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Tuesday, July 20, 2021
July 20, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:08 PM :: 2959 Views

COVID School Closures: Who are we trying to protect?

Why reform of Hawaii’s emergency powers law failed

Next Boondoggle: USACE, City of Honolulu Sign Agreement for Ala Wai Flood Study

Ha'ena 'Adaptive Tourism' Plan Starts with Lots of Expensive Parking Tickets

$50B: State Climate Commission Helps Grifters Cash In on Climate Change Hype

Guam shows value of competition in U.S. shipping

$34M rate hike to pay rich people to get discount solar battery program

The Kealohas, Cocaine Parties And Oxycodone

CB: … Katherine Kealoha once posed for a photo with a line of cocaine on her husband’s desk while he was Honolulu’s police chief to win a bet, according to newly filed court records….

The revelation is part of an ongoing criminal case involving Kealoha’s brother, Rudolph Puana, a Big Island pain doctor, who’s been accused by the U.S. Justice Department of running an illegal prescription drug ring in which he and his friends traded opioids for cocaine and cash….

Kealoha, a former city prosecutor, has already pleaded guilty for her part in the conspiracy, which included trying to hide her brother’s alleged criminal activities from law enforcement by manipulating an accused drug dealer into remaining silent about the origin of prescription drugs found in her house during a police raid.

Puana is now scheduled for trial Sept. 14 when he will face dozens of counts of distributing controlled substances, including oxycodone and fentanyl, as well as additional charges of health care fraud and being an addict in possession of firearms.

They said that from 2012 to 2017 Puana, a double-board certified anesthesiologist, was the owner of a Big Island pain clinic and that he distributed nearly 25% of all his oxycodone prescriptions — about 7,000 pills in total — to his close friends, Christopher McKinney and Joshua DeRego, who then sold the pills or traded them for cocaine….

Puana prescribed the monthly supply of pills so his friends could resell them on the black market to earn some easy cash (some of which then went towards funding cocaine parties with Puana).”

McKinney and DeRego, while named in court documents, have not been charged.

McKinney, who is a well-known writer in Hawaii, was Puana’s childhood friend from Oahu. Together they wrote a book together about Puana’s upbringing titled, “The Red-Headed Hawaiian: The Inspiring Story about a Local Boy from Rural Hawaii Who Makes Good.”

Prosecutors said McKinney told them that while the two were collaborating on the book they were using “large quantities of cocaine.” According to investigators, Puana eventually wrote a prescription for McKinney for oxycodone and told him he could sell the pills for $15 a piece….

DeRego and Puana were similarly close, “almost brotherly,” prosecutors said. DeRego and Puana would golf, drink and do cocaine together. Their children also attended the same private school.

According to court records, Puana and his then-wife sponsored a scholarship for DeRego’s children to attend the school because he was struggling to pay the tuition himself. Puana then allegedly offered DeRego and his wife, Elena Rodriquez, oxycodone that they could sell to pay for their childrens’ school.

He also connected them with a Big Island drug dealer identified by prosecutors only as “the Hawaiian,” and told them they could sell the prescription pills for $20 each. Between 2013 and 2015, prosecutors said Puana prescribed more than 4,000 tablets of oxycodone to Rodriquez and that the pills were covered by Medicaid….

“Puana’s use of controlled substances spiraled to the point of challenging his fellow users to take a photo of themselves using cocaine in an outrageous place,” McDonald wrote. “Puana’s sister, Katherine Kealoha, ‘won’ by submitting a picture with a line of cocaine on the desk of the Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha.”… 

read … The Kealohas, Cocaine Parties And Oxycodone

Testing Shows ‘Remote Learning’ is a Miserable Failure

CB: … Statewide data shows that at least a quarter of students, or roughly 40,400, were still participating in full-virtual instruction by the end of the last school year on May 28. Another three-quarters of students, or 115,500, were in a blended model, meaning they occasionally attended classes in person but otherwise learned from home. 

(Translation: 155,900 not in class out of 162,491 total enrollment)

Children in elementary school comprised the largest group of students who were fully back in school by the fourth quarter of last year, at 36%, followed by 8% of middle schoolers and 5% of high schoolers.

Data from the past year shows the impacts of remote learning: an average of 22% of all students were at high risk of being “chronically absent,” or missing 15 or more days of the school year, up from 15% in past years. That figure rose to 30% for “vulnerable kids,” which includes children from low-income families or nonnative English speakers.

Furthermore, English and math “screener” tests for grades 1-8, taken last fall at the start of the school year — when kids had already experienced an academic quarter of pandemic disruption — showed that 23% of elementary school students were behind grade-level expectations and 40% of middle schoolers were behind grade-level benchmarks.  That figure fluctuates per complex area, with some rural areas of the state seeing more than half of middle schoolers lagging behind grade-level expectations.

Such a dismal showing is why the outgoing superintendent, Christina Kishimoto, has been so adamant about returning to full-time, in-person instruction this fall. Virtual instruction will be available in only limited circumstances for health needs, although the DOE has been tasked with coming up with more wide-ranging distance learning plans before the new school year.

Only about 1%-2% of families per complex area had expressed a preference for distance learning, the superintendent recently told Board of Education members….

Holomua Elementary, which has phased semesters for more than 1,100 students, is including a program known as “Choose Love” in its curriculum for the first time this year to teach qualities like mindfulness, compassion and empathy toward one another….

HTH: Murals with special message to welcome Kohala Elementary pupils after COVID shutdown

read … Failed Miserably

Rally planned to support officers charged in teen shooting death

SA: … Honolulu police officers plan to rally today in support of three of their own charged with murder and attempted murder in the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old crime spree suspect before their attorneys argue the case should be dismissed, the deputy prosecutor disqualified and that it’s the government’s burden to prove they were not in grave danger when they opened fire.

Officer Geoffrey H.L. Thom, 42, is charged with one count of second-degree murder in Iremamber Sykap’s death. Officers Zachary K. Ah Nee, 26, and Christopher J. Fredeluces, 40, each are charged with one count of second-degree attempted murder.

They are scheduled to appear at 1:30 p.m. in District Court for a preliminary hearing and deliberations over court filings and a motion to dismiss the case….

read … Rally planned to support officers charged in teen shooting death

Restaurant association head calls for end to state restrictions

HTH: … “We’re going to have spikes; we’re going to see triple-digits,” he said, referring to the daily count of new infection cases. “But what we need now after 15, going on 16 months of government intervention, is for them to trust that we’ve got this, and to give it back to us and let us go forward.”…

read … Restaurant association head calls for end to state restrictions

COFA Talks -- 2023 Deadline Looms For Biden

CB: … The compacts with western Pacific nations take on new importance as China seeks to extend its influence in the area….

read … COFA Talks

5,300 Oahu renters getting free ride

CB: … 16,000 households in Hawaii struggling to make rent payments for next month, according to the National Equity Atlas (an activist group treated as an authority). Based on the first two rounds of applications, a majority of those approved were from households making 30% of the area median income, which is less than $38,000 a year for a household of four people.

In April, the Office of Economic Revitalization received 8,000 applications in the first four hours, and it took only 20 minutes to reach 4,000 applications in May. Over 6,800 of those were declined because they were duplicates, requests for mortgage help, potentially fraudulent and for “other reasons.” In June, applications slowed dramatically, taking over three weeks to reach 10,000.

As of Monday, 5,300 Oahu households were approved with $39.9 million distributed. Amy Asselbaye, the office’s executive director, said she is confident that the $180 million still available is enough to support the needs of the community, based on an average payout per household of $7,700….

read … Getting Rental And Utility Relief On Oahu Can Be Harder Than It Seems

HGEA decries ‘stupid’ policy that’s forcing some vaccinated state workers to quarantine after travel

HNN: … Vaccinated state employees who traveled to the mainland are learning about a new policy that’s keeping some out of the office ― and forced to use personal time.

The mandate for all 55,000 state workers ― even those are fully vaccinated ― requires approval from their department directors prior to return to the workplace.

That’s even though fully vaccinated travelers are no longer subject to the state’s mandatory quarantine.

The policy says the “department directors have full discretion to determine if employees can return,” or, if the the employees must quarantine at home for up to 10-days….

The memo was released on July 8, the same day that Hawaii expanded its so-called “vaccine passport” program to include all domestic travelers vaccinated anywhere in the United States….

PDF: State Policy on Travel

read … HGEA decries ‘stupid’ policy that’s forcing some vaccinated state workers to quarantine after travel

EMS grapples with an increase in all types of 911 calls as it also sees more COVID cases

HNN: … Earlier this summer, crews would go days without a call for a COVID patient. Now, transporting people who have already tested positive for the virus is becoming a routine occurrence.

On Oahu, the number of people hospitalized with COVID has doubled in the past month. Records show on June 15 there were a total of 19 patients. As of Monday, there were 43.

“EMS is now seeing a call or so a day for COVID patients,” said Honolulu EMS Director Jim Ireland. “Almost every person getting admitted to the hospital is unvaccinated. They’re coming in for shortness of breath. They’re getting put on ventilators still.”

Meanwhile, with the lockdown lifted and the return of visitors who need non-COVID help, crews are constantly on the go.

Data shows they’re getting dispatched more now than they did prior to the pandemic.

In June, EMS received 8,023 calls for service. That’s nearly 1,500 more than in June 2020 ― when large-scale COVID restrictions were in place.

It’s also surpassed June 2019 numbers by more than 200 calls….

read … EMS grapples with an increase in all types of 911 calls as it also sees more COVID cases

Bill aims to keep replica guns and air guns away from felons

MN: … Police are seeing an increase in air guns and replica guns being used in criminal activity and are proposing restrictions on the weapons similar to those for firearms when used by felons to commit crimes.

Under a bill submitted in May to the Maui County Council, felons, fugitives and people facing violent or drug charges would be among those prohibited from having air guns or replica guns.

The bill also would make it a crime to possess an air gun or replica gun with the intent to use the weapon to facilitate felony drug distribution.

“We are pushing for this change in the law because felons are using the lack of the law to skirt the firearms laws,” said Lt. Audra Sellers, commander of the police Community Relations Section. “Felons are using these air guns and replicas to commit other felony crimes such as robberies, burglaries and narcotic trafficking.”

From January to mid-March, the police Crime Reduction Unit recovered more than 25 air guns or replica guns along with 99 illegal firearms, 24 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, 2 pounds of heroin and more than $350,000 in cash. Police said all of the air gun or replica gun cases have been tied to the possession or distribution of narcotics and most of those involved are felons….

A hearing hasn’t been scheduled for the bill, which was referred June 4 to the Maui County Council’s Government Relations, Ethics and Transparency Committee.

The bill can be seen by going online to mauicounty.us/agendas and clicking on the June 4 council meeting, then county communication 21-265….

read … Police seeing more air and replica guns used in crimes

DOT puts EV transformation of state fleet into high gear

KITV: … "It is all fine and good to have Teslas, but the power they are running off of is polluting the planet. So you are increasing pollution by using dirty electricity," said Chinatown businessman Oren Schlieman….

read … DOT puts EV transformation of state fleet into high gear

Bail Fail: 26-Time Loser Gets Bail, Runs

KHON: … 40-year-old Ike Fowler is wanted by police for a No Bail Warrant for Failure to Appear for Hearing on the Motion to Release Bond to Third Party Surety.

Police say on November 19, 2019, a female tourist who met Fowler a few days prior was driving him to an address in the Nuuanu area. Upon their arrival, he refused to get out and began to argue with the woman. He then got into the driver's seat, and wouldn't allow her to leave the vehicle.

Fowler then threatened to kill the victim and tried to drive off a cliff until the vehicle got stuck on a tree stump. When the woman attempted to get out of the vehicle he pulled her back in and stabbed her with a pen.

Witnesses intervened and detained Fowler until police arrived and arrested him.

Fowler has 26 prior convictions and is known to frequent the Honolulu area….  (and he still got bail)

read … Convicted kidnapper wanted by police for failing to appear in court

Touching monk seals is not a major crisis

SA: … So the biggest news in Hawaii is that a tourist approached a monk seal not knowing that it was illegal, and we want to prosecute any visitor to the fullest extent of the law should they disturb a seal (“Gov. David Ige warns visitors who touch Hawaiian monk seals ‘will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law’,” Star-Advertiser, July 15).

This implies that visitors are the enemy and that this is a huge problem. Neither is true, but the headlines make it seem so.

We need to help the seals survive, but we don’t need to think that we have a major crisis on our hands….

read … Touching monk seals is not a major crisis

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