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Sunday, January 24, 2021
January 24, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:21 PM :: 5022 Views

More Taxes on the Rich – But Guess What, You’re Rich

Biden’s Transportation Sec’y Nominee Affirms Jones Act Support

Tulsi Gabbard: Domestic-Terrorism Bill Is ‘a Targeting of Almost Half of the Country’

Hawaii Republican Party Deletes Tweets Defending QAnon Believers After Backlash

Police and Prosecutors Conspired to Cover up Brutal Maui Hate Crime

MN: … It’s the first Hawaii hate crime case brought by the feds in 20 years, but U.S. Attorney Kenji Price is hoping to send a strong message about victimizing others because of their race or color….

The FBI investigation comes nearly seven years after the state pursued its own drawn-out case against Levi Aki Jr., 32, and Kaulana Alo Kaonohi, 31, both Native Hawaiians from the Valley Isle.

The state did not bring hate crime charges against the defendants, focusing instead on assault allegations that ended with plea agreements in 2019….

The case marks the first time in 20 years that hate crime charges have been brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii, said U.S. Attorney Kenji Price.

“My office brought this prosecution because there is a substantial federal interest in vindicating the rights of the victims of hate crime,” Price told Civil Beat in an emailed statement. “It is my hope that it sends a strong message to those who seek to victimize others because of their actual or perceived race or color.” …

In Hawaii, crimes motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation and other biases are subject to an enhanced penalty. But the state investigates an astonishingly low average of fewer than two hate crimes per year. …

Maui police arrested Kaonohi and Aki five months after the 2014 attack, but the case languished until 2019, when Kaonohi pleaded no contest to felony assault in connection to the attack on Kunzelman and Aki pleaded no contest to felony terroristic threatening. …

The state dismissed the remaining charges against the defendants and a judge sentenced them to a period of probation….

Kunzelman has said in news interviews that the punishment was too lenient. He also criticized the Maui Police Department’s handling of the investigation, claiming that a local police officer at the time disregarded his insistence that the attack was a hate crime.

“The police officer refused to write down anything about race, nothing,” Kunzelman told the broadcast station KHON2 in 2019. “He was uninterested in writing anything down about it being a hate crime.”…

Maui Deputy Prosecutor Michael Kagami said federal authorities contacted him after Kaonohi and Aki’s 2019 sentencings and asked for his case files, but he said he does not know what triggered the FBI’s interest in the case.

Kagami, who took on the case years after charges were filed, said he does not know if hate crime charges were ever considered by the state….

The FBI investigation outlines a pattern of unprovoked violence, starting with the February 2014 attack at Kahakuloa village.

Months later, Kaonohi was arrested for attacking a white man at the Steel House Saloon in Wailuku, according to court documents.

Surveillance footage of the July 2014 bar assault shows the defendant approaching the victim at the bar, tapping him on the shoulder and then, when the victim turns his head, knocking him to the floor with a punch to the face. Court documents allege that Kaonohi then punched the victim repeatedly, knocking him unconscious and causing permanent brain damage.

Witness accounts and surveillance footage indicate that Kaonohi and the victim had no interactions at the bar preceding the attack.

In July 2018, Kaonohi pleaded no contest to felony assault in connection to the Steel Horse Saloon attack. He was sentenced to one year in prison, but his sentence was modified to permit him to serve time only on weekends….

HNN: VIDEO of Assault

PDF: Charges

read … This Brutal Maui Assault Prompts Hate Crime Charges — 7 Years Later

Hypocrisy: OHA Demands Transparency from Counties, State

CB: … The Office of Hawaiian Affairs wants the state to improve its data collection for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.

A resolution backed by OHA calls for several public agencies, including county police departments, to release disaggregated data on Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders. The proposal is part of OHA’s 2021 legislative package and is awaiting introduction by House Speaker Scott Saiki.

(IQ Test:  How hard are you laughing?)

The measure also calls for a task force to analyze and provide recommendations on how the state collects, processes, retains and shares demographic data.

(OHA demands transparency while refusing to comply with State Auditor.) 

The legislative effort comes months after OHA’s criticism of the Department of Health’s COVID-19 data prompted the state to release detailed coronavirus case data by race and ethnicity….

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, Hawaii at first combined Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders into one category when reporting coronavirus cases.

That gave the impression that Native Hawaiians were suffering at disproportionately high rates. But once the two groups were disaggregated, the data showed Native Hawaiians were actually much less likely to get COVID-19 than the general public….

A 2012 push by OHA to mandate better data collection was unsuccessful….

The resolution specifically calls for disaggregated data from the Department of Health, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Department of Human Services, county police departments and the Judiciary….

Meanwhile: Saiki, Hanabusa Launch Attack on State Auditor to Save OHA’s Dirty Secrets

read … OHA Says Better Data Is Needed To Tackle Problems Facing Native Hawaiians

Green: 92,000 vaccines in the fridge because we are afraid the supplies will be cut off

KITV: … Health officials report more than 94,000 people have received the coronavirus vaccine -- roughly half of the 185,975 doses received from the federal government. ….

Hawaii officials report it’s only given out roughly half of its current supply of 186,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

With more than 40 sites now offering the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Lt. Gov. Josh Green says state leaders are pressing the federal government to keep supplies coming.

“We now have another 50 or 60,000 scheduled appointments for people getting their either first shot or second shot.  We didn't want to leave people in the lurch. And needless to say, there's a lot of transition going on in Washington DC. So we're trying to be very mindful of the need to do the two shots. And also to do this professionally. We don't want people to come get vaccinated and then find out three weeks later, sorry, we can't complete the series," Lt. Gov. Green said.….

(Clue: The supply of vaccine will not be cut off.  Green’s fears are unwarranted and 10,000s are not getting their vax because of these fears.)

read … Green: About half of Hawaii's vaccine supply awaiting distribution

Gang Leader Escapes Justice Again and Again

HTH: … A convicted murderer has filed an appeal in Hilo Circuit Court of the Hawaii Paroling Authority’s denial in August of his parole….

Now in his late 40s, Mason is serving a sentence of life with the possibility of parole, plus 20 years, for the 1991 kidnapping and slaying of Laysa, a 23-year-old prostitute whose body was found in a cane field above Alae Cemetery in Hilo.

The state’s main witness in Mason’s trial was John Perez III, who is also serving a (so-called) life sentence for Laysa’s death.….

Perez, a reputed gang leader, said he contributed to Laysa’s death, but accused Mason of the actual killing. Perez said Mason called himself “The Prince of Darkness” and had sacrificed a dog in a satanic ritual.

Perez said he and Mason had sex with Laysa in the graveyard before killing her. According to court transcripts, an FBI laboratory found Perez’s DNA, but not Mason’s, inside Laysa. Perez is also the only one who placed Mason at the murder scene.

Paroled on Dec. 18, 2015, Perez was charged with four felony offenses, including attempted second-degree murder, for a shooting Jan. 31, 2016, at Honolii Lookout in Hilo that hospitalized a 31-year-old Kona man.

Another suspect in the Honolii shooting, Scottie Yanagawa, was killed in a shootout with police on Feb. 9, 2016, in the Hilo Walmart parking lot.

Charges against Perez were later dropped without prejudice, meaning prosecutors can refile them, but his parole was revoked and he is in custody at Halawa Correctional Facility on Oahu. More than four years later, those charges haven’t been refiled….

Mason has steadfastly maintained his innocence, and former Deputy Prosecutor Rick Damerville, who was not the trial prosecutor, told the parole board at a hearing for Mason on April 26, 2019, he has “strong personal doubts about the guilt of Mr. Mason,” according to a transcript of the hearing.

“I told them you’ve already paroled the primary person responsible for that homicide, which was Perez,” Damerville said Friday. “And it’s no secret that I had serious difficulties believing anything John Perez had to say about almost anything. He is an extremely violent person and his parole got revoked. I didn’t see how you could grant parole to Perez and not to Tad Mason … . I always had difficulty with the prosecution of Mason because it was almost 100% on the word of Perez.”

According to Damerville, his prior experience as a criminal defense attorney gave him “great skepticism about cases based upon the testimony of snitches who are getting something pretty large for being a snitch.”

Damerville said the state dropped numerous other cases against Perez, but added he didn’t know “whether that was because of his cooperation or whether that was just because they felt it was a waste of resources to prosecute him on all the other stuff” in addition to the homicide.

The chief trial prosecutor in Mason’s case, Brenda Carreira, who is now the county’s Mass Transit administrator and resigned her license to practice law rather than face a disciplinary hearing in 2006, didn’t immediately return a phone call Friday the Tribune-Herald….

read … Man convicted of 1991 murder files appeal of parole denial

Time to revamp Hawaii’s government

SA Editorial: … Elected leaders are thinking seriously about making structural changes that have long been needed….

One of the guiding principles of the session will be “to see how we can reform state government,” House Speaker Scott Saiki told media representatives on a call after the Legislature convened Wednesday. “If we can’t do it in a pandemic, we will never do it. State government needs to be a little more effective.”…

(Translation: “We will never do it.”)

what was most intriguing was Luke’s assessment that there are positions that could be left unfilled in various departments by pooling staff resources….

she said there are clerical positions that could cross agency boundaries.

“Is it time for us to consolidate certain agencies?” Luke asked rhetorically. There’s a direct answer to that: Yes.

This likely won’t be a reorganization to be completed in time to head off the immediate fiscal stormclouds, but that work can and should start now….

(Translation: In the end it will just be another study.  Meanwhile they will raise taxes.)

read … Time to revamp Hawaii’s government

Shutting off welcoming state Capitol from the public would send discouraging message

Borreca: … COVID-19 and the rioting supporters of former President Donald Trump both are sealing off the structure and destroying its significance as an open public meeting area.

Part of the backlash to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol is cracking down, nationwide, on state Capitol security, Hawaii included. The easiest way to secure a building is to keep the general public out….

The public has been unable to visit the Capitol without permission since March, when a state senator was infected with the highly infectious virus….

Shut off the Capitol from its people and you are saying how much you disregard Hawaii’s people.

read … Shutting off welcoming state Capitol from the public would send discouraging message

Time not right for $17 minimum wage in Hawaii

SA: … We are facing a devastating economic crisis in Hawaii, so it was shocking to read a column in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Jan. 13 written by Nate Hix that advocated for legislative proposals to increase the minimum wage to $17 per hour (“Speaker Saiki must stand with workers,” Island Voices).

This will negatively impact businesses, especially the restaurant industry, which has been one of the hardest hit. Many have already closed for good and, surveys show 65% of restaurants will not survive the next six months unless considerable financial assistance is provided. In addition, all companies in the restaurant supply chain will be affected….

Currently, many small businesses are facing an uphill battle for their existence. Businesses are dying, while others remain in a constant struggle just to keep their doors open.

Our focus must be the survival of businesses whose doors are still open and help them to salvage the livelihoods of their owners and their employees. They need to pay their bills and maintain health care benefits, especially during this horrible pandemic.

As a Star-Advertiser editorial on Jan. 13 rightfully stated, “helping mom-and-pop businesses make financial ends meet must continue to rate as a priority in Hawaii” (“Small businesses need PPP infusion,” Our View)….

read … Time not right for $17 minimum wage in Hawaii

Give Lots and Lots of Money to HGEA to Save ‘Economy

SA: … Economists find that, during a recession, $1 in public spending adds between $1.50 and $2 to the economy. In the same way, public spending cuts multiply economic damage….

(For instance: $100 spent on HGEA salary hikes translates to $200 worth of solitaire games purchased for use on antique DOS-based Hawaii State computers.  Many Wang computer games are hard-to-find and the prices actually jump every time HGEA gets a raise.  Economists call this ‘supply and demand’ and it is taught in schools worldwide—but not in Hawaii because we don’t want to interfere with the ongoing experiment.  Also there is the gambling market.  Place your bets on: When will the DLIR mainframe collapse because too many HGEA members are using it to calculate their overtime and sick leave?) ….

read … Column: Government spending boosts economy

Hawaii hotel industry struggling to bring workers back

KHON: … United Here Local 5 is one of the Hawaii largest hotel unions and represents 11,500 hotel workers. Local 5 said, 8,000 of their union workers lost their jobs due to the pandemic and 1,000 have been hired back to work…..

read … Hawaii hotel industry struggling to bring workers back

Aloha Stadium scheme is doomed because it is more about development than football

Shapiro:  … Hawaii public works projects too often sputter because elected officials become more interested in promoting development around them than the projects themselves.

Honolulu rail was intended to relieve gridlocked traffic but fell apart when it became more about building houses on West Oahu farmlands and ritzy high-rises in town as lawmakers were seduced by the prospect of more tax revenues to spend, bountiful campaign donations and happy construction unions.

The decades-long Kakaako redevelopment was supposed to yield sorely needed workforce housing but produced mostly luxury condos for wealthy offshore speculators as officials catered to developers’ wishes instead of public needs.

Former Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s grandiose plan to redevelop Blaisdell Center lost public support when it became clear the new arena would be dwarfed by associated skyscrapers.

Attempts to relocate the Oahu Community Correctional Center have been more about freeing up the current Kalihi site for development than aligning our prison capacity to changing needs.

Now we have a good reason to worry the proposed new $350 million Aloha Stadium is beset by the same skewed mindset.….

read … Aloha Stadium scheme is more about development than football

County: COVID-19 app won’t be mandatory for travelers

HTH: … Hawaii County has no plans to make the state’s official COVID-19 exposure notification application mandatory on the Big Island.

The AlohaSafe Alert app, developed in partnership with the state Department of Health, the aio Foundation and the Hawaii Executive Collaborative, warns users if they have had extended contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Since the app’s launch last month, more than 52,000 people in Hawaii have downloaded the app….

“The counties are doing their own things,” Magno said. “We’ve already got our second (post-flight) testing program, and Maui doesn’t have that.”

Magno said the county is directing its COVID-related efforts toward testing and vaccination distribution, rather than the rollout of the app.

The app uses a phone’s Bluetooth function to send signals to other phones with AlohaSafe Alert installed. When two devices with the app are in close proximity, they exchange an anonymous code — “gibberish,” aio Digital President Brandon Kurisu explained in a livestream interview earlier this week.

If a user tests positive for COVID-19, the Department of Health will send the user a verification code they can type into the app. By doing so, every other app user who had contact with the infected user for 15 minutes or longer will receive an alert they may have been exposed to the virus. The app does not track a user’s location or identify anyone.

Unfortunately, because the app uses Bluetooth and not GPS, there are currently no data about how many people on each island have downloaded the app, Lynelle Marble, executive director of the Hawaii Executive Collaborative, said Friday.

“But, when the app became available on the Big Island, there was a spike of about 1,500 downloads, so we assume those were on the Big Island,” Marble said.

Marble said the goal of the app’s development partners is to reach 150,000 users by the end of the month. If 15% of smartphone users in the state have and participate in the app, then infections could be reduced by 8% and deaths by 6%, according to a September scientific paper by researchers at Google Research, the University of Oxford and Stanford University.

Marble said the current download rate appears to be on track to reach that goal by the end of January, although she added that there is also no easy way to determine how many of the downloads are from people who will soon leave or have already left the state.

So far, 24 states in the country have developed similar exposure notification apps, Marble said. California’s app — called CA Notify — has been downloaded to 20% of phones in that state, she said.

Currently, the app’s “redemption rate” — the percentage of users who share their codes after testing positive — is 2%, Marble said, although the DOH sends a notice to everyone when they test positive, regardless of whether they have the app installed or not.

Marble added that the app’s true efficacy is only unlocked when users choose to share codes when prompted, and urged users to participate….

read … County: COVID-19 app won’t be mandatory for travelers

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