 (now Act 211) establishes a state stroke data registry and requires hospitals to report stroke patient data. Through this registry, the state’s acute stroke hospitals will collect a uniform data set based on their stroke patients and will submit the date to the State Department of Health. The data will help identify weaknesses in the state’s stroke care system and work to improve the system’s response to and quality care of stroke patients, according to the governor’s office.
House Bill 10 (now Act 214) authorizes Department of Education employees to volunteer to be trained to administer and oversee the administration of insulin, glucagon or other medication and assist with blood glucose testing if needed. This will improve the ability of diabetic students to Read more
A group of Maui residents called Stop Cane Burning has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Health seeking an injunction to prevent Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company from burning sugar cane.
The lawsuit is the first on Maui to be filed in Hawaii’s new Environmental Court, according to a press release.
The complaint alleges that burning sugar cane violates the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act (HRS Ch. 344) and several provisions of the state constitution.
The plaintiffs include Karen Chun, Trinette Furtado, and Brad Edwards. They are represented by attorney Lance Collins.
Sugar cane has been a mainstay of Maui agriculture since the late 1800s. From March to November, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. burns about 400 acres of sugar cane weekly, on average torching fields four days per week.
The group Stop Cane Burning formed in 2011 in response to residents’ concerns about the impact of cane burning on their health. But Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. officials have said that the jobs of its 800 employees would be at risk if cane burning were disallowed.
For more information, read Civil Beat’s prior coverage of the Maui sugar cane burning issue.
Civil Beat intern Marina Riker contributed to this post.
Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. burns cane in Haliimaile, Maui.
Courtesy of Maui Tomorrow Foundation
Hawaii Gov. David Ige has signed a bill that dedicates nearly $3 million of general funds to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs over the next two years.
The semi-autonomous state agency that’s dedicated to Native Hawaiian issues will use 70 percent of the general funds for direct services, and match the state appropriation with $6.4 million each year.
The governor also signed House Bill 207, which requires certain councils, commissions and boards to receive legal training on Native Hawaiian customs and rights. Another measure, Senate Bill 1166, clarifies the state law regarding traditional burials.
“This measure just makes it crystal clear that our laws will allow for anyone wanting to exercise the traditional burial practices of Native Hawaiians, that they would be allowed to do so,” Ige said in a press release.
Gov. David Ige signs the Office of Hawaiian Affairs budget on June 30.
Courtesy of Gov. David Ige
Hawaii Gov. David Ige has signed a bill into law that creates a limited purpose driver’s license for people who don’t have documents to prove they are legally allowed to live in the U.S.
The governor signed the measure, House Bill 1007, on Tuesday, according to a press release.
The measure was backed by the Hawaii Coalition for Immigration Reform and Filipino community advocacy groups such as the Filipino American Citizens League. But in addition to immigrants, the law applies to a range of drivers including homeless people and domestic violence victims who may not have the proper documentation.
The law becomes effective January 1, 2016.
Gov. Ige poses with advocates for a new limited purpose drivers license on June 30.
Courtesy of Gov. David Ige
State Rep. Tom Brower is recovering from head injuries suffered after he got into an altercation with homeless people while videotaping them at a Kakaako encampment, media sources reported.
Brower made national headlines in 2013 after he smashed the abandoned shopping carts of the homeless with a sledgehammer in his legislative district, which includes Kakaako and Waikiki. He could not be reached for comment Monday night or Tuesday morning.
Hawaii News Now interviewed two juvenile males who said the altercation started after Brower refused to stop videotaping them. They said they didn’t realize he was a legislator and now want to return his video camera to him.
The altercation occurred about 5 p.m. near the Children’s Discovery Center in Kakaako.
Brower was treated at the Queen’s Medical Center and has since been released. According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Brower suffered a concussion and facial injuries.
In 2013, Brower destroyed 30 shopping carts, and admitted to leaving some behind for city workers to pick up. The rest he took to a recycling center, he said.
“I got tired of telling people I’m trying to pass laws,” Brower told Hawaii News Now at the time. “I want to do something practical that will really clean up the streets.”
Rep. Tom Brower and his sledgehammer in 2013.
Screen shot from KITV
Hawaii will hold its first three-day Cannabis Business Expo on July 17 at the Hawaii Convention Center hosted by the medical marijuana magazine Kaulana Na Pua.
“This first-ever three day expo will provide valuable information for those with an interest in this new budding industry,” said Sen. Will Espero in a press release.
The event is cosponsored by BioTrack, a seed-to-sale software development company.
It will feature vendors and classes for anyone interested in getting involved in Hawaii’s cannabis industry. Seminars will cover a range of issues including banking, security and government compliance.
“This expo is about putting our people back to work, providing safe access to medication, giving our patients and family members dignity, and taking charge of our safety and health concerns as consumers,” said event organizer Lynn Merrill in a press release. “The employment opportunities are limitless within the health field alone, and when you add in the actual dispensary itself, the people of our state are expecting a tsunami of economic growth.”
Medical marijuana has been legal in Hawaii for 15 years, but the Legislature waited until this year to legalize dispensaries. The bill is expected to become law within the next two weeks.
Colin Kippen will have to show up to work Wednesday, after all.
Kippen’s tenure as the governor’s coordinator on homelessness was supposed to expire at the end of June, but Gov. David Ige told reporters at Monday’s press conference that he extended Kippen’s contract for another month.
This is the third time that Ige decided to keep Kippen around on an interim basis.
In November, Ige first approached Kippen and asked him to stay in his post through the end of last year — only to change his mind late December and extend the offer for another six months.
Gov. David Ige announced Colin Kippen’s contract extension at Monday’s press conference.
Cory Lum/Civil BeatWhether Kippen, an appointee of former Gov. Neil Abercrombie, will get a fourth extension when his new contract wraps up at the end of July remains unclear.
Ige said he’s now in the process of evaluating Kippen’s performance, as well as the state of Hawaii’s overall homelessness response system.
To make a steady progress on the issue, the governor said it’s important that the state makes specific goals. “There are lots of details to be worked through,” he said. “Homelessness is a complex and tough issue.”
But Hawaii has long been part of the nationwide effort — under a goal set by President Barack Obama in 2010 — to end veteran homelessness by the end of this year and chronic homelessness by 2017.
The Hawaii National Guard is not among the options being discussed to reopen the road up Mauna Kea so construction crews can reach the site of the planned $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope, Gov. David Ige said Monday.
Protesters placed boulders and rock walls on the road last week, forcing work vehicles to turn around. It’s the second time an attempt to start construction has been thwarted by people who want to protect the mountain from future development because it’s a sacred place to Native Hawaiians.
The road has been closed since June 24. Ige said he is working with the University of Hawaii, law enforcement and others to come up with a plan to start construction while ensuring the access route remains safe to workers and visitors to Mauna Kea.
The governor said an announcement will be made when the plan is ready.
Gov. David Ige at a Monday press conference: National Guard not envisioned for Mauna Kea.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Beachgoers were concerned when they saw feces lining the beach at Laenani Neighborhood Park on Monday morning. Health officials suspect the source was green sea turtles.
Approximately 60 droppings washed onto the beach, while other pieces floated in the shore break.
Turtle droppings aren’t a health threat, said Stefanie Weaver, an environmental engineer at the Department of Health.
While a large amount of turtle poop washing up on the beach isn’t common, it’s also not unheard of, Weaver said.
Apparent turtle droppings on the beach at Laenani Neighborhood Park.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
She said the DOH occasionally gets calls from people who mistake turtle droppings for dog feces.
The feces are hard to break apart because of green sea turtles’ plant-based diets, she said. A large amount of turtle feces could mean that there’s a large group of turtles close to shore, she said.
There have also been sightings of turtle droppings on neighbor islands.
Despite an overall declining trend globally, green sea turtle populations in Hawaii have actually increased more than 50 percent in the last 25 years. Also known as the honu, Hawaiian green sea turtles are listed as an endangered species, and can weigh up to 400 pounds, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
Not long after the nation’s high court made same-sex marriage the law of the land Friday, gay and lesbian couples started getting hitched all across the country (except in those few states still resisting history.)
Business Insider soon published an article on the top 12 honeymoon destinations for gay couples, and Hawaii — not surprisingly — made the cut.
Same-sex couples pose for a photo before a joint wedding ceremony at the Sheraton Waikiki in December 2013.
PF Bentley/Civil Beat
Here’s what the article had to say:
Hawaii is the quintessential honeymoon destination for both gay and straight couples for good reason.
Most couples opt to spend a few days in Honolulu, taking advantage of the active bars and restaurants there, before flying on to a more secluded island, like Kauai or Maui.
“Most of the major hotels in Hawaii offer union ceremonies and honeymoon packages for same-sex couples,” said Ed Salvato, the editor-in-chief of gay travel magazine ManAboutWorld. “It’s part of the whole Aloha mindset, but it’s also just good business.”
Hawaii was not always viewed as gay-friendly.
Travel experts say the state’s tourism industry was less attractive to GLBT travelers after voters in 1998 chose to limit marriage to one man and one woman.
The Hawaii Legislature and governor reversed course in 2013, of course, and most of us all lived happily ever after.
Business Insider says other desirable honeymoon spots for gay couples include Puerto Vallarta and Punta Mita, Mexico; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Provincetown and Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Former U.S. Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell will kick off a distinguished lecture series July 8 at the UH Manoa Campus Center.
The moderator will be Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent with NBC News.
The Daniel K. Inouye Institute Fund, a program of the Hawaii Community Foundation, and the University of Hawaii announced Friday that the Library of Congress will host the distinguished lecture series.
“Highlighting the importance Dan Inouye placed on bipartisanship and moral courage, the first annual lecture, in a series of five, will address shared values in U.S. foreign policy,” says a press release.
Inouye, who died in 2012, served Hawaii in the U.S. Senate for decades.
Albright was secretary of state under President Bill Clinton and Powell was secretary of state under President George W. Bush.
The free public lecture will be live streamed to the second floor of the UH Mānoa Campus Center, as well as on this website.
The event will also be live-tweeted via the Kluge Center’s and Inouye Institute’s twitter accounts: @KlugeCtr and @DKIInstitute (#Inouye).
Hawaii Gov. David Ige made his support for the Thirty Meter Telescope project atop Mauna Kea quite clear in a statement Friday afternoon along with his disdain for the way protesters used rocks to block the road up the mountain:
“We are a patient people in Hawaii. We listen to and understand differing points of view, and we respect the many cultures of this land, especially that of the host culture. I have done my very best to follow this process in the case of Mauna Kea and set forth a way forward that I believe is reasonable.
“We expected there to be a protest when construction resumed, and there was. We hoped we would not have to arrest people but were prepared to do so, and we did when they blocked the roadway. We also saw, in what amounts to an act of vandalism, the roadway blocked with rocks and boulders. We deployed to remove the rocks and boulders, but the protesters wisely chose to remove them themselves.
“And then we saw more attempts to control the road. That is not lawful or acceptable to the people of Hawai‘i. So let me be very direct: The roads belong to all the people of Hawai‘i and they will remain open. We will do whatever is necessary to ensure lawful access. We expect there to be more types of challenges, good and bad days, and we are in this for the long run. We value TMT and the contributions of science and technology to our society, and Read more
This interactive timeline details major events in the history of telescopes in Hawaii, and the Thirty Meter Telescope specifically. We will be adding to the timeline as events occur, so stay tuned.
Reacting to Friday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage, President Obama said, “There’s so much more work to be done to extend the full promise of America to every American. But today, we can say in no uncertain terms that we’ve made our union a little more perfect.”
The Hawaii-born president continued:
That’s the consequence of a decision from the Supreme Court, but, more importantly, it is a consequence of the countless small acts of courage of millions of people across decades who stood up, who came out, who talked to parents — parents who loved their children no matter what. Folks who were willing to endure bullying and taunts, and stayed strong, and came to believe in themselves and who they were, and slowly made an entire country realize that love is love.
“Love is love,” baby. Word.
You can read Obama’s full remarks here. And you can read the court’s decision here.
Meanwhile, Republican hopefuls trying to succeed the president are condemning the high court’s ruling.
Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, has called for a constitutional amendment to let states define marriage. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the decision will “pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision.” And former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee vowed not to “acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch.”
The White Read more
U.S. Census Bureau released the 2014 state and county population information Thursday, including estimates broken down by age, sex, the five major race groups and Hispanic origin between April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014.
The data found that in Hawaii, “minority” populations continue to constitute the majority of the state’s population. According to the U.S. Census, a “minority” is someone who identifies their race and ethnicity as something other than non-Hispanic white.
The data also showed that Hawaii’s senior population is growing four times faster than the total population. People 65 or older accounted for approximately 16 percent of the total population in 2014, with a total of 228,154 residents.
Minorities made up 77 percent of the state’s total population. By county, Honolulu had the greatest percentage of minorities, which comprised 80.4 percent of the population. Next, minorities made up nearly 70 percent of Kauai County, followed by Hawaii and Maui counties.
Asians accounted for approximately 56 percent (alone or in combination with other races) of the total state population. Honolulu County had the largest percentage of Asians, followed by Kauai, Maui and Hawaii counties. Honolulu and Kauai were the nation’s only majority-Asian counties.
Native Hawaiians made up 26 percent (alone or in combination with other races) of Hawaii’s total population. Among the counties, Honolulu had the smallest percentage of Native Hawaiians, while Hawaii County had the largest, followed by Maui and Kauai.
White people made up almost 44 percent (alone or in combination with other races) of the total state population. The Read more
The gravel road leading up to the summit of Mauna Kea has been cleared of the boulders and rock structures that protesters of the Thirty Meter Telescope project had placed in the path of construction crews Wednesday.
But the road remains temporarily closed until further notice.
The governor’s office said in a statement Thursday that the Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan authorizes the University of Hawaii to close the road in the event of hazardous conditions and emergencies.
The road to the mountaintop is closed until further notice.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
“Questions regarding the grading of the road leading to the summit have also been raised during this time,” the governor’s office said. “It is routine practice … conduct regular road gradings twice a week to ensure the safety and integrity of the road.”
The Mauna Kea Visitors Center is closed until further notice.
Protesters prevented crews from reaching the construction site Wednesday, prompting the governor’s office to announce that the project was again on hold. A dozen people were arrested for obstruction.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that those arrested had posted bail and planned to return to the mountain that they say they’re protecting from desecration. Mauna Kea is a sacred site to Native Hawaiians.
Gov. David Ige had called a “timeout” in April after 31 people were arrested during protests of the $1.4 billion project. Wednesday marked the attempted restart of construction.
President Obama is on quite the roll, eh?
On Wednesday he scored big time when the U.S. Senate sent legislation to the White House approving fast-track trade authority for POTUS.
On Thursday SCOTUS upheld a key part of the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s key domestic accomplishment, in a 6-3 decision.
Also on Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives voted 286-138 to approve a workers assistance program known as Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) “that helps workers who lose their jobs because of increased trade,” as The Hill explains.
POTUS on the links in Hawaii in December 2014.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Says the Capitol newspaper, “Two weeks ago, most House Democrats voted against the TAA bill because it had been combined with a measure to grant President Obama with fast-track authority, which makes it easier for the administration to finish a sweeping trade deal with Pacific Rim countries.”
Democrats Mark Takai and Tulsi Gabbard voted “aye” on the measure.
Two more huge issues on Obama’s plate coming very soon: the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, and a deadline on the Iranian nuclear deal.
Obamacare remains the law of the land, having survived two U.S. Supreme Court rulings and some 50 attempts in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal the landmark health insurance law.
The 6-3 decision Thursday authored by Chief Justice John Roberts “is a huge victory for President Obama; it ensures that consumers purchasing health insurance on the federal exchange in roughly 34 states will continue to be able to do so,” says The Hill.
Hawaii’s folks in Washington, D.C., agree. U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) issued the following statement on the Affordable Care Act being able to provide federal tax credits for eligible Americans in federal and state exchanges:
“This decision is a victory for all Americans across the country. Because of the Affordable Care Act, more people have access to quality health care, the number of uninsured is falling, and health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in a generation. It is clear that the ACA is a success, and today’s Supreme Court ruling will ensure every American will continue to have access to the quality, affordable health care they deserve. The debate is over. It’s time for Congress to come together and work to build on the successes of the ACA.”
Here are other reactions, as captured on Twitter:
The #ACA is here to stay- today’s #SCOTUS ruling allows millions of Americans to continue to receive affordable health care #KingvBurwell
— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) June 25, 2015
Obamacare WINS!!!! 6-3!!!!!
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) June 25, 2015
#SCOTUS Read more
“The predictions include the influences of currents and eddies that evolve over days, as well as shorter period motions not included in tide-only forecasts,” explained project leader Dr. Martin Guiles in a press release.
The press release noted that when seawater floods roads and homes, it threatens public health and safety. The forecasts don’t account for tsunamis or storm surge flooding.