CNN: New ‘planetary health diet’ can save lives and the planet, major review suggests

(Source: CNN)

July 17, 2019

By: Nina Avramova, CNN

(CNN)An international team of scientists has developed a diet it says can improve health while ensuring sustainable food production to reduce further damage to the planet.

The “planetary health diet” is based on cutting red meat and sugar consumption in half and upping intake of fruits, vegetables and nuts.
And it can prevent up to 11.6 million premature deaths without harming the planet, says the report published Wednesday in the medical journal The Lancet.
The authors warn that a global change in diet and food production is needed as 3 billion people across the world are malnourished — which includes those who are under and overnourished — and food production is overstepping environmental targets, driving climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
The world’s population is set to reach 10 billion people by 2050; that growth, plus our current diet and food production habits, will “exacerbate risks to people and planet,” according to the authors.
“The stakes are very high,” Dr. Richard Horton, editor in chief at The Lancet, saidof the report’s findings, noting that 1 billion people live in hunger and 2 billion people eat too much of the wrong foods.
Horton believes that “nutrition has still failed to get the kind of political attention that is given to diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria.”
“Using best available evidence” of controlled feeding studies, randomized trials and large cohort studies, the authors came up with a new recommendation, explained Dr. Walter Willett, lead author of the paper and a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan school of public health.
The report suggests five strategies to ensure people can change their diets and not harm the planet in doing so: incentivizing people to eat healthier, shifting global production toward varied crops, intensifying agriculture sustainably, stricter rules around the governing of oceans and lands, and reducing food waste.

The ‘planetary health diet’

To enable a healthy global population, the team of scientists created a global reference diet, that they call the “planetary health diet,” which is an ideal daily meal planfor people over the age of 2, that they believe will help reduce chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes, as well as environmental degradation.
The diet breaks down the optimal daily intake of whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruit, dairy, protein, fats and sugars, representing a daily total calorie intake of 2500.
They recognize the difficulty of the task, which will need “substantial” dietary shifts on a global level, needing the consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar to decrease by more than 50%.In turn, consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes must increase more than two-fold, the report says.
The diet advises people consume 2,500 calories per day, which is slightly more than what people are eating today, said Willett. People should eat a “variety of plant-based foods, low amounts of animal-based foods, unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and few refined grains, highly processed foods and added sugars,” he said.
Regional differences are also important to note. For example, countries in North America eat almost 6.5 times the recommended amount of red meat, while countries in South Asia eat 1.5 times the required amount of starchy vegetables.
“Almost all of the regions in the world are exceeding quite substantially” the recommended levels of red meat, Willett said.
The health and environmental benefits of dietary changes like these are known, “but, until now, the challenge of attaining healthy diets from a sustainable food system has been hampered by a lack of science-based guidelines, said Howard Frumkin, Head of UK biomedical research charity The Wellcome Trust’s Our Planet Our Health program. The Welcome Trust funded the research.
“It provides governments, producers and individuals with an evidence-based starting point to work together to transform our food systems and cultures,” he said.
If the new diet were adopted globally, 10.9 to 11.6 million premature deaths could be avoided every year — equating to19% to 23.6% of adult deaths. A reduction in sodium and an increase in whole grains, nuts, vegetables and fruits contributed the most to the prevention of deaths, according to one of the report’s models.

Making it happen

Some scientists are skeptical of whether shifting the global population to this diet can be achieved.
The recommended diet “is quite a shock,” in terms of how feasible it is and how it should be implemented, said Alan Dangour, professor in food and nutrition for global health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. What “immediately makes implementation quite difficult” is the fact that cross-government departments need to work together, he said. Dangour was not involved in the report.
At the current level of food production, the reference diet is not achievable, said Modi Mwatsama, senior science lead (food systems, nutrition and health) at the Wellcome Trust. Some countries are not able to grow enough food because they could be, for example, lacking resilient crops, while in other countries, unhealthy foods are heavily promoted, she said.
Mwatsama added that unless there are structural changes, such as subsidies that move away from meat production, and environmental changes, such as limits on how much fertilizer can be used, “we won’t see people meeting this target.”
To enable populations to follow the reference diet, the report suggests five strategies, of which subsidies are one option. These fit under a recommendation to ensure good governance of land and ocean systems, for example by prohibiting land clearing and removing subsidies to world fisheries, as they lead to over-capacity of the global fishing fleet.
Second, the report further outlines strategies such as incentivizing farmers to shift food production away from large quantities of a few crops to diverse production of nutritious crops.
Healthy food must also be made more accessible, for example low-income groups should be helped with social protections to avoid continued poor nutrition, the authors suggest, and people encouraged to eat healthily through information campaigns.
A fourth strategy suggests that when agriculture is intensified it must take local conditions into account to ensure the best agricultural practices for a region, in turn producing the best crops.
Finally, the team suggests reducing food waste by improving harvest planning and market access in low and middle-income countries, while improving shopping habits of consumers in high-income countries.
Louise Manning, professor of agri-food and supply chain resilience at the Royal Agricultural University, said meeting the food waste reduction target is a “very difficult thing to achieve” because it would require government, communities and individual households to come together.
However, “it can be done,” said Manning, who was not involved in the report, noting the rollback in plastic usage in countries such as the UK.

The planet’s health

The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement aimed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Meeting this goal is no longer only about de-carbonizing energy systems by reducing fossil fuels, it’s also about a food transition, said Johan Rockström, professor of environmental science at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, in Sweden, who co-led the study.
“This is urgent,” he said. Without global adaptation of the reference diet, the world “will not succeed with the Paris Climate Agreement.”
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A sustainable food production system requires non-greenhouse gas emissions such as methane and nitrous oxide to be limited, but methane is produced during digestion of livestockwhile nitrous oxides are released from croplands and pastures.But the authors believe these emissions are unavoidable to provide healthy food for 10 billion people. They highlight that decarbonisation of the world’s energy system must progress faster than anticipated, to accommodate this.
Overall, ensuring a healthy population and planet requires combining all strategies, the report concludes — major dietary change, improved food production and technology changes, as well as reduced food waste.
“Designing and operationalising sustainable food systems that can deliver healthy diets for a growing and wealthier world population presents a formidable challenge. Nothing less than a new global agricultural revolution,” said Rockström, adding that “the solutions do exist.
“It is about behavioral change. It’s about technologies. It’s about policies. It’s about regulations. But we know how to do this.”
Via: CNN

Civil Beat: Big Island: The Vog Is Gone — For The First Time In Decades

(Source: Civil Beat)

January 2, 2019

By: James Armstrong

Kilauea didn’t just stop spewing lava. It ceased emissions that have been constant since 1983.

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii Island – Kona is enjoying life in high-definition.

From pristine sunrises breaking over Hualalai’s summit to green flashes beyond Kailua Bay, the Gold Coast’s intense beauty is now shining through air so rarified it’s not been seen in decades. 

“I think we’re experiencing some of the clearest visibility, some of the best air quality that any of us have ever seen,” said Wendy Laros, a 27-year West Hawaii resident and executive director of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce.

She sees lots of benefits from the change.

“We definitely believe this will enhance the experience for our visitors and for those who live here,” Laros said, noting chamber staff are no longer fielding numerous calls daily from people asking about the effects of volcanic haze known as “vog.”

That’s because for the first time since Kilauea volcano started erupting in 1983, leeward areas are no longer being polluted with unrelenting vog plumes that prevailing trade winds funneled around the Big Island’s southern tip, then north along the Kona Coast and beyond, stretching as far as Oahu.

The pollution, comprised mainly of hazardous sulfur dioxide and acid particles, sometimes got so thick people would mistakenly report wildfires.

Conditions changed for the better when the catastrophic lava-spewing that began in May suddenly ended, resulting in a near-complete cessation of emissions. By September, fresh, clean air began purging the vog-filled skies over West Hawaii. 

On a recent day, the Hawaii Department of Health’s website reported zero sulfur dioxide parts per million at each of several monitors placed around the island in response to the eruption. 

Longtime West Hawaii residents like Cindi Punihaole notice the improved air.

“On sunset on Christmas Eve, we had a green flash,” said Punihaole, an ocean educator with The Kohala Center. “Normally it’s rare to see a green flash (because of the vog), but we’re experiencing them now, so we’re fortunate.”

Impacts of the clean air, should it last – and that’s a big if given Kilauea volcano’s status as the world’s most-active volcano — are expected to go well beyond beauty to affect the tourism industry, resident health and even property values, according to experts in those fields.

Basically, it’s the bright side of a disaster that destroyed more than 700 homes in the Puna region.

“I think everybody is going to start coming back to the island,” said Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau.

Big Island tourism was down 10 percent in November compared to 2017, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s latest tally, but Birch attributed part of the drop to being paired against last year’s record-high visitor count.

“Air quality is definitely something we mention in almost everything we talk about,” he said. “It’s far better than we’ve seen it in the last 35 years. The ocean’s bluer, the mountain’s greener.”

That helps children, the elderly and anybody with respiratory problems. Vog-related symptoms include coughing, headache and dizziness, according to a vog fact sheet the Hawaii Department of Health’s Clean Air Branch provides on its website. Even healthy people may suffer, the DOH says.

“Volcanic emissions and volcanic ash are hazardous to health,” the DOH said on its website in a Sept. 24 update, the text highlighted in red. “If you stay in the area, limit outside activities and stay indoors if you have breathing issues.”

On the worst days, however, even those restrictions proved futile, especially for some people living along the mid-level slopes of Haulalai where the vog concentrations were the greatest.

“You couldn’t breathe even in your home,” Punihaole said of conditions she experienced at her Kalaoa residence last May and June when Kilauea was undergoing what USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists say was the volcano’s largest eruptive phase in 200 years.

At its peak output, the volcano was releasing about 4,000 tons of sulfur dioxide a day, making it the nation’s largest single source of the hazardous gas, according to a recent report by the Hawaii Island Vog Network. The newly formed partnership between The Kohala Center and Massachusetts Institute of Technology staffers is working to place more monitors around the island to provide residents with real-time reports on air quality.

But they aren’t needed to notice how much conditions have improved.

“I got a million-dollar view from my house, and I couldn’t see the ocean in August,” Lance Owens said of his home overlooking Kealakekua Bay. “It was sad.”

Owens, who served as the West Hawaii Association of Realtors president until year’s end, said he’s lost sales due to buyers’ concerns about vog effects.

“Numbers indicate vog had a greater impact than lava when comparing number of (single-family) residential home sales” this year to the same period in 2017, Owens wrote in his official October report to the Hawaii Association of Realtors.

Homes sales in Puna, where the eruption was occurring, dropped 28 percent during this year’s lowest point, while North Kona’s sales plummeted 48 percent, according to his report.

“It is real for some people,” Owens said of the vog, adding he feels blessed that he and his family were unaffected by the constant emissions.

But since the eruption has stopped, November’s numbers for North Kona homes were off by just a single sale, he said.

Owens predicts buyers will discover that Kona-area homes are a “screaming bargain” compared to similar dwellings found on other islands, which likely will drive up prices “considerably.”

“We’re getting a lot of activity again,” he said.

And it’s all because the vog is gone.

“It’s like a life-changing moment,” Owens said.

Via: Civil Beat

CNN: Retail’s Amazon antidote: Buy online, pickup in store

(Source: CNN Business)

January 2, 2019

By: Nathaniel Meyersohn

New York (CNN Business)Brick-and-mortar retailers like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy found an advantage over Amazon this holiday: Store pickups on online orders.

Offering customers free pickups for digital orders has become a key part of these retailers’ strategy to compete against Amazon’s rapid and extensive home delivery network. Retailers have blanketed the country with store pickup options in recent years, and those investments paid off during the holidays.

Buy online, pickup-in-store spending increased 47% from November 1 to December 19 compared to a year ago, according to data from Adobe Analytics. Adobe said it was the biggest holiday on record for online pickups.

Customers have been quick to embrace online pickups from stores. Analysts say it appeals to shoppers who want to grab their stuff and go without waiting in checkout lines or interacting with sales workers on the floor.

At Walmart’s investor day in October, Chief Customer Officer Janey Whiteside said pickup was attractive to both “a time-pressed mom” heading home after picking her kids up at school and a “convenience-seeking baby boomer on the way home from the golf course.”

Picking up mobile or online orders from storesin hours can also be faster than waiting days for home delivery. It works for last-minute holiday shoppers who need to buy a gift in a hurry. Old Navy even partnered with Lyft to offer customers free rides to stores for online pickups last Saturday.

“The issue with delivery is that it can take several days,” said Georgianna Oliver, the founder of Package Concierge, a firm that creates in-store lockers for retailers. She said weekly orders have doubled for her company’s lockers since last last year.

For retailers, pickup is a better economic model because they can avoid paying expensive shipping fees. Retailers’ profit margins have dipped in recent years from fulfilling online orders.

“The realization of the growing costs of e-commerce fulfillment pushed many brands to step it up this past year,” said Steve Dennis, a retail consultant and former executive at Sears and Neiman Marcus.

Buy online, pickup-in-store spending increased 47% from November 1 to December 19 compared to a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics.

Buy online, pickup-in-store spending increased 47% from November 1 to December 19 compared to a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics.

Amazon (AMZN), which lags rivals in the space, just started offering grocery pickup from Whole Foods in August. It’s only available in 22 cities. It has also been building out new stores like Amazon Go, Amazon Books, and Amazon-4 Star.

Best Buy (BBY) started offering pickup more than a decade ago. Forty percent of Best Buy’s online orders today are picked up at one of its 1,000 US stores. “Stores are a wonderful asset,”CEO Hubert Joly told CNN Business in a recent interview. “People choose to go to the store because in less than an hour you can pick up your stuff.”

Customers often select pickup from Best Buy instead of home delivery because they’re buying gifts for family members, or they don’t want to risk someone stealing an expensive TV off their porch, Joly said.

Walmart (WMT) offers order online and pickup in store for general items in nearly all of its 4,700 stores in the United States, and the company has recently added grocery pickup to more than 2,000 stores. By the end of the year, it will be able to reach 70% of the US population with grocery pickup, it said.

That means, Walmart will soon overtake Apple as the third largest online retailer in the country thanks to customers picking up groceries in stores, according to report by research firm eMarketer.

Target (TGT) was late to roll out pickup, but has scaled what it calls “drive-up” to around 1,000 stores. Employees bring customers’ orders out to their cars.

Target said that it was helping the company reduce costs. “Given the cost of last mile shipping, we like the economics of drive-up much better,” Target Chief Operating Officer John Mulligan told analysts in November.

Despite the growth opportunitiespickup is not easy to operate andpresents several obstacles for retailers, including security, inventory control, and staffing. Retailers have to implement procedures that prevent fraud, Oliver said.

Retailers also need to make sure stores don’t run out of stock for online orders, and that workers are not overwhelmed with double duty handling pickups and running stores. Walmart, for example, has 25,000 trained personal shoppers to select produce and meat at stores for online orders.

Update: This story now includes details about Walmart’s plans to expand grocery pick up, which is different from the pick up program for general merchandise available at all of its 4,7000 US stores.


Via: CNN Business

CNN: The 3 biggest risks to stocks in 2019

(Source: CNN Business)

January 2, 2019

By: David Goldman

New York (CNN Business)After such a volatile 2018, predicting what the US stock market will do in 2019 is like guessing where a single piece of paper will land in a windstorm.

Few saw last year’s market mayhem coming after an unusually sanguine and calm 2017.

Investors have some reasons for optimism in 2019: The economy remains relatively strong. Companies’ fundamentals appear robust too, and stocks are undervalued compared to their expected earnings.

Yet political turmoil, rising protectionism, a hawkish Fed and slowing earnings and economic growth have sent shivers down investors’ spines lately.

Those fears caused markets to jolt up and (mostly) down in dramatic fashion in 2018. So what are the risks for investors in 2019?

1: Slower earnings growth

The stock market responds to many data points, but corporate earnings are the most important of them all. If companies grow, their stocks typically rise.

Wall Street analysts expect earnings in 2019 will grow far less than than they did in 2018.

Corporate profits rose 23% in 2018 because companies were shot with a caffeine injection from the tax cuts at the beginning of the year. That buzz has already started to wear off, and 2019’s growth won’t look nearly as hot by comparison.

The dollar has also been rising throughout 2018. The US Dollar Index added about 5%, pinching corporate profits for America’s multinational companies. A strong dollar makes US products more expensive abroad and can dampen international sales.

Lindsey Bell, CFRA Research Investment Strategist, told CNN Business she expects earnings to grow 7% in 2019. That’s about on par with Wall Street’s profit growth forecast of less than 10%.

That’s strong, but not exactly something investors are thrilled about.

Still, the S&P 500 is trading at just 14.5 times 2019’s expected earnings, well below its historical average of 16 times earnings. That’s one reason why stock analysts believe markets are due for a comeback. Also, stocks were so universally battered that 2018’s best sector (health care) rose just 5%, while the worst sector (energy) fell 18.5%. That tight range between the best and worst sectors is well below average — typically a positive omen for stocks the following year.

“Should history repeat, and there’s no guarantee it will, this year’s lump of coal could metamorphize into an unanticipated gem,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research.

But even if they do bounce back, can stocks sustain a rally?

Sure, says Tony Dwyer, analyst at Canaccord Genuity. Perhaps for a time. But even if stocks bounce back, he doubts the enthusiasm will last.

2: A global economic slowdown

Most economists aren’t predicting a recession around the corner.

That alone has some market analysts questioning why stocks have fallen so dramatically in recent months.

“Once the market realizes a recession isn’t imminent, it will find a bottom and slowly climb back to all-time highs again,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance.

But America’s economic expansion, the second-longest in history, is under threat.

Boosted by the tax cuts and the lowest unemployment rate in a generation, the US economy boomed in the middle of 2018, growing at an annual rate of 4.2% in the second quarter and 3.4% in the third quarter. But the Federal Reserve believes the pace of economic expansion will slow in 2019 to 2.3%.

After decades of sharp expansion, the Chinese economy is slowing down, too. Growth in 2018 is set to be the weakest since 1990. And 2019 looks even worse. Brexit could knock the United Kingdom off its feet in 2019.

Fear of a global economic slowdown has dragged stocks from their all-time highs set in late September. Investors worry about the Federal Reserve’s plans for 2019. If it raises rates too quickly, the Fed could artificially slow the economy or even bring about a recession. Inflation is not currently a problem, so the central bank has the ability to slow its rate-raising pace if it wants.

“If the Fed continues to ignore the weakening inflation data and maintains their current projected path, it could cause an even bigger disaster,” said Dwyer.

By contrast, if the Fed signals it will stop hiking rates, Dwyer believes stocks could reach new highs in 2019.

3: Political instability

Dysfunction in Washington and the United Kingdom have thrown investors for a loop.

No one knows what to make of Brexit, other than it’s bad no matter what form it takes — and potentially disastrous if March 29 rolls around without a deal.

The US government shutdown probably won’t mean much for the economy in the near term, but it has concerned investors that the impasse may portend bad news for a looming debt ceiling showdown.

American lawmakers must pass a law this year so the Treasury Department can continue to borrow without any restrictions. If they fail, the government could default on its debt. When that nearly happened in 2011, credit-rating agency Standard and Poor’s downgraded America one notch below a perfect AAA. Another downgrade could make the United States’ already massive debt load much costlier to pay back.

Trade tensions still loom over the economy and markets, too. The Trump administration is threatening to raise tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods if China fails to meet US demands on a variety of economic and political issues. American companies pay those tariffs, and they pass costs onto consumers, who account for two-thirds of America’s GDP.

And Trump’s continued threats to undermine the Fed chair that he appointed show no signs of abating. Investors may not love Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s hawkish policy, but they crave consistency, and threatening to unseat a Fed chair in the middle of his term could throw the markets into chaos.

“As the market continues to worry about a recession, the implications of a trade war with China and unpredictable and adverse political decision-making from the White House, we are going to continue to see volatility,” said Zaccarelli.


Via: CNN Business

Star Advertiser: Kabuki’s return to isle marks anniversaries

(Source: Star Advertiser)

December 10, 2018

By: Allison Schaefers



Japanese Kabuki will return to Hawaii for the first time in more than half a century to mark the 25th anniversary of the Honolulu Festival and the 150th anniversary of the first organized Japanese group to immigrate to Hawaii.

Six performances are scheduled for March 2-7 at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Kennedy Theatre, which is one of the few venues outside of Japan with a stage built to accommodate Kabuki.

A March 8 performance at the Hawai‘i Convention Center will be a major highlight of the Honolulu Festival. The theme of the festival, which takes place March 8-10, is “Looking Back to Create the Future: 25 Years of Aloha.”

The festival’s goal is to perpetuate “strong cultural and ethnic ties” between the Asia-Pacific and Hawaii. Since its start in 1995, the Honolulu Festival has brought tens of thousands of visitors to Hawaii, bolstering tourism during what is generally an off-peak travel period. Some 5,500 visitors, many from Asia and the Pacific, and 150 groups participated in last year’s festival.

Tatsuo Watanabe, director of the Honolulu Festival Foundation, said festival organizers anticipate 150,000 participants to attend the festival, which will also include a Waikiki parade and an extended 25-minute Nagaoka fireworks show. About 4,500 Japanese visitors already have committed to attend, he said.

Part of the reason is the timing of the festival and the Kabuki performances, said Koichi Ito, consul general of Japan to Hawaii. Ito said both fall at the end of the Japan’s fiscal year 2018, some 150 years after the ship Scioto came to Honolulu from Yokohama carrying 150 Japanese passengers. This first organized group to emigrate from Japan to Hawaii were called Gannenmono, or “people of the first year,” because they came to Hawaii in Meiji Gannen, the first year in the reign of Emperor Meiji of Japan, who rose to power following the surrender of the government of the shogun.

Another reason is that authentic Kabuki is a novelty seldom seen outside of Japan. Kabuki is a traditional form of Japanese theater, a stylized art form that dates back to Japan’s 17th-century Edo period. The all-male productions are performed on special stages that incorporate revolving platforms and trapdoors that allow for quick plot changes and dramatic entries and exits. Productions feature actors in dramatic costumes with heavy stage makeup. They are known for using exaggerated movements as well as song and dance to convey themes that often incorporate comedy and heavy drama.

Sanemon Tobaya, chairman of the Hawaii Kabuki Executive Committee, said the upcoming performances will be a “rare opportunity to experience the soul of Japanese theater in Honolulu.”

Tobaya said authentic Kabuki is only occasionally performed outside of Japan. A troupe of Kabuki legends came to Honolulu in 1964, the same year Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics marking its transformation from a war-ravaged city to a major international capital. The star was Utamemon Nakamura, a favorite “onna-­gata,” or female imper- sonator, who was recognized as a living national treasure by the Japanese government.

Authentic Kabuki by Japanese entertainers was last performed in Honolulu in 1967 when the Tokyo Grand Kabuki Company visited as part of the 15th annual Cherry Blossom Festival. A year later Hawaii commemorated the centennial of Gannemono by placing memorial plaques at Honolulu International Airport, a Buddha statue at Foster Botanical Garden, a five-story stone pagoda in Honolulu, a stone Buddha in Lahaina, stone lanterns at the Lili‘uokalani Gardens in Hilo and the building of Byodo-In Temple in Kaneohe.

“I expect Hawaii was chosen because of its large Japanese-­American population,” said Tobaya, whose grandfather performed Kabuki in Hawaii. “Since that time Kabuki has certainly made its way around the world. I myself have performed in places like Brazil, where there is a large Japanese-­Brazilian population. But whenever I would come to Hawaii, it would cross my mind that there was an unsatisfied need that Kabuki be brought here (again). I’m just so happy that it’s finally coming true.”

The upcoming performances will star Kabuki actor Shikan Nakamura VIII and his sons, who are descendents of Utamenon Nakamura. The Nakamura family is well known in Japan for their proficiency and devotion to Kabuki, which they have passed from generation to generation. They will perform the popular Japanese Kabuki story Renjishi, about a lion that must teach his two cubs the importance of courage and strength.

Tobaya, deemed a living treasure by the Japanese government, will lecture in concert with the performances to help audiences understand what they are watching and hearing.

“I want to give these performances as a memorial to the ancestors who (immigrated) to Hawaii in 1868 and who continued to pass on the Japanese spirit despite facing many troubles,” he said.


Performances in 2019 will take place at the following dates and times:


>> March 2 at 6:30 p.m. (doors open at 5:30 p.m.)

>> March 3 at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. (doors open at 1 and 5:30 p.m.)

>> March 4 at 6:30 p.m. (doors open at 5:30 p.m.)

>> March 5 at 6:30 p.m. (doors open at 5:30 p.m.)

>> March 6 at 11 a.m. (doors open at 10:30 a.m.)


>> March 8 at 7:15 p.m. (doors open at 6:25 p.m.)

Tickets range from $80 to $100 plus taxes and fees. For more information, visit


Via: Star Advertiser

Star Advertiser: Firefighters investigate blaze at abandoned home in Kalihi

(Source: Star Advertiser)

December 10, 2018

Honolulu firefighters extinguished a large fire at an abandoned home in Kalihi Sunday night.

Ten units with 39 firefighters responded to the blaze at 2008 Wilcox Lane shortly after 10:15 p.m. When they arrived, they observed the single-story structure fully engulfed in flames, said Honolulu Fire Spokesman Capt. Scot Seguirant in a news release.

Firefighters brought the fire under control at 10:35 p.m. and extinguished it by 10:50 p.m.

No injuries were reported.

The cause of the fire and a damage estimate has yet to be determined.

Via: Star Advertiser

Star Advertiser: Editorial: Put public first in park partnerships

(Source: Star Advertiser)

December 5, 2018

A meeting with stakeholders and children from several Oahu schools led to changes to the playground site. The new plan includes adding more zip lines and a splash pad.


When the Caldwell administration began working on a $144 million plan to renovate Ala Moana Regional Park, the public response was loud, clear and unequivocal: Don’t mess with “The People’s Park.”

Advocates and concerned citizens expressed understandable fear that proposed park enhancements would gentrify this cherished public space.

They insisted that any renovations protect and support the casual, local-style vibe enjoyed by generations of families who come from all over Oahu with their coolers and grills to spend the day outdoors. This message should be heeded.

Even so, the city’s plan is not without merit. The popular park is showing signs of wear and tear, with dingy pavement, expanses of scraggly grass, a rocky beach and an unappealing pond and drainage channel.

Much can be done to improve the park as it is (visit to see how), while making room for something new.

Case in point: The city is poised to turn over one acre of the park near Magic Island for a “world-class” playground, so described by a private nonprofit group, Pa‘ani Kakou, which will design, build then gift it to the city as part of a sponsorship agreement.

The playground would be large and elaborate, with six zip lines, a splash pad, slides, a globe-shaped structure that spins, swings for multiple riders and other amenities like a concession stand. There is nothing else like it on the island, and would cost $2.5 million or more to build.

It sounds rosy. Children playing outdoors, getting lots of varied exercise and fresh air, with no electronic devices, in a modern play space designed to attract them.

Even better, the playground would accommodate children with disabilities, who too often get left on the sidelines when play structures are built.

It’s also a project the city could ill afford to build and maintain itself; hence the public-private partnership. Therein lies the rub. Should the city allow a private partner to take over part of Ala Moana park, even for what looks like a laudable project?

In this case, Pa‘ani Kakou is affiliated with Kobayashi Group, one of the developers of Park Lane Ala Moana, an ultraluxury condo development overlooking the park. Kobayashi Group is raising funds for the design, construction, financing and management of the playground through Pa‘ani Kakou.

If not handled with care, similar partnerships could lead to the public park evolving into a quasi- private one, with commercialized development that runs counter to the public responses the city solicited early on in the planning process.

In this instance, the city promises that the playground will be kept open and easily accessible to Hawaii’s keiki for free — an essential condition to ensure that the public park remains public.

There also needs to be a solid financial plan to maintain the playground into the foreseeable future.

Pa‘ani Kakou would manage the playground, but would share the cost with the city to maintain it. That could prove challenging. They have to ensure that the playground not only is safe for children, but remains attractive — no small task, given the project’s size and complexity, the anticipated popularity of the playground and the depredations of salty sea air. The city hopes a new concession will help defray the cost.

Projects like this playground can be beneficial. They activate portions of the park that otherwise get relatively little use, and displace no one. The city must ensure that the folks who use The People’s Park will be able to enjoy it as they always have, relaxed and free. A modern playground for the keiki can enhance the experience.


Via: Star Advertiser

KHON2: Phone service resumes for TheHandi-Van, TheBus

(Source: KHON2)

December 4, 2018

HONOLULU (KHON2) – After several days of technical difficulties, the telephone system for TheHandi-Van is back up and running.

However, the phone system for TheBus, while operational, isn’t quite back to normal.

In a statement, the city said:

“Call volumes are still high, but declining from Tuesday’s level. The main Customer Service phone number for TheBus (848-5555) is still not working, but a recording is informing callers to use 768-9880 instead. To access the HEA System by voice phone, customers may call 852-6000.

Technical difficulties for both began late Monday, which impacted the scheduling of TheHandi-Van appointments.

The city’s Department of Information Technology and Oahu Transit Services information technology staff worked to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.

Via: KHON2

Civil Beat: Hawaii Does Fine Raking In Federal Dollars Without Earmarks

(Source: Civil Beat)

December 4, 2018

By: Nick Grube

WASHINGTON — It was the sort of project no one thought the Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Congress would fund:

A million-dollar conservation mission to Papahanaumokuakea, the 582,578-square-mile national marine monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke once considered shrinking.

The money came through, in large part, because of maneuvering by Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz was able to help secure funds for research at Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument despite an earmark ban.

Schatz also had the help of billionaire tech entrepreneur Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne, who helped fund the federal research grant with their own money.

The creativity was necessary. Ever since Republicans imposed a moratorium on earmarks it’s been difficult for lawmakers to direct federal dollars back to their districts for specific projects. The ban has also made for stickier negotiations on everything from the budget to the farm bill.

Horse-trading can be hard, some say, especially when there’s not much pork in the barrel.

Now there is talk about lifting the moratorium — and it’s coming from both sides of the political aisle.

“It’s hard to get support with the public on earmarks, but I think if you had a vote on the Hill they would come back,” said James Thurber, a distinguished professor in government at American University. “Most people who have been around for a long time realize that they need earmarks to get things done.”

Schatz doesn’t think it’ll happen. Furthermore, he said, Hawaii fares well these days when it comes to federal spending.

According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, federal spending in the islands equaled 26.4 percent of Hawaii’s gross national product in fiscal year 2014, the 10th-highest such percentage in the country.

Still, any talk of bringing back earmarks is bound to generate interest in Hawaii, which used to benefit from them immensely.

A Way To ‘Grease The Skids’

In September, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer floated the idea while discussing a Democratic reform package that would aim to strengthen ethics rules and campaign finance oversight, including increased disclosure requirements for so-called “dark money” groups.

Republicans, too, have considered ending the self-imposed moratorium, including in 2016, but scuttled the plan for fear of public backlash.

The topic, however, continues to come up, including in post-midterm discussions within the GOP now that the Democrats are about to regain control of the U.S. House.

Even President Donald Trump, who vowed to “drain the swamp,” seemed convincedearmarks are good for the country. He said earlier this year during a discussion about immigration that Congress should consider lifting the ban as a way to loosen congressional gridlock.

The concern, of course, is an increase in corruption, wasteful spending and pay-to-play politics.

“You can look at nearly 200 years of Congress getting things done without earmarks.” — Tom Schatz, Citizens Against Government Waste

Thurber said if earmarks came back they should be subject to strict oversight and public accountability similar to what was in place from 2007 to 2010 when Democrats controlled the House.

They implemented reforms that, among other things, forced lawmakers to attach their names to their funding requests.

“The return of earmarks won’t end partisan gridlock, but it certainly will help grease the skids,” Thurber said.

‘Costly, Inequitable’

There are plenty of naysayers, particularly among fiscal conservatives.

A number of groups have sent letters to Congress urging them to keep the moratorium, including Taxpayers for Common Sense, the National Taxpayers Union and FreedomWorks.

Tom Schatz, no relation to the Hawaii senator, is president of Citizens Against Government Waste, which each year releases a new edition of the “Congressional Pig Book” to highlight what it deems to be the most egregious earmarks in Washington.

“The world did not come to an end for Hawaii just because we eliminated earmarking.” — Mazie Hirono

Among those that made it into the book’s “Pork Hall of Shame” was a $273,000 earmark in 2002 for “combating goth culture.”

“It has not been a positive development and a positive attribute to have earmarks,” Tom Schatz said. “They’re costly, they’re inequitable and they lead to corruption.”

He also doesn’t buy the argument that earmarks will help congressional dealmaking.

Bhutanese monks create a sand mandala at the East-West Center in Honolulu, which is often criticized by the Citizens Against Government Waste.

“You can look at nearly 200 years of Congress getting things done without earmarks being a big part of what they do,” he said. “The New Deal, although you could argue it was expensive, was done without earmarks.”

And just because there’s a moratorium in place doesn’t mean earmarks have disappeared, he noted. There are still plenty of ways for lawmakers to work the system to get federal dollars for their constituencies.

He pointed to the omnibus spending deal Congress approved in March, which included lots of set-asides for Hawaii.

One line item that consistently catches the government waste organization’s attention is the East-West Center in Honolulu. Created by Congress in 1960, its stated mission is to promote “better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.”

Despite attempts by the Trump administration to eliminate funding, Sen. Brian Schatz was recently able to secure another $16.7 million for the center.

The “Congressional Pig Book” also criticized Hawaii’s delegation for its continued support of efforts to eradicate the brown tree snake in Guam. Over the years, the delegation has supported millions of dollars in earmarks dedicated to the effort.

The Good Old Days

Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono smiled at the idea of bringing back congressional earmarks after an eight-year hiatus.

The state as a whole received more than $400 million in earmarked funds in 2010 — the year before the ban — ranking it among the top five nationwide in earmark spending per capita.

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono has fond memories of securing earmarks for projects she supported when she was in the House.

The money went toward everything from building out the military’s footprint on the islands and funding monk seal recovery to scanning the universe for extraterrestrial objects.

In 2010, an analysis of federal spending data by the Center for Responsive Politics and Taxpayers for Common Sense showed Hirono sponsored or co-sponsored nearly $150 million in earmarks, more than any other of her peers in the House of Representatives.

The same was true in 2009, when then-Rep. Hirono sponsored more than $162 million in earmarks.

“I was very good at it,” Hirono said. “I support transparent earmarks because it’s a way to support the very specific, unique programs that impact Hawaii.”



Hawaii has a special place in the annals of earmarking in large part because of the late Sen. Dan Inouye.

When Inouye died in 2012, he was chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee.

In the three years in which congressional members were forced to put their names to earmarks, data shows Inouye was among the most prolific of his peers.

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, from fiscal years 2008 to 2010, Inouye put his name to 440 earmarks worth more than $1.2 billion. That figure does not include an additional $1.5 billion in presidential earmarks Inouye helped to usher through the congressional budgeting process.

He worked with other members of the Hawaii delegation to secure millions of dollars for Native Hawaiian health care and education.

They also earmarked tens of millions of dollars for Honolulu’s “High Capacity Transit Corridor Project,” otherwise known as rail.

Working Within The System

Brian Schatz was appointed to the Senate in 2012 after the death of Inouye.

Like Inouye, Schatz sits on the Appropriations Committee and therefore has significant influence over how the federal government spends its money, even as a minority Democrat. He said any discussion about bringing back earmarks is little more than a “thought experiment.”

“Earmarks are not coming back,” Schatz said. “There’s no political will for this.”

He doesn’t see Republicans in the Senate agreeing to any semblance of a return to the earmark era. Although he said it would be nice to have that option on the table, it hasn’t been necessary to bring federal money to Hawaii.

““The practice of earmarks as it had developed was bad and I don’t want to go back to that.” — Congressman-elect Ed Case

The senator often emphasizes in press releases the money he and other members of the delegation have secured for the islands, whether it’s increased military construction or pushing back against the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts.

As was the case with Papahanaumokuakea funding, he’s shown no shortage of creativity in funneling money to the state for what he calls “world class projects.”

He’s also looked for other ways to bring more money to Hawaii, such as by modifying contracting restrictions for Native Hawaiian businesses that get preferential consideration on military contracts.

Those companies, he said, are now eligible for work through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I think this whole conversation is a waste of time,” Schatz said about the possible return of earmarks. “We’ve been able to do the appropriations process in a way that’s good for the country and in a way that’s good for Hawaii.”

Sen Brian Schatz at the Dem Party Dole Cannery Ballroom.

Hirono agrees that “the world did not come to an end for Hawaii just because we eliminated earmarking.”

Hawaii Congressman-elect Ed Case, who describes himself as a fiscal conservative, says he’s wary of bringing back earmarks, at least in the manner they existed when he last held federal office.

When Case was representing Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District from 2002 to 2006, Republicans were in power and there was little transparency surrounding the process.

Congressman Elect Ed Case Dole Cannery Ballroom.

It wasn’t until Democrats retook the House in 2007 — the year Case left Congress —  that earmarks were banned for for-profit entities and lawmakers were forced to attach their names to earmarks as a means of attaining some semblance of accountability.

Case, who will now represent the 1st Congressional District, said the earmark system was fraught with problems that led to distrust in government spending.

“The practice of earmarks as it had developed was bad and I don’t want to go back to that,” he said. “It was abusive and it got away from us.”

Case doesn’t buy into bringing back earmarks just to increase bipartisanship. He said that should be done through cordial conversation among colleagues and working across party lines in groups of members of both parties, such as the Congressional Reformers Caucus.

“The obligation of any member of Congress includes trying to direct federal funds to specific projects that work for your district,” Case said. “Whether you want to call those earmarks, set-asides or authorizing language, I’m certainly going to do it.”

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard did not respond to requests for comment for this report.

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Via: Civil Beat

Hawaiian Electric Press Release: Spike in phony utility calls reported this week as scammers target churches

(Source: Hawaiian Electric)


CONTACT: Shannon Tangonan, 808.223.9932


Spike in phony utility calls reported this week as scammers target churches

HONOLULU, Nov. 30, 2018 – Phone scammers kicked into high gear this week, targeting Hawaiian Electric Companies’ customers – mainly small businesses and churches. Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaiʿi Electric Light are warning customers to “Just Hang Up!” on scammers who are much more active during the holidays.

Hawaiian Electric received 10 scam reports on Wednesday and five Thursday, pushing the company’s total number of reported phone scams to 100 so far in 2018. Maui Electric and Hawaiʿi Electric Light have reported about 20 each so far this year. These are only the calls reported to the utilities, the actual numbers are known to be much higher.

Five Oʿahu churches received calls in the past two days from scammers who threatened to disconnect service unless payment was made. No money was exchanged. Trinity United Methodist Church was among the targets.

“Someone called and said that they were on their way to turn off our electricity since we hadn’t paid since August – it was almost a $1,000,” said Senior Pastor Amy Wake, who noted it was alarming because the church depends on electricity to run their preschool and other programs.

“They said that we had to go down to (a drug store) and get a money pack. That’s what alerted us that this was a problem. We said, ‘Is this a scam?’” Wake said they hung up and called Hawaiian Electric to confirm the church had no balance.

“To think that they’re targeting churches is really disappointing,” Wake said. “We are trying our best to do good in the world.”

Customers need to be alert and recognize scams, especially when criminals threaten to disconnect service unless a payment is made.

The companies offer the following tips:
 If the caller says your utility account is delinquent and threatens to shut off service immediately unless payment is made, it’s a scam.
 If someone calls from a utility demanding immediate payment over the phone, via money transfer, prepaid debit cards or by Bitcoin, it’s a scam.
 If the caller asks to meet the customer in person to pick up a payment, it’s a scam.

For more information, visit

Via: Hawaiian Electric