Thursday, December 23, 1999

Hawaii’s water supply
should be fluoridated

Bullet The issue: Governor Cayetano said he will ask the Legislature to approve fluoridation of the water supply.
Bullet Our view: Fluoridation is needed to fight tooth decay in Hawaii's children.

IT is no mystery why Hawaii's children have the highest rate of tooth cavities in the nation. The absence of fluoridated water is the obvious explanation.

Except for military water systems, Hawaii is one of the few places in the country without fluoridated water. That should change.

Governor Cayetano said he will ask the Legislature to approve fluoridation in next year's session. "We're the healthiest state in the country, except for our teeth. Our children have the poorest teeth in the country and we're going to propose that our water be fluoridated," Cayetano said.

Fluoridation was once highly controversial. Ultra-conservatives claimed that fluoridating the water supply was a radical plot to poison the people.

Nevertheless it gradually won acceptance almost everywhere as its success in preventing tooth decay became known. Today fluoride is present in the water supply in most communities as well as many brands of toothpaste.

The last time the state Legislature seriously considered fluoridation was in 1987. A bill approved by the Senate died in the House, largely due to opposition from neighbor island lawmakers concerned about the cost.

Dr. Norman Chun, legislative chairman of the Hawaii Dental Association, said it's ironic that neighbor island legislators have blocked fluoridation in the past when it is their constituents who need it the most.

Chun said continuing studies have shown more and more benefits to fluoridated water, including help in slowing bone density loss in the elderly. The cost of fluoridating water systems pales in comparison to the costs to repair tooth decay, Chun said.

It's about time Hawaii acknowledged the benefits of fluoridation and made it available to everyone through drinking water.

On another matter, however, we differ with the governor. He says visitor industry interests are overrepresented on the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which overseas marketing of Hawaii tourism. Cayetano said he would like more people from the general public on the board and will ask the Legislature to amend the law.

What's the problem? Current law requires that at least six of the 11 voting members of the authority have experience or expertise in the visitor industry. All 11 and two non-voting members are appointed by the governor.

It doesn't seem wise to have a majority of the tourism authority membership comprised of people who don't know anything about the visitor industry. This is too important a job for that.


Terrorist alert

Bullet The issue: The Clinton administration has warned that terrorist attacks may be planned during the holiday season.
Bullet Our view: Americans should expect greater security precautions but should not cancel their plans to celebrate the holidays.

CONCERN about the possibility of terrorist attacks during the holidays has prompted the Clinton administration to warn Americans at home and abroad to be wary of anything suspicious at public gatherings.

The arrest of an Algerian trying to bring bomb-making equipment into Washington state from Canada has caused the alarm, but it should not result in cancelation of plans to celebrate the arrival of the new millennium.

Authorities reportedly believe Ahmed Ressam, who was arrested at the Canadian border on Dec. 14, may have ties to Osama bin Laden, the millionaire Saudi exile accused of masterminding last year's bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

Bin Laden, living in Afghanistan, has issued calls to action against the United States, and he may consider the holiday period an opportune time to cause large-scale destruction. Manhunts in the United States have begun for three people suspected of ties to Ressam and for a California man with ties to bin Laden.

Law-enforcement officials have heightened security because of the threat of terrorism. Two people -- an Algerian with a falsified Canadian passport and a Canadian woman -- were arrested Sunday at a Canadian border station in Vermont after dogs sniffed out traces of what could be explosives in their car.

An American was detained by U.S. Customs in the Bahamas after being found to be carrying wires, magnet coils and other items. Thirteen suspects were arrested in Jordan last week in connection with information that hotels, tour buses and tourist sites may have been targeted for attack.

Travelers are being advised to expect tightened security at airports.

However, authorities should guard against allowing a traveler's Middle Eastern heritage to provoke harassment, which has occurred in the past during terrorist alerts. The Mideast does not have a corner on terrorism, as the recent actions of American extremist organizations demonstrate.

Americans' complacency that their country is immune from terrorism has been shattered. The Clinton administration's warning that terrorist attacks may be planned from New Year's through mid-January should be taken seriously. The warning should prod people into taking sensible precautions but not cause cancelations of festivities associated with ringing in the year 2000.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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