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POSTED: Friday, November 13, 2009

Study has state finances on par

Hawaii's budget woes have led to the shutdown of public schools and government offices on Furlough Fridays, but a new study suggests its fiscal crisis is about average, perhaps even slightly better than the U.S. average.

The report from the Pew Center on the States identified California as the most vulnerable state. The report, released Wednesday, also said Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wisconsin are in fiscal peril. Hawaii saw a 10.2 percent drop in revenue as of July 1, compared with a 11.7 average drop nationwide. The state's 19.1 percent budget gap was slightly higher than the average of 17.7.

The Pew report also scored each state based on revenue changes, unemploy-ment, foreclosures and budget requirements. It also gave the states grades. Pew gave Hawaii a C+ and scored its fiscal situation at 19, below the worst states which scored between 23 and 30.

3rd Marine Regiment gets new commander

Col. James W. Barmen Jr. assumed command yesterday of the 3rd Marine Regiment at Kaneohe Bay.

He relieved Col. Duffy W. White, who recently returned from a 12-month tour in Afghanistan as commander of Regimental Combat Team 3.

White's unit served in Helmand province where it was part of the largest helicopter assault since the Vietnam War. During the July 2 insertion, Marines spread into the Helmand River valley to secure what was considered one of the most violent provinces in all of Afghanistan at the time.

Bierman, who earned a Bronze Star with combat distinguishing device, was the commanding officer of the Marine Regiment Remain-Behind Element since April.

He completed his master's degree in national security and strategic studies at the College of Naval Warfare in March.

Scientists create coral genome repository

WASHINGTON » Scientists at the National Zoo have created the world's first coral genome repository to help prevent endangered coral species from going extinct.

In collaboration with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology and SECORE project, scientists have frozen the sperm of 450 individuals from the endangered Elkhorn coral in the Caribbean. That could allow scientists to reseed the oceans with coral in the future.

The zoo also is working to grow Elkhorn coral in captivity that could be reintroduced to the wild.

Coral reefs are prime ocean nurseries and feeding grounds. They are threatened by rising water temperatures and carbon dioxide levels.

HPU, Chinese school enter education pact

Hawaii Pacific University and Northeastern University in China's Liaoning Province have signed an agreement of academic cooperation, HPU announced in a news release.

The agreement will help develop activities and exchanges between faculty, researchers and students, HPU said.

HPU and Northeastern University share a connection through Ken Schoolland, an associate professor of economics and political science, and his wife, Li Zhao Schoolland, great-grandniece of the school's founder, Gen. Zhang Xueliang.

Northeastern University offers 131 master's degree programs, 43 doctorial programs and 51 undergraduate programs through 13 academic schools, HPU said.

Goat, sheep drive meant to save plants

More than 75 volunteers will participate in the Army's version of a modern-day goat and sheep drive tomorrow.

The mission of the students, environmentalists, recreational hunters and scientists is to drive about 1,500 wild sheep and goats out of the Army's Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island because they are a menace to native Hawaiian endangered plants.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, whose job is to protect endangered plant species at Pohakuloa, says sheep and goats threaten critically endangered native plants in the area, and sport hunting alone has not been sufficient in saving the plants.

The training area occupies 130,000 acres. A 1963 Fish and Wildlife order directs that an area totaling about 45,000 acres must be fenced off and cleared of all non-native browsing animals, mainly wild sheep and goats. When the fencing is complete, there will potentially be up to 45,000 acres still available for hunting, the Army said.