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Wednesday, June 15, 2011
June 15, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:18 PM :: 10298 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party, National News, Development, World News, Hawaii History

Abercrombie signs bill hiking GE Tax $400M, Matson raises rates in response

Fitch downgrades Hawaii, Cites Tourism Dependence

After stock craters 64%, Feds to dump 5.6M shares of Inouye’s Central Pacific Bank

June 14, 1900: The Abolition of Slavery in Hawaii

Google to fund Kuhio Park Terrace rehab project

Hawaii Army Reservists building Community Center in Indonesia

Oahu Redistricting Panel: Military Should Count

In making the recommendation, council member Linda Smith pointed out that only Hawaii and Kansas do not currently count nonresident active duty military or their families for the purposes of redistricting.

The Maui and Kauai advisory councils previously recommended that the nonresident military not be counted. Because Oahu has a higher proportion of active duty military, it's believed that counting them would give Oahu a chance to retain its representatives and prevent the Big Island from poaching a Senate seat.

In rebutting the argument that nonresident military should vote in Hawaii, Council Chair Michael Palcic pointed out that resident minors don't vote but are counted for reapportionment purposes.

"There is a difference between voting and apportionment...This population is here all the time. They rotate in and out, but there is a constituency here constantly," he said.

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Borreca: Democrats fear Abercrombie’s bizarre behavior will rub off on them

If Gov. Neil Abercrombie's staffers haven't already made "damage control" a permanent agenda item on their daily to-do list, they should, because it doesn't appear that Hawaii's bellicose governor will be changing his style….

What the soon-to-be 73-year-old Democrat did was needlessly complicate next year's election season by making his outbursts an issue and his support a liability….

Already, potential candidates for major office are quietly trying to parse how much Abercrombie will hurt their campaigns. Is it enough to just ignore him, or do you have to say something to disassociate yourself with him?

"You can only allow yourself so much time before that bizarre behavior rubs off on you," one veteran local political adviser, who asked not to be named, said….

Now when we see Abercrombie starring in his own "Raging Bull" movie, there is much concern that this will not turn out well.

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Shapiro: Abercrombie should follow his own advice about dignity

Gov. Neil Abercrombie is setting a new speed record for squandering the approval he enjoyed after ascending to the state’s top job with landslide victories over Mufi Hannemann and James “Duke” Aiona.

He campaigned as the Great Listener, a mature and savvy leader who could hear out all sides, talk common sense and use his three decades of legislative experience to facilitate solutions to Hawaii’s most stubborn problems.

In his first six months in office, we’ve gotten none of the above. He seems to listen to nobody, talks trash more than consensus, is often ill-informed and was mostly ignored by legislators in writing the state budget….

Fascinating.  Here is the Best Comment:

Dave, you and your Media buddies helped elect the guy. You did everything you could to slam Mufi and Duke while promoting Neil. Your columns were campaign ads.
Ask Mufi and Duke supporters if they knew Neil was faking it. Hey Dave, after further review, who's the bully?
Don't act surprised and shocked that there was no "old Neil" or a "new Neil", there was and always will be just Neil, the intolerant, dishonest, arm waving, blustering, rude, incompetent ideologue.
It's been said that success has many fathers but failure is an orphan. Dave, you and Borreca and all your pals in the media helped saddle us with Neil. As we say in Waipahu, "no act", Neil is your boy.

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Shapiro: Abercrombie has Abbie Hoffman Mentality

And for the record, I was acquainted with Abercrombie in college and during his Super Senator days and recall him being reasonably well-bathed and not especially malodorous.

Any concerns I had about him back then were less about his appearance than his Abbie Hoffman mentality in which the theater seemed to matter more than the commitment.

Seeing him still so enamored of the cheap drama as a 72-year-old governor worries me.

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Abercrombie Spokesperson Dela Cruz gets side job with Corporate Insiders

Donalyn Dela Cruz, Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s spokeswoman, is writing and producing a new Hawaii travelogue show.  (Because being Abercrombie’s Comm Dir is not a full time job and a half????????????)

“Passport Hawaii,” hosted by Brook Lee, a former Miss Universe, and co-hosted by Bryan Clay, who won an Olympic gold medal in the decathlon, will appear on KGMB.

Hawaiian Airlines, Hawaiian Host, Starwood, Bishop Museum, the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, InsideOut Hawaii Magazine and Chai’s Island Bistro are sponsoring the half-hour show, according to the producers.

Dela Cruz, a former television reporter, said she does not believe her work on the show will conflict with her responsibilities as the governor’s spokeswoman. She also said she does not plan to interact with the television station or the show’s sponsors.  (No conflict there, eh? What a bunch of amateurs.)

“I love to tell stories. I love to write,” said Dela Cruz, who earns about $70,000 a year as the governor’s spokeswoman.

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Abercrombie signs bill hiking GE Tax $400M, Matson raises rates in response

Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Tuesday signed a bill into law that temporarily suspends general excise tax exemptions on nearly two dozen business activities, the largest source of new revenue to help balance the state budget.

Lifting the tax exemptions on contractors, businesses that sublease, airlines and others could generate about $200 million a year. The law is scheduled to sunset in June 2013.

Abercrombie also signed a bill into law that repeals a state income tax deduction on higher-income taxpayers, limits itemized deductions for higher-income taxpayers, and delays an increase in the standard deduction and personal exemption.  (Gotta use up those 2-for-1 Act 221 tax credits)

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Change from Furloughs to paid Comp Time will Cost State of Hawaii More Than $160 Million

About 20 percent of the increase in next year's state budget is tied to the cost of putting people back to work on furlough days.

As part of the $11 billion operating budget lawmakers approved for the 2012 fiscal year, $251 million will fund increased labor costs when twice-a-month furloughs end June 30. The overall budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is $800 million bigger than this year's base budget.

That $251 million includes two increased costs stemming from furlough days: salaries and pensions. However, the state expects to achieve $88 million in labor savings in contract negotiations, which would mean a net increase from restoring furloughs of $163 million.

Because furloughs were unpaid work days, they resulted in about a 10 percent pay cut for affected employees. Restoring that pay will also increase the amount of retirement benefits the state owes employees because contributions are calculated as a percentage of payroll.

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General Fund Receipts up $154M for year

Hawaii general fund deposits for 11 months of fiscal year 2011 totaled $4 billion, down by 0.8 percent, or $33.4 million, compared to the same period in fiscal year 2010, according to data from the state Department of Taxation.

The decrease is attributed primarily to $187.4 million in accrued income tax refunds being released in July 2010. If the delayed refunds had not been issued, the general fund deposits would have shown a year-over-year increase of 3.8 percent, or $154 million, according to the data and PBN research.

Hmmmm: DoTax completes Internal Investigation into its “Unusual Reporting” of Monthly Tax Revenues

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Crafty, not stupid: Hawaii Legislators Rank High in College Degrees

Of Hawaii's 76 legislators, 61 went to a public university. Of those, 38 went to the University of Hawaii-Manoa, four attended the University of Hawaii at Hilo and four attended a UH community college.

Four lawmakers also went to the University of California at Berkeley, the mainland school that led all others for Hawaii legislators. Three each went to Oregon State and George Washington.

Some 32 percent of Hawaii legislators went to college out of state. By contrast, just 22 percent of mainland lawmakers went to a college that was not in their home state.

More than 21 percent of Hawaii legislators have a law degree; just 17 percent of their mainland colleagues have JD's.

Lastly, only 7 percent of Hawaii legislators have no college experience, roughly comparable to the mainland average. But the Chronicle also notes that 39 percent of Hawaii residents have no college experience.

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Calvin Say: As long as Hawaii has part-time legislature, Conflict of interest unavoidable

I also believe that a part-time legislature is the best form of government for our State. A part-time legislature enables persons to serve as legislators while also holding other jobs. The diverse perspectives that result, in my view, are necessary for a well-rounded legislature comprised of legislators with real-life experiences and practical skills.  As long as Hawaii has a part-time legislature, potential conflict of interest situations will be unavoidable.

Having their cake and Eating it too: Hawaii Legislators’ pay tops nation

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Alleged Sovereignty Mortgage Scammers are now Fugitives, Warrants for arrest issued

Chang said he was ordering their arrests.

An officer from the federal pre-trial services office told Chang that John Oliver claimed in a telephone conversation that he was homeless because his wife and kicked him out of their house.

He also said he would consider appearing in court if he was provided with free airline tickets and if his appearance date was set for February 2047.

Oliver also said he did not want to be represented by court-appointed defense lawyer Jeffrey Arakaki.

Dana Ishibashi, lawyer for Peter Hoy, said the Hoys are themselves victims in the case.

“He doesn’t want people to believe what’s being said about him,” Ishibashi said after the hearing.

“My client and his wife lost their house because they were so convinced these people could help them,” said Ishibashi.

Yeah, right: Naming names: Who are the alleged Sovereignty-mortgage scammers?

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Honolulu Council: Ernie Martin to Oust Nestor Garcia as Chairman?

Seven months since the last City Council reorganization and another round of leadership changes may already be under way. Turns out Ernie Martin could replace Nestor Garcia as chairman, and Ikaika Anderson could replace Breene Harimoto as vice chair.

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Carlisle Administration Forgave $1.2 Million in Loans to Ernie Martin’s Nonprofit -- Accused of Misusing Federal Funds

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle's administration forgave $1.2 million in city loans to the nonprofit elderly day-care center at the heart of a federal investigation into misuse of $7.9 million in grants, a Civil Beat investigation has found.

Federal investigators last month reported to Carlisle that Wahiawa-based ORI Anuenue Hale, Inc., violated federal Community Development Block Grant rules. Unless the city takes "immediate corrective action," it may have to return the federal funds….

Former Community Services Director Ernie Martin, who is now a City Council member, has refused to discuss his previous role at the helm of the department.

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Court to consider whether Contractors should be allowed to make Pay-to-Play contributions

Hawaii's attorney general had little choice but to drop his appeal of a judge's discarding of the state's limit on donations to political actions committees. However, the practical consideration in that case should not diminish any vigor in defending other campaign donation laws against challenges, and legislators should seek other ways to control other political expenditures.

State lawyers now must concentrate on protecting other Hawaii political spending laws that are being challenged in court.

Seabright has rightly upheld laws requiring noncandidate PACs to make certain disclosures, including contributors' names, and to include disclaimers in ads. Still pending in his court is an attempt to overturn a ban on "pay to play" political contributions by state and county contractors.

Seabright has pointed out that the Supreme Court in 1976 "concluded that preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption are the only legitimate and compelling government interests" in restricting campaign finances. That certainly should apply to political contributions by government contractors.

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Abercrombie’s DoE: Small schools to get less

Sixty-four campuses will lose extra funds designed to offset costs at small schools because the state Department of Education has lowered the enrollment levels needed to qualify for the money.

Schools stand to lose from $17,000 to $300,000 in the upcoming school year, but officials said budget losses will be smaller because the estimated $16.9 million saved through redefining small schools will be returned to the per-pupil funding pot for distribution to all campuses.

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Five BoE Members borrow from Horner’s First Hawaiian Bank

  • Five of them, including Horner, owe money to First Hawaiian Bank, of which Horner is president and CEO.
Board Member Amount Owed to FHB
Keith Amemiya $300K-$600K
Don Horner $150K-$250K
Brian DeLima $250K-$500K
Kim Gennaula $750K-$1 million
Wesley Lo $251K-$550K

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Hawaii Tax Panel Report 'Impossible' This Year—Abercrombie appoints Five behind back of Legislators

The former chair of the state's Tax Review Commission says it's unlikely this year's group will be able to put together a report for lawmakers before the start of the next legislative session.

That means Hawaii will have to wait another year for the tax code to undergo a thorough review.

The commission, which meets every five years, last came together in 2005. It is responsible for analyzing the state's tax structure and ensuring taxpayers pay their fair share. While the group's reports aren't binding, its findings are often used by lawmakers to adjust tax laws, craft increases and scrutinize exemptions. Technically, the group should have met last year.

"This commission is way late," said state Rep. Isaac Choy, who chaired the 2005 Tax Review Commission. "They'll have to figure out an extension to get a report completed. It's impossible to get it done by January — if they want to do a good report."

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has named five of the seven required members, according to spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz. They are: Mitchell Imanaka, Randy Iwase, Michael McEnerney, Gregg Taketa and Darryl Nitta.

Dela Cruz said the five members are enough to make a quorum. But they have yet to schedule a first meeting.

Choy said the appointments were news to him.

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China Eastern Airlines to commence Hawaii service (Thank you Linda Lingle)

The flights will represent the first regularly scheduled service between China and Hawaii and are projected to bring approximately 82,000 visitors to Hawaii this year, an increase of 24 percent, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Further, the HTA estimates the visitors' average spending per day will be $368, bringing the state up to $60 million in annual visitor spending and stimulating job growth.

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U.S.-Korea trade pact would provide boost to Hawaii's economy

Hawaii stands to gain immensely from this landmark agreement, which would benefit the economy by creating new jobs.

All furniture exports and many manufactured goods produced in Hawaii would enter Korea duty-free.

Korean duties on major Hawaii agricultural products such as papayas and coffee would be eliminated.

In addition, the agreement would simplify and expedite customs procedures, enabling Hawaii businesses to reach Korean companies more quickly.

Korea is one of Hawaii's three largest export markets for goods. In 2009, Hawaii's exports to Korea totaled $67 million, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Korea is the fifth-largest importer of American agricultural products and the third-largest importer of Hawaii's agricultural products.

State Rep. Roy Takumi's comment in regard to Korea's currency being manipulated may be a misunderstanding ("There is no upside to Korea trade pact," Star-Advertiser, Island Voices, April 8).

REALITY: Inouye, Akaka stab Hawaii in back: Call for delay in South Korea Free Trade Pact

REAL LEADERSHIP FOR HAWAII: Djou renews call for Free Trade with South Korea

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Maui Council Committee OKs $3M Tax Increase

The committee voted 6-0 to pass the measure on to the full County Council. If approved, the bill would set the exemption at $200,000, down from the $300,000 exemption taxpayers get now. That would net the county about $5.3 million in additional property taxes next year if the tax rate for homeowners stays the same. If approved, the lower exemption would take effect in July 2012.

Also Tuesday, the committee voted unanimously to recommend a separate bill giving the county Finance Department more tools to crack down on taxpayers who claim the homeowner exemption illegally.

Council Members Danny Mateo, Mike Victorino and Don Couch were excused from the meeting.

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PTA unveils ambitious expansion plans

Pohakuloa Training Area is the military's largest training maneuver area in the Pacific.

The Army is currently undertaking an environmental impact study on the expansion and modernization of the area. It is expected to be completed by fall, said Lt. Col. Rolland Niles, PTA commander.

The EIS anticipates expansion of infantry platoon battle training courses into a 23,000-acre Parker Ranch parcel it acquired in 2006 in a triangular area called Keamuku, where Saddle Road meets Mamalahoa Highway in West Hawaii. The Army, which currently trains as many as 2,000 troops at a time at the PTA site, wants to be able to routinely handle a regiment or more, roughly 3,000 to 5,000 troops.

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Kenoi coy on budget decision

Mayor Billy Kenoi remained mum Tuesday about whether he will approve next fiscal year's $367 million operating budget.

"I'm taking a very good look at it and I will have a thorough and comprehensive reply," Kenoi told members of the Rotary Club of Kona Mauka. "I haven't made a final determination. There are a lot of questions when you send over a budget and it comes back with things nobody's ever seen happen before….

Kenoi…said his decision on the fiscal 2012-13 budget must be made by Thursday.

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“Dishonest Statements to the Court”: Stephens Media Copyright Suit vs Democratic Underground thrown out

In a 16-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt dismissed a case filed in August by Righthaven against Democratic Underground.

"We're studying the ruling, which primarily affects Righthaven," said Mark Hinueber, the Review-Journal's vice president and general counsel. He declined to comment further.

In his order, Hunt also expressed his belief that Righthaven "has made multiple inaccurate and likely dishonest statements to the court."

The judge specifically cited Righthaven's failure to list Stephens Media, which owns the Review-Journal, as an interested party in the case.  (Stephens Media owns HTH and WHT)

ILind: Hawaii Tribune-Herald owner blasted as copyright troll

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Former HPD Major, Deputy Chief Fired by TSA in Baggage Screening Case

Dave Borer, American Federation attorney in Washington, D.C., said TSA's action last week in releasing its senior leadership in Hawaii shows that fault appears to fall on the shoulders of management in the organization in Hawaii.

Five TSA managers who were given layoff notices last week included former Honolulu Police Department Deputy Chief Glen Kajiyama, who has been federal security director in Hawaii since 2007, and former HPD Maj. William Gulledge, assistant federal deputy director for screening in Hawaii. He joined TSA in 2003.

KITV: HNL TSA Screeners: Afraid To Complain--They Say They Face Retaliation If They Report Problems

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HPD officer is convicted of assaulting prostitute—still on payroll

A Honolulu police officer was found guilty Tuesday of forcing a Waikiki prostitute to have sex with him nearly two years ago by threatening her with arrest.

A Circuit Court jury convicted Michael Tarmoun, 38, of second-degree sexual assault. He faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in September. He remains free on $50,000 bail.

The Police Department said Tarmoun is on paid administrative leave. He had been on restricted duty since the beginning of the criminal investigation.

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What Works in Education: Alternative public high school in Hawaii

On the Kona Coast of the big island of Hawaii, there's a ramshackle collection of fish tanks, pipes and mobile housing units that looks more like a laboratory than a school. The ambiance is appropriate, because there's a bold experiment in education underway here.

Instead of taking biology, history and math, these high school students spend the school day working on various projects that encompass everything from restoring ancient fish ponds, to surveying reef ecosystems, to building exotic electric vehicles, and racing them.

Opened in 2000 as an alternative public high school for 10th thru 12th grade, the west Hawaii explorations academy or WHEA reflects the educational philosophy of principal, Bill Woerner.

(So naturally the DoE shortchanges this school’s funding.)

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Former Kapolei HS teacher's aide accused of sexually assaulting student

A 15-year-old girl told investigators that the teacher's aide took her into his car, kissed her, and then reached into her top and fondled her. The suspect is also accused of sending sexually-explicit messages to the student's cell phone.

"I just, that's pretty hard to believe, especially, you know, he's like very hard-working, seems to be," Armon Coronel, Kapolei High junior, said.

The alleged victim and her mother filed for a temporary restraining order against Medeiros on May 31st. According to court records, a TRO valid for three years was granted Monday.

A 14-year-old female student is making similar accusations. Court records indicate that she obtained a one-year, stay-away order against the suspect Tuesday.

(Isn’t the DoE wonderful?  Lets raise taxes immediately and shower them with money.)

SA: Even in tough times, our keiki should be a priority  (DoE wants more money)

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Former Pearl Ridge Elementary secretary charged with 99 counts of theft, forgery (No need Audit)

A former secretary at Pearl Ridge Elementary, who's accused of stealing more than $68,000 from the school, is scheduled to be arraigned at Honolulu Circuit Court next Monday on nearly 100 counts of felony theft and forgery.

The state Attorney General's office on Monday filed a criminal complaint against Denise Hayashi, 41, of Waipahu. She's charged with 98 counts of second-degree forgery, and one count of first-degree theft.

Investigators say that between 2008 and 2010, Hayashi used her position as a school administrative services assistant to make checks out to herself for personal use. She allegedly forged the signature of the school principal.

(Isn’t the DoE wonderful? Lets raise taxes immediately and shower them with money.)

TOTALLY RELATED: Hawaii DoE: Cost of waste, fraud, and corruption between $191M and $431M per year

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Foreclosures might swamp isle courts

One of the nation's biggest owners of home mortgages has made a move that could add to an already overburdened Hawaii court system's caseload.

Fannie Mae, a publicly owned company created and overseen by the federal government, recently instructed companies that handle foreclosures for its loans to file all new Hawaii foreclosures in court.

Fannie Mae also told the firms known as loan servicers to cancel any pending nonjudicial Hawaii foreclosures and restart them in court.

Fannie Mae took the steps in response to Hawaii's new foreclosure law enacted last month. Critics are concerned Fannie Mae might be attempting to sidestep the main intent of the law, which was to engage mediators to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. (None of which will be in place for 6 months)

CB: Fannie Mae Skirts Landmark Hawaii Foreclosure Law

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Want $10,000?  Akaka Tribe giving away free taxpayer money to individuals seeking to buy Houses

The project is funded in part by the U.S. Treasury department and First Hawaiian Bank. Under the program, eligible families get $4 in matching grants for every $1 saved, for a maximum of $8,000 towards a home purchase….

The project also offers a 1 to 1 matching grant on funds saved, allowing customers to pay down consumer debt and improve credit scores up to $2,000.

Three of Hawaii’s most active HUD certified housing counseling agencies are delivering services under the project including: the Hawaii Home Ownership Center, Hawaiian Community Assets, and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement….

The programs are available to Hawaii families, rural or urban, Oahu or neighbor islands, native or non-native, fee simple or trust land properties.

(This kind of crap is how we got into the sub-prime mortgage crisis.)

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New company turns unwanted timeshares into auction items for charity fundraisers

Unable to easily sell the thousands of vacation properties donated to them in the down economy, a special non-profit has found a new way to manage their growing (and expensive) inventory while continuing to raise money for charities: let other non-profits auction the vacation weeks.

Donateforacause.org, dedicated to converting unwanted timeshares to cash on behalf of other charities, is working with their new affiliate, Charity Vacation Auctions. Together they are offering a vast selection of vacation weeks for non-profits to use at their own fundraisers in silent, live and online auctions.

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Fish farms spark green debate in New Zealand

The New Zealand government has announced the end of a 10-year moratorium on aquaculture in the region, a magnet for tourists who come to marvel at dolphins, seals and whales on eco-tours such as those operated by Beech.

"It has the potential to turn our beautiful Sounds into one great big fish farming area," he said.

The New Zealand King Salmon Company has applied to create more fish farms in the area to double its output to 15,000 tonnes by 2015 as part of a long-term plan to become an NZ$500 million ($410 million) company.

The debate puts the Marlborough Sounds at the centre of debate over whether fish farms can be sustainably developed in environmentally sensitive areas to meet booming world demand for seafood.

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Beijing battling protest fires on all fronts

An eruption of protests throughout China has sent armoured vehicles into town centres, prompted an internet blackout by the government and left thousands across the country blogging about "crazy" violence on the streets.

The summer surge of protests, which flared in the southern industrial hub of Zengcheng over the weekend, has been linked to a range of frustrations with modern China - furies that have drawn the government into crackdowns on activism and massive increases in the domestic security budget.

More than 1000 migrant workers went on the rampage in Zengcheng after a pregnant street vendor in her 20s was roughed up by security guards. Such incidents, while distressing, are not uncommon. Witnesses said that the centre of town was bedlam, with smashed windows, blazing police vehicles and teargas explosions as rioters hurled missiles at an official building. One bank worker blogged that the Bank of China had ordered an immediate halt to all ATM transactions.

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Feds ditch rule that foiled Indian tribes’ plans for off-reservation casino

Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk announced the policy change to tribal leaders at the National Congress of American Indians in Milwaukee….

Under existing federal regulations, tribes must satisfy several requirements to operate an off-reservation gambling facility, including having land acquired in trust by the Department of the Interior for the benefit of the tribe; having agreement from the state’s governor; allowing public comment; and entering a tribal-state gaming compact.

(Sure is a good thing we don’t have any Indian Tribes in Hawaii, eh?)

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