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State/In Brief

September 21, 2013
The Associated Press

Tool predicts sea-level rise on Pacific islands

HONOLULU - People concerned about how rising sea levels will affect communities on Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands have a new tool to help them plan ahead.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Hawaii at Manoa worked together to incorporate these Pacific island areas into a national web-mapping tool that enables people to picture what rising sea levels will do to coastal areas.

The Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer overlays high-resolution aerial images on top of elevation data.

This allows users to see what higher sea levels would do to landmarks and critical infrastructure. It also shows what populations would be vulnerable to rising sea levels.


Analysis: Health insurance rates in isles compare well

HONOLULU - A state analysis of health care insurance under Hawaii's new exchange says rates compare favorably with other U.S. states.

The Insurance Division of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs says estimated rates in Honolulu and statewide are low compared with rates in studies by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Avalere Health.

Hawaii's insurance exchange, opening Oct. 1, will offer nearly 100 plans in four tiers. It's designed to bring coverage to as many people as possible under President Barack Obama's federal health care overhaul. The law requires everyone in the country to buy health insurance by Jan. 1 or pay penalties.

The Insurance Division says rates for a 40-year-old Honolulu resident will average $217 per month before tax credits and reimbursements. That would make Honolulu the third cheapest compared with rates in 18 cities in the Kaiser study, which ranged in monthly costs from $201 to $413. The cheapest rate average was in Portland, Ore.

The Avalere study compared the tiers offered across 12 states. Hawaii's insurance division said its rates were lower than the states studied, including Maryland, Virginia and New York.


State to remove tarp from 16-year-old mural

HONOLULU - Hawaii plans to uncover a mural depicting bones in sand at the Hawaii Convention Center after backlash against objections to the art.

The state has agreed to remove a tarp shrouding the 10-foot-by-30-foot "Forgotten Inheritance" mural.

Hawaii Tourism Authority President Mike McCartney said that the mural will go back on public display soon.

The mural was draped this month after a Hawaii woman complained its depiction of bones in sand was offensive.

The California artist who created it, Hans Ladislaus, said that the mural wasn't meant to be offensive and went through scrutiny in 1997 by government officials and Native Hawaiians.


Former guard changes plea in shooting case

HILO - The trial of a 73-year-old Big Island man on an attempted murder charge ended after he agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges.

Joseph Amormino Sr., pleaded guilty Thursday to felony assault, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and two counts of terroristic threatening. Prosecutors agreed to seek a maximum sentence of 25 years.

Amormino is a retired Hawaii Community Correctional Center guard.

Amormino shot 57-year-old June Shirshac four times on Mother's Day 2012 after she had broken off her relationship with him. The shooting was preceded by a road rage incident in which Amormino used a gun to threaten three people.

Shirshac was shot in both legs, her hand and her shoulder.

Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 21.


Strong winds push Oahu burn out of control

HONOLULU - A brush fire that started out as a controlled burn was spread by winds and required a response by dozens of firefighters.

The fire Thursday covered more than 200 acres, closed Kamehameha Highway and spread to within a mile of homes at Helemano Military Reservation.

Army Garrison Hawaii spokeswoman Kayla Overton said by email that the fire started as a test coordinated by Colorado State University under contract to the Army and the landowner.

She said that burns were planned on four test plots measuring 164-by-246 feet to see how the fire behaved in Guinea grass.

Army wildland fire crews, the Honolulu Fire Department and at least five federal Fire Department crews responded to the fire. Two helicopters made water drops.


Kauai seabird colony decimated by cats, dogs

LIHUE - The state said that a large colony of Kauai seabirds was decimated this summer in two attacks by dogs and feral cats.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources said Wednesday that more than 80 uau kani, or wedge-tailed shearwaters, were slaughtered in their nesting area on the south shore of Kauai in July and August.

The birds are abundant and the species isn't endangered or threatened.

But Department Chairman William Aila Jr. said that large feeding flocks of the seabirds help fishermen locate schools of tuna.



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