POSTED: Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tipsy drivers can get free ride

Drivers who have had too much to drink while celebrating the new year can call AAA Hawaii and get their car towed home, along with a ride, free of charge.

The Tipsy Tow service will be offered from 6 p.m. tomorrow until 11:59 p.m. Friday in the areas served by the company.

Call (800) 222-4357 for a free tow home of up to seven miles. An emergency truck contracted by AAA Hawaii will be dispatched, a release said.

Motorists, bartenders, restaurant managers, party hosts or passengers of a drinking driver may call, but no reservations can be made. The service excludes rides for the driver's passengers. Drivers will be charged regular rates set by tow truck companies for any distance farther than seven miles.

Fund shortfall delays isle's rat patrol

LIHUE » A federal official says lack of funding and specialized personnel have delayed efforts to rid Lehua island of Polynesian rats.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Ken Foote estimates the job will cost between $200,000 and $700,000.

Rats attack, damage and kill native and endangered plants and animals on Lehua, Foote says.

The uninhabited, 290-acre island is less than a mile north of Niihau.

Foote says state and federal officials are seeking funding and personnel to reassess the rat population of the island.

He estimates the reassessment might be done within the next two months.

Hunt removed rabbits from Lehua in 2005-06. They were a threat to plants.

State readiness ranks higher after revision

The authors of a recent study ranking how prepared states are to deal with public health disasters is revising Hawaii's score higher.

Hawaii now ranks among the nation's top 20 states in the study by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

They released an annual report recently that placed Hawaii in the middle of all 50 states in terms of its preparedness for flu outbreaks and other large-scale health disasters.

One of the 10 criteria the groups used was whether states have enacted laws that reduce or limit legal liability for businesses or nonprofit groups that serve in a health emergency.

The study said Hawaii had not, but the authors say they overlooked a current Hawaii law that does afford such protection.

Volunteers sought for humpback count

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary says it needs volunteers to count whales from shore sites around Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island.

The counting will be done the mornings on Jan. 30, Feb. 27 and March 27.

Volunteers should register at http://hsblinks.com/1l8.

About 10,000 humpback whales come to Hawaii every winter to breed and calve after spending the summer feeding in northern waters. The whales are an endangered species, though their numbers have grown in recent years.

Grant to aid students at UH with children

A $326,148 federal grant will support child care for low-income parents who are studying at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The four-year grant will provide funds to the UH-Manoa Children's Center and provide for tuition assistance for children, staff development, parent education and workshops, the university said in a news release.

The UH-Manoa Children's Center serves children ages 2 to 5.