POSTED: Saturday, July 11, 2009

Imperial couple to visit Punchbowl

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl will be closed to the public and grave-site visitors from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday for the visit of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan.

The couple will honor America's war dead by placing a wreath at the Honolulu memorial. The ceremony will include 21-cannon honors, a U.S. Marine Corps band and a color guard.

The emperor and empress laid a wreath at Punchbowl during their last visit to Honolulu on June 24, 1994.


Isle Obama strategist accepts D.C. job

;  Andy Winer, who directed Barack Obama's presidential campaign in Hawaii last year, will soon leave the islands to take an administration post.

Winer says he has accepted an offer to become director of external affairs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In that role, he says, he will develop communication and political strategies to guide the agency in its dealings with business groups, environmental groups, state and local governments and Indian tribes. He will tackle a range of issues, including climate change, fisheries management and ocean ecology.

A longtime Democratic strategist in the state, Winer has been a partner at Winer Meheula & Devens LLP, a Honolulu law firm.

He says he will be leaving Hawaii in mid-August.



Pot usage rises during recession

Marijuana use among job applicants and employees in the second quarter increased 8 percent over the same period last year, according to a drug testing company.

In the same period, positive test results for amphetamines, cocaine and opiates stayed the same, according to a release by Diagnostic Laboratory Services Inc.

“;The positive rate for marijuana has increased during the recession to the highest level (2.7 percent) since Diagnostic Laboratory Services began keeping these statistics in 2004,”; said Carl Linden, DLS scientific director of toxicology.

Diagnostic's quarterly sample size typically includes 5,000 to 10,000 tests, the release said.

Marijuana use was 69 percent above the same quarter in 2006 and 2007, when the economy was much stronger, the release said.

Feds direct $4M to isles for homeless

Hawaii is getting $4 million in stimulus money to help fight homelessness.

The cash is Hawaii's share of $1.2 billion from the Recovery Act handed out to more than 500 cities, counties and communities across the country.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie said it will provide help with rental assistance and utility payments to families suffering through the nation's poor economy.

The money will be distributed under a homelessness-prevention program intended to help millions of jobless Americans.

The money will be available through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department's new Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program.


Lingle vetoes 10 spending measures

Gov. Linda Lingle has vetoed 10 bills that she says would increase state spending by as much as $17.5 million.

In announcing the vetoes yesterday, Lingle said the state cannot enact legislation using money it does not have. She says once Hawaii regains its financial footing, she will work with the Legislature to fund the projects.

The 10 vetoes include a measure that would have spent $400,000 for a universal children's health care program that Lingle cut in 2008. Another proposes to use $2.4 million in unemployment insurance benefit funds for community colleges to operate skilled-worker development centers.

Lingle had issued a list of 65 bills that she is reviewing for potential veto. She has until Wednesday to veto the measures.



Road closed for removal of dead trees

Pine Forest Drive Road in Puu ka Pele Forest Reserve will remain closed until further notice due to a fire that started on the Fourth of July, the Department of Land and Natural Resources announced yesterday.

The wildfire was contained on Wednesday and was suspected to have been caused by illegal fireworks, the department said.

Department forestry crews must remove dead and dying pine trees that could fall along the road in the 20-acre burned area, officials said.

They will also work on preventing soil erosion and invasive species, and replanting native plants before reopening the road.