Business Briefs


POSTED: Friday, January 16, 2009


HMSA's Online Care goes live

The nation's first 24-hour online system to connect patients and doctors was launched yesterday by the Hawaii Medical Service Association.

The system, which will be available to all residents including non-HMSA members statewide, is intended to improve access to care, particularly for rural areas on the neighbor islands. It is accessible after business hours, on holidays and weekends.

HMSA members will be able to speak with a physician via the Internet from the privacy of their homes for $10 a visit up to 10 minutes, while nonmembers will pay $45 a visit. Doctors and patients can agree to extend the session another five minutes for an additional fee.


30-year mortgage rates keep falling

McLEAN, Va. » Rates on 30-year mortgages set a record for a fifth straight week by dropping to below 5 percent, the lowest mark since Freddie Mac started tracking the data in 1971.

Mortgage rates have been dropping since late November, when the Federal Reserve said it was going to pump money into the banking system by buying $500 billion in mortgage-backed securities to get banks to lend more money and perhaps aid the ailing U.S. housing market.

Freddie Mac reported yesterday that average rates on 30-year fixed mortgages dropped to 4.96 percent this week, down from the previous record of 5.01 percent established last week. It was the 11th straight weekly drop, and way below the rate of 5.69 percent at the same time last year. The average rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.65 percent from 4.62 percent last week. Rates on one-year, adjustable-rate mortgages fell to 4.89 percent from 4.95 percent last week.


Jobs may have pancreas removed

NEW YORK >> Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs could be facing surgery to remove his pancreas, doctors say.

Jobs said yesterday he's taking a five-month leave of absence after discovering that his health problems are “;more complex”; than he thought last week.

Jobs had a procedure similar to a Whipple operation, which involves removing parts of the pancreas, bile duct and small intestine, after he was diagnosed with a rare type of pancreatic cancer in 2004. A potential side effect of this procedure is that the organ has to be removed to prevent pancreatic leak, and the patient has to be kept alive with insulin to regulate blood sugar, said Robert Thomas, head of surgery at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne. 

Banana Republic Waikiki to close

Banana Republic, a longtime anchor of King Kalakaua Plaza in Waikiki, will shutter its doors on Jan. 26.

The closure is part of an overall business restructuring plan that parent Gap Inc. announced in May. A total of 115 stores across the U.S. were selected for closure as part of that plan, according to Gap spokeswoman Catherine Rhoades.

“;There are a variety of reasons for a store's closing,”; said Rhoades. “;It could be the end of a lease, it could be low traffic and store performance.”;

The Banana Republic in Waikiki occupied two levels, and about 23,500 square feet of retail space. It is not far from another store at Ala Moana Center. Four Banana Republic stores remain open in Hawaii, at Ala Moana Center, Kahala Mall, Waikele Premium Outlets and the Shops at Wailea on Maui.


Explorer program set for takeoff

Interisland carrier Island Air will launch its first Explorer program with an orientation night on Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Bishop Museum's Atherton Halau. Aloha Airlines ran the program, intended to help students learn about the aviation industry, until its closure in March.

Students between the ages of 16 and 20 who have an interest in aviation are encouraged to attend this session with their parents.

Applications for the 10-week program will only be accepted at the orientation, with 15 students to be invited to participate.

An application can be found on in the “;About Us”; pages. 


HTA awards to support culture

The Hawaii Tourism Authority has awarded $625,000 to 25 organizations for perpetuation of Hawaiian culture.

“;Hawaiian culture is what differentiates Hawaii from other destinations around the world,”; said Lloyd Unebasami, HTA interim president and chief executive officer, in a statement.

Funds will help nonprofit, for-profit and other organizations provide services, from training docents for tours of Hawaii landmarks to restoration of Ko'ie'ie Fishpond, and will enable Juniroa Productions Inc. to broadcast the annual Merrie Monarch Hula Festival in high-definition.


Minnesota paper files Chapter 11

MINNEAPOLIS » The Star Tribune says it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Minneapolis newspaper posted the announcement on its Web site yesterday.

The filing comes less than two years after a private-equity group, Avista Capital Partners, bought the paper for $530 million.

In its filing, the Star Tribune says it listed assets of $493.2 million and liabilities of $661.1 million. The company says it hopes to use bankruptcy to restructure its debt and lower its labor costs.