Dept of Health dropping the ball on Big Island dengue?

Dengue is a serious disease caused by a bite from an infected mosquito.  With many popular surf spots in overseas endemic Dengue areas, we generally have a few cases brought back every year.  On Maui aggressive steps, under Public Health officer Dr. Lorrin Pang, to prevent Dengue from taking hold in our local mosquitoes has isolated these cases and prevented a recurrence of the 2001 situation where East Maui mosquitoes became infected with Dengue.

Prior to that, the last known Autochthonous (caused by our mosquitoes rather than contracted overseas) dengue infections in Hawaii were in 1944.  Allowing dengue to get a toe hold in our home-grown mosquitoes, would be a disaster.  For instance the island of Bali has yearly outbreaks which fill their hospitals to 100% occupancy.

But now dengue has taken hold on Big Island.

Read more

Friday Dec 12 Morning News Summary

National News: The Appropriations Bill

Republicans in the House inserted a poison pill into the Appropriations Bill written almost entirely by CityBank and gutting the Dodd-Frank financial reforms.

In 2008 taxpayers were forced to bail out the Wall Street banks during the worst economic crash since the Great Depression because banks had been gambling on derivatives and securitized loans with FDIC insured deposits.  Letting the banks go belly up would have wiped out the taxpayer-insured deposits.

This came about from the repeal of Glass-Steagall.  Glass Steagall  (implemented after the Great Depression) required investment (gambler) banks to be separate from banks which took deposits.  Dodd-Frank partially restored this rule in that it required banks to use funds other than deposits to finance their derivative gambles.

House Democrats managed to remove some of the noxious provisions of the CityBank poison pill but the ability of banks to continue gambling with tax-payer insured deposits was still in the bill when it passed.  This is the proximate cause of the taxpayer bailout of Wall Street banks and sets us up for another crash and bailout.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren led the insurrection with a speech on the Senate floor, calling the $1.01 trillion spending bill “the worst of government for the rich and powerful.” and Progressive Change Campaign Committee members made 50,000 calls to congresspeople asking them not to pass the bill as long as this risky provision remained.

The bill is now in the Senate and it appears that Democrats are more worried about the threat to shut down the government than they are the threat that Wall Street could once again torpedo the economy.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest signaled that President Obama would sign the appropriations bill even with the poison pill.

“I don’t think the vast majority of Democrats or even Republicans are going to look too kindly on a Congress that’s ready to go back and start doing the bidding of Wall Street interests again,” Earnest said. But he later added: “We certainly don’t want to see a government shutdown.”

The GOP has inserted another goody for the 1%: a wealthy couple could give as much as $3.1 million to political parties, three times the current limit.

Elizabeth Warren blasted the derivative gambling provisions saying that if Congress passes the appropriations bill with these intact

“then we’ve simply confirmed the view of the American people that the system is rigged.  “This is a democracy and the American people didn’t elect us to stand up for CitiGroup. They elected us to stand up for all the people”

National News: Torture…er….”Enhanced Interrogation”

In an amazing move that only happened once before after the CIA gave false information on Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, the  CIA Director John Brennen gave a press conference defending the agency’s use of torture under Bush.  This is in response to the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture, revealing…you guessed…the CIA lied about the nature and extent of the torture.   After much questioning he backed off on his assertion that it produced useful information.  But this circumvents the problem.  The international prohibition of torture is absolute.  People who torture are war criminals regardless of whether they produced any intelligence.

The news media continues to use the term “enhance interrogation” as if calling it something else (doublespeak straight out of 1984) will somehow remove the stigma of war crime and violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture from the CIA’s actions.  And their emphasis on discussing whether torture produced good intelligence distracts from the question: “Why aren’t those involved with torturing brought to trial?”

Hawaii: EPA opens investigations into Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S)

For decades Maui residents have objected to the choking smoke and ash that falls on their homes, schools and businesses from the 240 days per year sugar cane burning by HC&S (a division of Alexander & Baldwin).  The last sugar plantation left operating in Hawaii appears to keep itself alive by burning coal at their mill and selling electricity to Maui Electric Company.  In 2014 there were over 1,000 complaints made to the Department of Health which grants HC&S their burn permit.  According to former Gov Abercrombie, smoke complaints form the highest category of complaints his administration received…which makes one wonder why he did nothing about the problem.

The situation has been aggravated because A&B which is primarily a property development company has converted cane fields to subdivisions surrounding its active farming.  Thus homeowners whose houses back up to fields are innundated with smoke and over-sprayed with herbicides including Ametryn, Pendimethalin, Diuron,  Hexazinone , Dicamba, and 2,4-D.

Trades have become lighter and less frequent and most burn plumes – even those by Paia, eventually collapse on Kihei, one of the fastest growing towns in Hawai’i.  With the addition of Vog from the Big Island eruption, Kihei is hit with a double whammy on Kona wind days.

On Wednesday, December 10th, those frustrated with the state’s lack in protecting health held a sign waving in Kahului.  More cane burning sign waves are planned for Kihei in an attempt to pressure the Department of Health to start actively enforcing bans on smoke entering people’s homes and businesses.

Meanwhile the EPA appears to be dissatisfied by the Dept of Health’s poor job in protecting air quality and has opened investigations into both the coal operation at the mill and the cane burning.

Is the Dept of Health Clean Air Branch Misleading Public on HC&S Mill Emissions?

In a letter to the Clean Air Branch of the State Department of Health and the EPA, citizen investigator and attorney Christine Andrews harshly criticized what she (and others) consider misleading statements by Clean Air Branch head Nolan Harai.

I am concerned that Mr. Hirai is making factual misstatements to the media, and would like to request that he formally retract or correct his statements.

The following statement printed in an article in the Star Advertiser, and attributed to Mr. Hirai:

“Though the violations are serious, DOH said emissions did not exceed levels protecting public health based on the agency’s continuous air quality monitoring in the area.”

“There is no indication that any of the emissions resulted in any health impact,” said Nolan Hirai, manager of DOH’s Clean Air Branch.

As I have discussed with Mr. Hirai, Mr. Sims, and Mr. Drake, there is NO ambient air quality monitoring for SO2 or NOx on Maui that would detect ambient air quality impacts of excess emissions of those pollutants by the HC&S Puunene Mill.

The HC&S Puunene Mill which burns about 1/3 coal and 2/3 sugarcane bagass was recently cited for emissions violations after Andrews’ two year investigation and repeated attempts to get Dept of Health to enforce the Clean Air Act.  (Notice of Violation)

Sounds like Andrews is pretty fed up with the Department of Health’s foot dragging and dissembling:

I understand that Mr. Hirai does not have the time, inclination, funding, staffing, legal and regulatory experience to learn the public health justifications for the 2010 SO2 ambient air quality standard as published in the EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis for the new standard, or access to modeling that documents that the HC&S Puunene Mill violates that standard and that my home is in the emissions plume.

At the very least, however, Mr. Hirai should understand, because his department completed the Notice of Violation, that there were excess SO2 and NOx emissions and that those emissions would have health impacts.  He should stop cowering behind the lack of ambient air quality monitoring as a shield, and install the monitoring for SO2 and NOx that myself and others have asked for for two years.  While you all are at it, please enforce the Clean Air Act and get HC&S to install the required COMS and CEMS that the community has also been asking for for more than two years.