New year begins with excited attention to football
Isle residents greet the new year with a roar for the University of Hawaii Warriors but will turn their attention to more sober issues as the year progresses.
Never has Hawaii entered a new year with such a robust bang, even though it originates more than 4,000 miles away. Thousands of Hawaii residents will become hoarse today cheering on the Warriors at New Orleans' Superdome and in front of television sets at home. If only the remainder of the year could be so cheerful.
This unprecedented departure from the islands is not likely to reflect the remainder of the year. If anything, the continued decline of the dollar might result in more tourism from abroad while residents put their own future foreign travel on hold. The dollar has sunk more than 40 percent against the euro in this decade, nearly 12 percent in the past year alone, but the yen also has been on the slide.
Unfortunately, Hawaii's most noticeable globe-trotters will be those in military uniform. While 7,000 soldiers stationed at Schofield Barracks have returned from 15 months in Iraq, a tour extended by the Pentagon's "surge" strategy, nearly 4,000 others have began their second call to Iraq duty. More than 2,000 Hawaii Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers have been given their marching orders for Kuwait this summer.
While the surge has led to a reduction in attacks and the number of American and Iraqi casualties, Iraq's leaders have failed to agree on a fair division of oil revenues, provincial election rules and admittance of more Sunnis and former Baath Party members into the Shiite-dominated government. Without that progress, an end to U.S. occupation of Iraq is not in sight.
The war will continue to be the main issue in the fast-approaching selection of presidential nominees. Hawaii Democrats will caucus on Feb. 19, most divided between Honolulu-born Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, a frequent visitor to Hawaii. Thirty states already will have decided which Democrat to favor, while Hawaii Republicans caucusing in late January and early February might have more clout within their party.
Transportation will continue to be a major issue as the city goes forward with plans for a mass transit system. The Superferry, having survived a legal battle through a special session of the Legislature, will be tested economically.
Hawaiian sovereignty will remain an issue in 2008, having been approved in October in a 261-153 vote in the U.S. House. Sen. Daniel Akaka, the bill's sponsor, plans to seek a Senate vote this year, even though the House vote and the 56 votes cast in its favor in a Senate vote in 2006 indicate that President Bush's threatened veto would stand.
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