Monday, November 8, 1999

Preparing for worst
in Jan. 1 fireworks

Bullet The issue: People with breathing problems are looking for refuge from New Year's Eve fireworks.
Bullet Our view: The use of fireworks has reached unacceptable proportions and must be banned.

IT'S not too early to prepare for the new millennium, and that doesn't mean just fixing the Y2K problem. Here in Honolulu people with breathing problems are worried that fireworks on New Year's Eve will make their lives miserable.

The American Lung Association asked the public whether there is a need for places where people with chronic lung ailments can escape from fireworks smoke Dec. 31-Jan. 1. The association says there are at least 200 local families who are looking for such places.

The fact that this is a millennium year is expected to make the problem worse than last year -- and last year was awful, prompting Governor Cayetano to call for a ban on fireworks. Allison Beale, director of environmental health for the lung association, said, "I think people are terrified about what's going to happen this year."

The association is trying to get movie theaters to stay open as refuges for people with breathing problems. The theaters are ideal for this purpose because they are enclosed and air-conditioned and have entertainment, food, restrooms, comfortable seating and parking.

The three theater companies operating here -- Consolidated, Wallace and Signature -- have been contacted, the association says, and the response has been positive, although no commitments have been made. The theaters can seat a total of 6,000 people. If the demand warrants, use of shopping malls and other facilities may be sought. An estimated 200,000 people in Hawaii suffer from lung ailments.

Here is tangible evidence of one aspect of the damage done by fireworks. People are suffering because they have trouble breathing. In addition, fireworks injure people who use them and are a major fire hazard. The smoke makes driving difficult, increasing the risk of accidents.

Yet Hawaii legislators refuse to face their responsibility and ban fireworks except for professional displays and for religious purposes. They claim fireworks are a local tradition and only malihinis -- who presumably don't count -- object to them.

IT'S true that fireworks remain popular despite the misery they cause every New Year's Eve. But there are thousands of residents -- malihinis and kamaainas alike -- who suffer. Don't they count?

Perhaps it will take a fireworks explosion of proportions worthy of the millennium to make the legislators realize that this annual exercise in insensitive self-indulgence can no longer be tolerated.


Bush’s failure in
quiz on foreign leaders

Bullet The issue: Texas Gov. George W. Bush got only one of four right when asked to name the leaders of four countries or regions that have been in the news recently.
Bullet Our view: Bush has to avoid looking uninformed on foreign affairs issues.

UNLIKE his presidential father, Texas Gov. George W. Bush is admittedly no expert on foreign affairs. Neither, of course, were other governors who aspired to the presidency -- and succeeded -- Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, for example.

But in the case of the younger Bush his lack of knowledge on matters beyond the borders of the United States is becoming an embarrassment in his campaign. He has referred to Greeks as "Grecians," to Kosovars as "Kosovarians," and to the East Timorese as "East Timorians." He has also confused Slovakia and Slovenia.

In the latest incident, the Republican front-runner was asked by a television reporter to identify the leaders of four countries or regions that have been in the news recently -- Taiwan, Chechnya, India and Pakistan. He could name only one -- Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui.

Bush tried to turn the tables on the reporter, Andy Hiller of WHDH-TV in Boston, asking, "Can you name the foreign minister of Mexico?" As the governor of a state that shares a border with Mexico, Bush is understandably more knowledgeable about that country than others.

The reporter's reply: "No, sir, but I would say to that I'm not running for president."

A Bush spokeswoman responded by saying, "The person who is running for president is seeking to be the leader of the free world, not a Jeopardy contestant." She added that "99.9 percent of Americans and probably most candidates could not answer who is the president of Chechnya."

But a spokesman for Al Gore's campaign said the vice president could have answered all four questions correctly. So there!

The exchange is bound to reinforce the impression that Bush lacks the background in foreign affairs that a president should have. But most of the candidates would have had trouble with that question without preparatory coaching. Once elected, presidents have specialists on their staff who brief them on such details as needed.

For the record, the names of the leaders Bush didn't know are Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan; Atal Behari Vajpayee, India; and Aslan Maskhadov, Chechnya. But we had to look them up.

None is a household word in this country. With Americans showing far more interest in such domestic issues as Social Security and health insurance than in foreign affairs, it's not likely that flunking that quiz will hurt Bush much.

However, Dan Quayle's verbal flubs made him a laughingstock and wrecked his political career.

In the future, Bush has to be careful to avoid looking uninformed when foreign affairs issues are raised in the campaign, as they undoubtedly will be. Otherwise his candidacy could become a joke.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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