Thursday, October 18, 2001

Economic solutions
come in all sizes

The issue: Two state legislators
suggest a plan to help the economy,
the unemployed and public health.

A plan from two state legislators to hire the unemployed to tackle public health and environmental problems presents a glimmer of hope in the ever-darkening outlook for Hawaii's economy. With the state's economic director saying the current crisis is the worst ever and human service agencies predicting severe strains on their abilities to provide aid, the proposal reflects the vision necessary to save Hawaii from an economic hell.

Sen. J. Kalani English, who was stricken with dengue in August, and Rep. Brian Schatz, fashioned their idea from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps; during the Depression it put the unemployed to work on public projects. They would put the jobless to work eradicating the mosquitoes carrying dengue fever. The workers would also go after other hazards, such as miconia plants threatening Hawaii's watersheds. It would fill two needs: creating jobs and preserving public well-being.

English and Schatz see generating jobs for about 450 people at a modest cost of about $1.5 million. Although the work would be temporary, every job created in Hawaii is vital, given the prediction from Seiji Naya, director of the state's economic development agency, that as many as 25,000 could be unemployed if tourism declines by 30 percent through the end of the year. Naya, at a meeting with legislators, said visitor numbers are already down to 70 to 80 percent of normal and the state could lose $1 billion in income.

At the same time, social service agencies have told legislators that the growing numbers of needy residents are straining their resources. The Hawaii Foodbank, Aloha United Way and groups that provide homeless shelters described grim futures for those in need if the government doesn't provide some help.

To keep the economy moving, Governor Cayetano has suggested big construction projects, such as a medical school, and renovations of state buildings, especially public schools. With revenues shrinking, however, he and lawmakers must examine each idea to get the maximum benefit from every dollar. If a school cafeteria needs a new roof, a Hawaii-owned company should be first in line for the contract--and soon.

As they begin a special session next week, it is crucial that lawmakers bear in mind in that solutions don't necessarily have to come in multi-million-dollar packages. Rather, fixes could be like the one proposed by Schatz and English.

War of words takes
on disturbing tone

The issue: The information clash
intensifies in the campaign against terror.

Right from the start, a critical element in the battle between the United States and its allies on one side and Osama bin Laden and his al-Qiada and Taliban supporters on the other has been a war of words. For a while, it seemed that bin Laden was getting the better of the verbal combat with inflammatory allegations spewing out through the al-Jazeera TV network, which is based in Qatar in the Persian Gulf and is sometimes known as the Arab CNN.

The Bush White House was on the defensive, complaining to the American networks that had picked up the bin Laden remarks verbatim and rebroadcast them. The White House asserted that the terrorist's remarks were propaganda that might incite others to violence or could contain hidden messages to saboteurs and hijackers in this country. The networks were asked to "exercise judgment" in airing the broadcasts.

As Marvin Kalb, a respected former television correspondent, wrote in The New York Times, TV network executives quickly fell into line: "None wanted to be seen as refusing to cooperate with the administration's crusade against terrorism."

Now, however, the Bush administration has gone on the offensive, with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld being interviewed by al-Jazeera for broadcast to the Arab-speaking world. Rumsfeld's words were not nearly so fiery as bin Laden's but they had the same import, which is that the Afghan people should rise up and defy bin Laden, al-Qaida and the Taliban regime.

Rumsfeld said the United States hoped that "the people who are against al-Qaida and the people who are against the leadership of the Taliban will be successful in their efforts to stop terrorism and stop the people who have done so much damage in the world." Later in the broadcast, he said the United States was trying to help the Afghans "rid their country of foreign invaders who are fostering terrorism" to the detriment of their country.

Apparently, the irony of trying to shut down al-Jazeera and then turning to al-Jazeera to get a message to the Afghan people escaped Rumsfeld. Given the U.S. government's penchant for seeking to control the news, the danger, however remote now, is that the administration may try to censor the American press and TV and then use it for propaganda directed at the American public.

That would do no harm to the terrorists but could do great harm to Americans, depriving them of the information they need to be thinking and patriotic citizens.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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