Friday, October 11, 2013

Hawaii's $205M health exchange has security holes, newspaper involvement; gay marriage battle burns; safety check changes blasted at public hearing; National parks still closed; Honolulu loses $1.8M in taxes; Maui seeks film commissioner; more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii Health Connector website
Even though it's not yet selling health plans, the Hawaii Health Connector is collecting personal information from people who fill out forms online. KHON2 asked computer experts to look over the site with us, and what we found was surprising -- a Wordpress website platform the industry considers entry-level, along with what they call some “amateur” mistakes that could have opened the site to real hacker risks.

Ten days after the Hawaii Health Connector was scheduled to be up and running, the Obamacare virtual exchange is still unable to provide users any pricing or other health care plan details. Hawaii Reporter.

Hawaii's health insurance marketplace is hoping to turn around a stalled start by providing plans and pricing to consumers by Tuesday - but there are no guarantees, its executive director said Wednesday. Associated Press.

The U.S. Department of Interior announced Thursday it will consider letting states reopen national parks if they put up the funds. All national parks have been closed as a result of the government shutdown. So far, Hawaii has not joined Utah, South Dakota, Arizona, and Colorado in asking permission to reopen national parks under state jurisdiction. KHON2.

Under pressure from governors, the Obama administration said Thursday it will allow some shuttered national parks to reopen — as long as states use their own money to pay for operations. While at least four governors have asked for authority to reopen national parks within their borders because of the economic impact of keeping them closed, Hawaii so far is not one of them. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Delegates Frustrated by Federal Shutdown Gridlock. Civil Beat.

State Rep. Marcus Oshiro, who wants to slow the drive toward marriage equality, is reminding lawmakers they do not have to take any action when they meet in special session this month. Gov. Neil Abercrombie has called a special session starting Oct. 28 to consider a gay marriage bill. But neither the House nor the Senate is obligated to hear or vote on legislation, and could simply meet and adjourn. Oshiro's message, which has been privately likened by some to a Hail Mary pass, is meant to unsettle House leaders who are trying to steer a wobbly majority in favor of gay marriage toward a final vote. The Senate overwhelmingly supports marriage equality. Star-Advertiser.

Hawai'i News Now was the first to report on an anonymous flyer targeting lawmakers and urging recipients to ask them to vote no on same-sex marriage.  We have learned the First Assembly of God is behind the mysterious mailers, which has grown to focus on another legislator, and now the Hawai'i State Ethics Commission is getting involved.

Testifiers at a statewide public hearing Thursday generally took a dim view of the Department of Transportation’s plan to hike fees and create an electronic system for annual vehicle safety checks. West Hawaii Today.

Hawaii officials are celebrating the opening of state-funded immigrant resource centers. The Office of Community Services on Thursday announced opening celebrations that will take place at four centers on Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island. The office's Executive Director Mila Kaahanui says restoration of state-funded, comprehensive services for Hawaii's immigrant communities comes after two decades of gaps in services. Associated Press.

Hawaii is a natural American business and security bridge to Asia and the state would benefit from a possible trade agreement between the U.S. and the European Union, the EU's ambassador to Washington says. Civil Beat.

Attorneys representing two churches being sued over renting Hawaii public school buildings for services say the churches aren't doing anything wrong and the state knows how the facilities are being used. A lawsuit filed in March by Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of Church and State founder Mitchell Kahle and public advocate Holly Huber claims the churches owe more than $5.6 million in unpaid or underpaid fees. Associated Press.

The state Department of Health has ordered stores to pull a dietary supplement from shelves while it investigates a growing number of cases of liver damage. As of Thursday the Health Department is investigating 32 cases of acute hepatitis or sudden liver failure (up from 30 reported Wednesday): 21 cases on Oahu, seven on Hawaii island, two on Kauai, one on Maui and another in which the location has yet to be identified. Of the 32 cases, 24 reported using OxyELITE Pro before their illnesses. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu
The city of Honolulu could have collected more than $1.8 million had it done a better job of following tax procedures, such as keeping assessments updated and accurate and toughening enforcement of historic-property dedication requirements, a report this week from city Auditor Edwin Young concluded. Star-Advertiser.

Habitual no-show riders of the city's Handi-Van para transit service will be temporarily banned from getting rides under a policy set to begin November 1. Hawaii News Now.

A tower of up to 350 feet on Atkinson Drive across from Ala Moana Center and the expansion of the Kapaa Industrial Park next to Kawai­­nui Marsh were given final approvals by the Hono­­lulu City Council on Wednesday. Each project faced opposition but also had its share of supporters. Star-Advertiser.

City prosecutors are opposing a request by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and other news organizations asking the Hawaii Supreme Court to unseal transcripts of closed proceedings in federal agent Christopher Deedy's murder case. The newspaper and Hawaii News Now also asked the high court to prohibit Circuit Judge Karen Ahn from closing future court proceedings in the case without first giving the public a chance to object. Star-Advertiser.

New Age Toilet Paper Clogging Honolulu's Sewer Pipes, Causing Headaches. Civil Beat.

The wonder and promise of the 21st century has landed big time on the tradition-rich campus of ‘Iolani School. It's called the Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership, a modern 40,000-square-foot building dedicated to high-tech innovation and hands-on learning using state-of-the-art technology and experts in cutting-edge fields as teachers. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

The ongoing partial federal shutdown is providing helicopter operators, and some tourists, with nowhere to go but up. While other tourist-oriented businesses are being hit, the closure of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park during the shutdown is causing visitors hoping to get a view of the park and the lava flowing from Pu‘u ‘O‘o to flock to helicopter tours. Tribune-Herald.

The state has released $1.8 million to train more primary care physicians in an attempt to alleviate a shortage of more than 30 percent on the Big Island. The funds go toward the Hilo Medical Center's primary care training program that will prepare a dozen new residents over three years to enter the field. Star-Advertiser.

Monk seal captured
Big Island photographer Doug Perrine captured people getting too close to a monk seal pup on Sunday-- one day before it bit two Kona Ironman Triathletes. Hawaii News Now.

Maui

As Maui County continues the search for its next film commissioner, Hawaii State Film Commissioner Donne Dawson stressed the importance of finding someone who will be able to "bridge the gap" for industry producers while still respecting the sensitivities of Hawaiian culture. Maui News.

The non-profit Hale Makua Health Services on Maui will benefit from fuel sales at participating ʻOhana Fuels gas stations through the end of the year, under a partnership announced today. Maui Now.

Participants in Wednesday evening’s candlelight vigil against domestic violence listen as 101 names of fatal victims of domestic abuse in Hawaii are read aloud in front of the Kalana O Maui building. Maui News.

Kauai
Although nothing short of spectacular, the Na Pali Coast State Park — home of the Kalalau — is also a persistent headache for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Garden Island.

Several human remains were uncovered at the Kauai Sands Hotel in Waipouli while workers were digging to install utility lines near the resort’s swimming pool. An archeologist on site Thursday afternoon, who asked to remain anonymous, said the discoveries included “human burials — less than 10, (but) more than four.” Garden Island.