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Brief asides


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POSTED: Friday, October 02, 2009

ON THE BRINK

False killer whales welcome here

The population of Hawaiian false killer whales has been decimated over the past two decades, with only 120 of the large ocean mammals known to survive in the wild. That the loss of even a few mature adults could cause dire consequences adds urgency to a national environmental group's request that the federal government classify the species as endangered. The request illustrates Hawaii's importance as an oasis for marine mammals, as these majestic members of the dolphin family rarely venture more than 50 miles offshore.

 

BAD NEWS ON BEDS

Flu pandemic could strain isle hospitals

Hawaii is among the 15 U.S. states that could run out of hospital beds if a third of the population catches swine flu, a public advocacy group warned. The nonprofit Trust for America's Health used government computer models to predict how quickly hospitals would fill up during a mild pandemic, which is what the H1N1 outbreak is shaping up to be. If that plays out, hospitals in Hawaii may have to postpone elective surgeries to free up beds or even tap the government for mobile hospital units, the report said.

 

WHISTLEBLOWERS

Informing on tax cheats can take years to pay off

Dangle the promise of cash and plenty of people will turn in their employers as tax cheats.

Since Congress beefed up whistleblower rewards, tips about suspects owing at least $2 million in taxes have jumped more than tenfold, the Internal Revenue Service reported yesterday. The agency received tips on 1,246 such suspects in 2008, up from 116 in 2007.

Under the new law, the IRS must pay qualified whistleblowers 15 percent to 30 percent of the money it collects.

But none of the tipsters has gotten paid yet, and it may be years before they do. Rewards are paid only after the taxes, penalties and interest are collected.