By Star-Bulletin Staff

Saturday, September 27, 1997

Waikiki rats face fight
after meeting ‘big cheese’

City work crews Saturday were laying bait and traps to try to reduce a rat infestation of a landmark banyan tree in Waikiki.

Police roped off the tree after Mayor Jeremy Harris went to view the site Friday night and a rodent ran up his leg, said city spokeswoman Carol Costa.

She said a professional exterminator could be called in Monday morning.

"We really need a professional - this is a big job," Costa said. "This will just be a temporary fix to try and bring the numbers down over the weekend."

Hundreds of rats, attracted by bread crumbs tossed out for birds, have crawled out of manholes and taken up residence in the banyan tree and in nearby planters along Kalakaua Boulevard.

The tree is near the Waikiki police substation.

Draft bill will try
to extend benefits

In the revolving door of terms that apply to adults who can't legally marry, reciprocal beneficiary may be "out" and domestic partnership may be back "in," following a federal ruling.

U.S. District Judge David Ezra Friday agreed with seven companies that sued the state in July over a new law, saying it can't require most private employers to extend health benefits to so-called reciprocal beneficiaries.

Ezra said a federal law covering private health benefits pre-empts the new state law, which grew out of an effort to stop same-sex marriage now in its final round before the state Supreme Court.

But state Sen. Matt Matsunaga, Judiciary Committee co-chairman, said other states have found ways to work around the federal law to extend benefits.

He said he would work with Ezra's ruling, the state insurance commissioner and other employers to draft a bill to try to survive the federal law, intended to assure that health coverage is uniform from state to state.

Matsunaga said he preferred to draft a bill for domestic partners rather than reciprocal beneficiaries, which was pushed by the House.

Former Bishop exec
admits contempt

The attorney for Bobby Harmon acknowledged to a Circuit Court judge that the fired executive for Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate violated a court order by talking to others about possible improprieties at the estate.

Harmon attorney Roy Hughes, under questioning from Circuit Judge Bambi Weil, admitted Friday that Harmon was in contempt of court in two instances - for meeting with another former KSBE official and for writing a letter to an accounting firm hired by the estate.

Hughes said, however, that Bishop Estate attorneys had not shown any harm done to the $10 billion trust and argued that the motion barring Harmon from revealing information be lifted.

KSBE attorneys succeeded, at least for the time being, in keeping the gag on Harmon, who was fired last year after eight years as president and chief executive officer of Bishop Estate subsidiary P&C Insurance Co.

Weil said she needs more time to review documents and continued arguments until Oct. 10.

But she did admonish Harmon for releasing documents without seeking court clearance and ordered him not to do it again - under risk of losing his standing in his $1.8 million wrongful-termination lawsuit against the estate - until the court could determine what is privileged and confidential.

HIV, gonorrhea up for gay,
bisexual men in Honolulu

Gonorrhea and HIV infection among gay and bisexual men in Honolulu rose significantly between 1995 and 1996, moving local health officials to issue warnings that high-risk sexual behaviors have real consequences.

A new national survey reported 13 cases of urethral gonorrhea in 1996 among gay men -- an increase from 7 cases a year earlier.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been surveying gonorrhea and its link to AIDS in 26 American cities, found that in Honolulu, the number of gonorrhea cases among men having sex with men has been steadily increasing.

Peter Whiticar, chief of the Department of Health STD/AIDs prevention branch, said that although the number of cases is small when compared to the mainland, the threat is real.

"What this is is a wake up call," Whiticar said. "It is an indicator that we got to pay attention to this population's risk behaviors and they need to pay attention to their own behavior.

"We know that there is a real clear correlation between gonorrhea and the transmission of HIV and that it is more likely that transmission of HIV can take place with an infected partner if gonorrhea is present.

"What it does is to reinforce the need for reducing the risk."

Whiticar said he is fearful that, with all the good news dealing with the treatment of AIDS, people will forget what causes the terrible life-threatening disease.

"We have to remind people that prevention is just as important as it was before," Whiticar said.

See expanded coverage in Saturday's Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
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