Tuesday, April 7, 1998

Holt’s credit card use
can’t be condoned

MILTON Holt seems to have no misgivings about his utilizing a Bishop Estate credit card to rack up a bill of $21,000 at local strip joints and Las Vegas casinos. He attributes the controversy surrounding the expenditures to public "misunderstanding" about his use of the plastic. If that is the case, the state Supreme Court's decision providing Bishop Estate tax documents to Hawaii's attorney general should allow a mystified public to better comprehend the estate's inner machinations, including the behavior of Holt, its special-project officer.

In an exclusive interview with the Star-Bulletin, the onetime state senator shrugged off his estate-funded night life, saying that he planned to pay the money back from the beginning. In fact, Holt said, the total -- including an $880 tab in January of this year at the Saigon Passion strip bar -- has been repaid, thanks in part to a timely "salary adjustment."

Holt asked rhetorically, "It's a wash, right?" Not in the minds of some, including Toni Lee, president of Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi, an organization of more than 2,000 Kamehameha Schools students, alumni and staffers. Lee is enflamed about Holt spending "the princess' money" for personal use, especially for going to hostess bars and gambling, even if he did pay it back, perhaps in part with more Bishop Estate money.

The public may indeed misunderstand how Holt regards life's travails. Eight years ago, he pleaded guilty to abusing his wife, but served a two-day jail term, so that may be considered "a wash." Holt was caught bringing undeclared jewelry into the country from Hong Kong and Thailand, but he paid a $450 fine, so that, we are to surmise, was "a wash," too. Right?

While his Bishop Estate credit-card expenditures are being examined, the state Campaign Spending Commission is trying to determine whether $43,000 is missing from Holt's political campaign chest. Holt's campaign treasurer said the discrepancy was due to accounting and computer errors, but he declined to discuss that matter with the Star-Bulletin, except to say dismissively, "There isn't anything there." Not even a wash?

Bishop Estate Archive

Assault weapons

FOR the past 30 years, guns brought into the United States have been required to be for sporting purposes only, such as skeet or other target shooting and hunting, but gun manufacturers have been able to sidestep the ban. President Clinton's order to make permanent a prohibition on imports of assault weapons is the latest attempt to thwart the gun-makers' disguises. Even this order, however, may not be entirely effective, and more stringent rules could be required.

An order signed in 1989 by President Bush banning shipment of assault weapons into the United States appeared to signal an end to the imports. However, manufacturers simply gave their weapons a sporty appearance to get them past the ban.

In 1994, Clinton signed into law a crime control bill that included prohibition on manufacturing and importing semiautomatic assault weapons. Six months ago, he ordered a 120-day suspection on imports with specifications that included 43 types of military-style rifles. Treasury officials were directed to review policies to determine if further restrictions were needed.

Importers were able to obtain permits last year to ship in 600,000 altered guns, and applications for a million more were pending before Clinton ordered the suspension. About 20,000 of the 600,000 already had entered the country.

Clinton's order this week permanently bans the importation of 58 assault weapons that were modified for sport shooting to get around the early ban, mostly variations of the AK-47 and Uzi semiautomatic. The National Rifle Association contends they are not "the guns of choice of criminals," but the very nature of these weapons argues otherwise.

"These guns are the tools of gang members, grievance killers and those who go up against police," says Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. "They do not belong on our streets and President Clinton is right to keep them out of our country."

A permanent ban on importation of assault weapons, even if effective, deals with only part of the problems associated with an arsenal of more than a quarter-billion firearms, double the total of 25 years ago. Further restrictions undoubtedly will be needed to keep it from expanding further.


Fighting breast cancer

THE words "major medical breakthrough" are often greeted with skepticism, as they should be, but women at a high risk for breast cancer got some hopeful news this week. The National Cancer Institute (NCI), an agency that coordinates the country's cancer programs, excitedly announced that a six-year study of the drug tamoxifen has cut cancer rates so significantly that it has notified thousands of women of the promising research efforts.

The NCI mailed letters about its findings to 13,000 women in the U.S. and Canada who were participating in the study because they were deemed to be at high-risk for breast cancer, since relatives had been diagnosed or felled by the disease. Half of the participants took tamoxifen daily, while the other half got placebos. According to the NCI, the drug reduced the rate of expected breast cancer from one in 130 women to one in 236 during the study, a decline of about 45 percent.

The news isn't without complications, however. There are side effects, including an increased risk of uterine cancer and blood clots leading to stroke in older women. The NCI isn't saying that tamoxifen will invariably prevent breast cancer. At this point, it is merely being posed as a possible treatment alternative which -- combined with exercise, diet and regular breast examinations and mammograms -- may help those who live in fear of a killer that has taken too many lives.

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